Our world has started to open up; this week the pubs opened their doors to customers inside, soft plays reopened, and we can meet up with people indoors. We are even allowed to hug. For parents there’s suddenly a lot more we can do with our kids; and with some of us vaccinated too, we may feel more ready to book activities and be social than we have done in over a year. But hold your horses there cowboy. The kids might not be as ready as you are to suddenly leap from staying at home in your bubble to big trips with lots of people.
This week we were so excited to see some friends and family we hadn’t seen in a long time; including my Grandparents and my Uncle John, who we haven’t seen since November 2019. Although it was wonderful Frank (who is four) said he was feeling ‘happy but a bit shy’, which is very unusual for him. Both the boys were absolutely exhausted, which resulted in a lot of tears at bedtime over nonsensical things. The kids are so unused to having plans and seeing so many people, that whilst it may be fun and well overdue, its also incredibly tiring for them. So for those of us with small children, maybe we should take our time and slowly ease them into the social life they once had. Or rather, the social life we think they need.
Bill is two so nearly half his life has been in the midst of some semblance of Covid restrictions. For someone that young masks are normal, as is hand sanitiser and rules about what he can do or who he can see. He takes it all in his stride because, unlike us, he doesn’t remember life pre-covid. He is confident with strangers, gentle with other children, and makes friends wherever he goes. So perhaps our assumptions of how damaging time at home has been are, at times, unfounded. However his table manners are borderline feral; the pubs may be back open but neither of the boys have eaten in a café or restaurant in a while, and I suspect their first trip out for tea might be a tad stressful and not unlike taking two small wolves out for dinner. When the time comes I will be taking two fully charged tablets and drinking my beer swiftly to enable a hasty exit.
I have experienced pressure to commit to plans now we are ‘allowed’. But even if other people can’t understand it, or feel disappointed, you have to do what is best for your family. That might mean saying no – which is something I have always struggled with. We must try to be honest; our kids might not be emotionally ready for parties, or new faces, or the noise and stimulation of a busy soft play. And of course, they never have to hug anyone they don’t want to. Or they might be completely ready and raring to go, but you’re not quite there yet. I took the boys to a soft play this week after school; I wasn’t sure how they would react as it’s been over a year since we were last in that sweaty hellhole. They absolutely loved it. They had a fantastic time and Frank said I was ‘the greatest mama in the world’. I, on the other hand, was an anxiety-ridden mess. I was worried about Bill going down the slides alone, and panicked if I couldn’t see him (he was completely fine). There were a lot more people there than I’d expected – and quite a few were mask-less – it was so loud and the kids were, of course, running around manically. I felt on edge. And then a kid threw up and that was enough for me; I bribed the boys with an ice cream to leave immediately. So when it comes to getting out there, they might surprise us with their resilience while we struggle with our own anxieties. Perhaps it’s best to take it slow and find out. If you are feeling anxious about doing something, or your child is, it’s OK and its totally normal given the strange and tragic year we’ve all experienced. Be kind to yourself and the kids – there’s no rush to do anything you’re not ready for. There will always be parties or pubs or soft play when you are all ready for them. Just remember your hand sanitiser.