Lots of parents and guardians across the UK picked their children up from school for the last time in who-knows-how-long on Friday this week. The abruptness, shock, fear and confusion of it all reminded me of something else: grief. And grief, at least as I experienced it, can feel a lot like pressure.
What will I do next?
How will I get through this?
How can something positive come out of this?
When I look back at how I responded to grief, I put way too much pressure on myself and took too much on.
Having been through the isolation of being left alone with a two-year-old several years ago, I was left daunted by the closure of the schools and yet not in unfamiliar territory. My immediate response, like in grief, was to apply pressure and start thinking about how I could be not only the best parent possible – while playing my part in running a business – but also the best teacher. It didn’t take long for me to rethink this.
You see, I remembered a promise I’d made to myself a few years back when it came to his education. Of course, like most parents, I want him to learn well and be enthusiastic about his schooling; what matters to me most, though, is that he is emotionally prepared and supported for his life ahead.
So what’s the plan next week?
Firstly, we will create some structure around his day, but it will be based on how I can best comfort and reassure a child through what is proving to be a terrifying time. We’re going to start every day preparing breakfast and lunch, and then doing exercise together.
Secondly, I am not going to try to be his teacher. We are too impatient with one another and we both know this already. I’m going to be his dad. I’m going to guide him through the day and set learning times, but I am going to use the formats that he responds to best and encourage him to learn independently. Screens and YouTube are going to be our friends and not my enemy.
Thirdly, I’m going to make this the time that he learns to love books. He’s getting there already, but a healthy dose of boredom – something kids mostly lack these days – will do the rest. I’m not going to respond to his every call for attention or distraction and he’s going to use his boredom to learn to be more creative.
And finally, we’re going to play and have fun. I’m going to be working, but we’re going to stick to the things school children love most: playtime and lunch. The world just asked kids to behave like adults and so it’s only reasonable that adults relearn to behave like kids.
We’ll get through it together. But if I learned anything from previous experiences of shock and fear, it’s to go easy on yourself. It’s clear to see that the world is not perfect – you don’t need to be either.