Well it’s been a while since my last blog in early 2020 and boy has the world changed in the meantime. The advent of Covid-19 has turned everything on its head, in particular, gone are the leisurely brunches with my 3 year old daughter Ella. Trips to the wonderful eateries and cafes in Glasnevin, Drumcondra and Phibsboro are a thing of the past replaced by, jigsaws, online quizzes and copious amounts of baked goods produced by my lovely wife. Now don’t get me wrong, the cakes, scones and sour dough bread are all delicious and I have consumed significant quantities, but perhaps the fact that I am now always surrounded by young children fighting for a place at the baking trough rather than enjoying it all served with a side of clotted cream has slightly tainted the overall experience!
So apart from sour dough struggles, what has life during lockdown been like at home with 4 children of 10 and under? Before I start listing off my perceived gripes I would have to acknowledge that as a family we have come from the envious position of one full-time stay-at-home parent (me) before this whole thing started. Crucially this meant that I was already well accustomed to the level of schoolwork that each of the boys were being assigned and most importantly had also familiarised myself with the diverse (and often exasperating) food requirements of the kids. These range from Aaron who is 10 and an average eater (in fairness to him, probably a better eater than I was at his age in that he tolerates healthy foodstuffs such as onions, tomatoes and garlic), Lochlan (8) and slightly picky but will probably make a good attempt at his meal if he can cover it with grated mozzarella, this does not just include typical Italian dishes where mozzarella would seem to be a natural accompaniment but also includes curries! Then we get onto the tricky ones, Oscar (7) who protests vehemently if anything which isn’t beige or white is placed in front of him and Ella (3) who is petite so doesn’t eat significant amounts of anything. Forewarned is forearmed, I can only imagine what it would be like if I was dealing with this afresh.
In general if there was one word I could use to describe life during lockdown it would be “manic”. There is always somebody requiring something to be done urgently, whether it be logging on to the latest app to find out what task / project / activity / experiment / “pain in the ass” learning opportunity has been allocated to one of my boys, or tidying up after another spillage of milk / juice / or bringing Ella to the toilet – an activity that seems to have increased exponentially since her mother has started working from home. I think this is because she believes that by wearing me down by infinite trips to the loo I will eventually have to reach out to my better half and then Ella will get to spend more time with her mommy! A large part of the day is taken up helping the boys with their schoolwork and for this, access to online content is both a blessing and a curse. Each of my sons has access to multiple apps and / or websites for learning, these can be either general in nature such as for allocating and correcting homework or topic specific typically English, Irish, Maths. Each of these has their own specific password with password retrieval now requiring a database system which would make the pentagon proud. Ever since I watched that tv programme about hacking, Mr Robot, I have become increasingly paranoid about passwords and their storage but there are only so many tattoos that a man can put on his body particular when I’m doing it myself!!
Once the passwords have been retrieved, there is generally a time period of quietness until it becomes time to correct and then upload the various pieces of schoolwork. I’m always in a quandary about how much correction I should do, I mean how many mistakes can you leave in your son’s work before it becomes damaging to your own sense of intelligence. It is at this time that I realise that I see my children as an extension of myself and therefore anything that gets sent out from our house is an indication of both my ability to teach and probably more importantly the quality of my DNA! Am I making this too much about me, should Aaron’s project include an extra slide on The Renaissance, should Lochlan’s creative writing provide a more detailed description of the African savanna, should Oscar re-record his reading 5 times so that he gets his intonation correct or the background noise isn’t quite up to standard? Most importantly by the time this is all done will all our devices have run out of battery or will the wi-fi be strong enough?
Amidst the mayhem I must admit that one of the benefits of the lockdown is that I have rediscovered my love for jigsaws (strictly in the 500 to 1000 pieces range before you start thinking I’m a 5000 piece lunatic). It is definitely a pastime that is ideally suited to lockdown life, requiring minimum space combined with the ability to occupy significant quantum of minutes if not hours. Not everything has gone smoothly though, originally I had high hopes that I would be able to pass on my affection for all things jigsaw-ish to my own children just as my mother had passed it on to me. Unfortunately as part of the “snowflake” generation they do not seem to share my ability to work through 100 pieces of blue sky over a Venetian canal in a methodical and forensic fashion! However when it comes to completing the last 10 or 20 pieces for the glory of placing the final piece then the boys descend like a pack of vultures or even worse they’ll sneak into the jigsaw room while I am otherwise occupied and finish the bloody thing off without me. I can’t believe that I have raised a bunch of traitors, time to put the parental lock on the PS4 again!