Having spent the last three months longing for my son to go back to school, I’ve now — as that day arrives — been hit with a wave of returners’ angst.
There are the practical things I’ve only belatedly realised I’ve forgotten, like how to fill a lunch-box with appropriate, nut-free fodder, and the things I feel strangely sad to be waving goodbye to: Seesaw, it took me the best part of a year to master you, I’m not sure I’m ready to move on.
There’s the fact that, while life might have felt suspended for the past three months, my six-year-old had the audacity to keep growing and now neither shoes, nor shirts nor trousers fit quite as they should.
Ever mindful of the pair of unworn, but now too small, plimsolls still in their box (there has been no indoor PE since they were bought last August), I’ve shied away from buying back-to-school ‘essentials’. I’m not even sure I know what essential means anymore.
Do I break my travel limit to buy the new shoes, or is one more essential than the other? Is it essential for his trousers to reach his ankles? Should I support local with my purchase of new school supplies, except wait… the shop that sells the school supplies isn’t essential enough to be open…
And therein lies the deepest seed of doubt in my head. If it’s too dangerous for the shop that sells stationary in our village to open, then how safe is it for the school to throw open its doors?
I know his school has done everything in its power to manage this crisis. I know there’s regular hand-washing and social distancing and temperature taking. I know they say that the risk around children contracting Covid is small.
I know he’s keen to return. “Brilliant! I haven’t seen my friends in a thousand years!” he said wide-eyed when I told him that the time had come to return to school. Then he paused and I thought, ‘Oh no, does he have anxieties too?’ “Perhaps not a thousand years,” he mused. “That would be the time of dinosaurs.”
Ignoring the fact that my home-schooling efforts clearly hadn’t imparted any sense of perspective on periods of time, I was reassured by his enthusiasm. But I know other parents who are worried, their children having grown accustomed to their little worlds and are fearful of returning to a more boisterous and demanding social dynamic.
“It’ll be nice to get back to normal, won’t it?” I said cheerfully, hastily adding: “Well, not total normal, you’ll still need to do social distancing and that sort of thing.” “OK,” he replied, nonplussed. “So the bug is still here?”
Yes, the bug is still here. Our family’s world has been claustrophobic of late, flawed, testing. But at least at home I feel I can control the controllables. I want my son to get back to normal. To learn from his teacher, to play with his friends, to come home safe and for everything to be as it was a year ago.
But it’s not, is it?
Cases, though falling, remain high. There are new variants to consider — what effect do they have on children? We know that when schools opened up before, rates rose. I feel frightened that I might be exposing my little boy to unknown and unnecessary risk all so I can have a bit of normality back.
I worry about what his increased points of contact will mean for the wider family. By opening up the door on his return to school, am I shutting it on his interaction with grandparents? What’s the greatest risk? Where are the greatest rewards? There are so many questions and no teacher to tell me the answers.
Part of being a parent is living a life of constant risk assessment. Can he manage the stairs? Is that bike too big for him? What kitchen counter is too pointy? How high should he go on that swing and will the branches on that tree poke an eye out? I suspect I will still be cutting grapes in half on my son’s 18th birthday.
Letting go of the reins is never easy and that goes doubly in a pandemic. Because the fact is, there is no ‘right’ answer and for now, that’s something we’re all just going to have to learn to live with.
Predictably there’s been a fair bit of griping about how awards should be cancelled. If they are not going to be the slick affairs we’re used to, then why bother? But for me, this year’s Golden Globes was exactly the show we needed.
There was a heart-warming amount of escapism with extravagant designer gowns, flurries of taffeta, riots of colour and bling. There was the cosy familiarity of fluffed lines, awkward roasts and predictably bad jokes.
And then there was the glorious 2021 vibe of it all. Daniel Kaluuya giving out about being accidentally muted on Zoom (very Handforth Parish Council). Jeff Daniels going full dress-down, WFH and wearing flannel. The delays between questions and answers. Viola Davis clearly zoning out on a multi-screen and the chance to gawp at everyone’s homes (nice gaff, Bill Murray! Where’d you get your curtains, Amanda Seyfried?).
We’d celeb kids and pets popping up on screen, just as has happened on computer screens everywhere for the last year.
Was it as slick and impressive as usual? No, of course not. But the show went on, and surely that’s something to be applauded.
Toy company Hasbro has decided to drop the ‘Mr’ and ‘Mrs’ from the branding of its Potato Head toys. So now, please, can we see titles dropped from all forms? If a pair of potatoes don’t need to reveal their marital status, then why on earth should the rest of us have to tick a box every time we apply for a passport or go to the doctors?