One of the benefits of spending more time with Daughter is that we have more time to listen to various music. Not children’s music, but grown up music. Today’s favourite is Queen’s Bicycle Race. The bells are its main feature. And it proves to be a great song for a Daughter Mother dance too.
The thing that bugs me most about our current situation is that I’m not able to visit my parents. Especially the fact that Daughter can’t cuddle with them for an unknown period of time makes me sad. However, I realise there are many situations imaginable when you would have the exact same situation.
Last year I interviewed eight Dutch students about their gap year abroad when they were a teenager. Some went to America, another one to Taiwan, one spent a year on a tiny island in Colombia. Their experiences and surroundings were all very different, but their stories on the first few months were very similar. They all needed to adjust to a life far away from their parents, siblings, friends, knowing that it would take a long time before they would see them again. They all needed to adjust to a new rhythm in life, accept the rules of their host families, adjust to different school regimes and find new friends to hang out with. For most of those I interviewed this meant feeling lonely and lost for weeks, months even. Not being able to hug your parents when you feel lonely and sad at the moment when you need it most, is what most of them referred to when talking about their first period of living abroad.
What I realised this week, is that we now experience this collectively. Despite being at home, you experience the social distance of a gap year. You can talk on the phone, you can send letters, you can see each other through video, but it is not a replacement for the hug we all long for. This is a global gap year, without knowing how many days this year will count.
Luckily I’m at home with the Man and Daughter, so we cuddle as much as we can. As for hugging my parents, I will have to be patient. At some point the gap year will be over. I’m looking forward to the longest and warmest hug ever.
My work is less deadline prone than Man’s work this week, so I’m Chief Daughter this week. As a result I’ve spent more time outside than I normally do. Luckily these first days of social distancing are blessed with wonderful early spring weather. A bit on the chilly side, but plenty of sunshine, which we’ve been seriously lacking this past winter.
This morning Daughter and I made a round through the neighbourhood. We had a coffee at a friends’ place. I just wanted to check in with them, but they invited us in. It did feel a bit awkward to step inside, but we washed our hands and kept our distance. A minor gamble. My friends have teenage sons, one of which is preparing for final school exams. The other son had his first online class interaction. To be honoust, I’m impressed how quickly schools adjust to online teaching.
Afterwards we went to the parc. We are blessed with a large green space close by to play football, bike freely and have a (distant) chat with other parents. Daughter’s closest friend lives adjacent to the parc, and she was playing there as well. It’s a pleasant way to spend the morning watching those two girls play together.
I do suffer a bit from bore-out. Entertaining an almost four year old all day long is not exactly mentally challenging. Daughter is currently in a phase that she finds it difficult to play on her own. That makes working in between nearly impossible. Especially considering the endless stream of questions she fires at me whenever I long for a bit of quiet. Yay for her curiousity, but she just never stops. Explaining things when normal life just turned upside down makes it even harder to answer the never ending ‘why’.
Nevertheless I managed to enjoy the hours outside with Daughter. Nothing is normal and yet, a lot of things keep being the same.
Now that it’s clear that the virus is here to stay, my government explained (a bit) what to expect. A long period in which nothing will be normal. We can’t stop the virus from spreading, the only thing we can control is the speed of spreading to prevent hospitals from being overrun with patients. In the meantime we will keep our physical distance, wash our hands repeatedly, isolate ourselves when needed, and can only hope for the best when infected. That’s a clear message.
It is a hard message, because it will mean that normal life will be disrupted for a very long time. Deep worry resides in my body. I mostly worry about my parents’ health (my dad has a weak heart) and being the unlucky one when I or the Man gets infected (and chances are that will happen at some point in time). At the same time I want to make sure Daughter’s days are filled with fun activities.
I’m grieving for the innocent life we could live up until a few weeks ago. I don’t look forward to the days, weeks and months to come. We all have to look for a new normal in life. I’ll find it, but it will take time to get there. How long? I really don’t know.
Today: little work, lots of time outside.