The last 5 months have been tough for all of us. Different from anything we could have ever imagined. As adults you can somewhat understand why things are different, but as a chid comprehending everything going on can be somewhat harder. As adaptable as kids may be, there’s still so much that they are missing. As we hit the half way point in the summer holidays I took time to take stock of the five things my kids are missing most after five months of Covid.
Top of the list for most kids has to be school. Whilst the idea of school being cancelled initially made some children jump with glee, the reality of months without their friends and the structure of the school day is now really having an effect on many kids, mine included.
My eldest two were lucky enough to be able to go back to school for four weeks before the summer term ended by virtue of their father being classed as a key worker. As much as they enjoyed being back, it still wasn’t school as they would normally recognise it. Bubbles of just 15 kids and not being with all their friends or regular teachers made it feel somewhat more like childcare in familiar buildings than school proper.
Hugs from relatives
As an adult I’m still trying to get my head around the fact that no one will tell us when we might be able to hug people again. It’s as if the government have forgotten all about that restriction on us. Maybe they hope that by saying nothing we’ll all forget that it is a rule still (as seems to be the case looking at pictures on social media) and then if we have a second wave they’ll be able to blame people for hugging each other?
As a kid though being able to see your grandparents and other relatives but not be able to give them a hug as they usually would is so difficult. I know some parents have stopped visits to grandparents entirely as the feeling of not being able to hug each other is too much for them to handle. I find it astounding that people can be allowed to sit next to each other on aeroplanes and get drunk together in pubs, yet a small child isn’t allowed to be embraced by their grandmother. Doesn’t that just feel wrong to you? In Scotland social distancing is no more for children under the age of 11. Why isn’t that the case here in England too? Or are the remnants of Hadrian’s Wall working as a Covid defence?
Swimming and libraries
We’re a family who enjoy simple pleasures during school holidays rather than flash trips away. Two highlights for my kids are usually going swimming together and taking trip to our amazing local library. Both aren’t allowed right now. The swimming pool has just reopened, but only for lane swimming or formal swimming lessons. My kids just want to mess around in the water, much like friends are doing when they are able to go away to places with their own pools like Butlins or Centre Parcs.
The local library is also reopening this week, but only for people to collect pre-ordered books. As a small child the joy of the library is being able to go in and choose a new author or book from a vast choice. Sitting down with a phone app and clicking on things just isn’t the same.
The reopening of playgrounds has varied so much around the country. In some places they are open and as you walk past you could almost think that nothing had ever happened. In others playgrounds are still all taped off and the grass in them overgrown.
As a responsible parent I feel that I shouldn’t let my kids into an open playground if it’s too busy. No child let loose in a playground after months of it being off limits is going to remember to social distance. Especially not if they’re a toddler. But imagine how heartbreaking it is to a child to get to a playground and then be told they can’t go in whilst other kids are in there running wild.
Children may not all understand the word spontaneity but that is definitely what they are missing these summer holidays. One of the lovely things about the long school holiday is being able to get up and say “what shall we do today?” Nowadays pretty much everything has to be booked in advance and it really does take some of the joy out of things. Getting slots to visit a National Trust property is like getting Glastonbury tickets and has to be attempted the Friday before. If you’re visiting somewhere new you need to do your research in advance and book a table somewhere for lunch or dinner, or else you run the risk of having hungry kids and no where to feed them. Places have (understandably) restricted visitor numbers so you just can’t always get a slot somewhere on the day you want. I understand why it has to be done, but when you’re a kid used to being able to be spontaneous it really can be quite disappointing.
I know all this is being done for our benefit, but at the same time we really do need to think about the impact this all has on children. My toddler’s not been able to mix with anyone her own age for months now and that surely must be having a developmental impact on her. She’s at the stage where she should be going to toddler groups and stay and play sessions and just can’t. The older two miss their friends and normal life acutely. Hopefully schools will be returning next month, but with bubbles still in place it’s not going to be how it was when they waved goodbye to their friends back in March. They’ve missed birthday parties and traditional end of school year activities. School trips were cancelled and my son will even be going to a new school in September. They also miss all the extra curricular things they love. Cubs and Beavers. Swimming lesson and football training sessions. Who knows when all that will be back to normal.