Adjusting To Normalcy

Across the world children are heading back to school although what they knew to be a scholastic experience has changed quite a bit. In some places they have kids attending school a few days a week. In others it’s for a few hours whereas in many places in Europe it’s been business as usual for good long while. The word ‘bubble’ has changed the meaning it used to hold and it looks like the connotation is going to be with us for a while longer.

While most Indian states grapple with the notion of reopening the schools and when to do so, the ones which have already started off the process find that the adjustment to campus life isn’t a cakewalk; neither for the school, the parents and of course the children themselves. With schools that are offering the hybrid model of attending classes, it’s a stretch with allocating their teaching resources to cover both in-person and online classes for the same grades and do it without dropping the ball on the quality of education.

For the rest of us the raging debate of should kids go back to school without the benefit of the vaccine to will the third wave actually hit sometime soon; it is an ongoing balancing act to decide about resending the children to an environment which is more fun for them for sure, but is also less protected than the one they have become used to for the past 2 academic years. And while attending classes in pyjamas isn’t an addiction that can’t be dealt with, the entire discipline that surrounds the whole process of schooling is something that kids will still take time reacclimatising to.

From getting up at least an hour earlier than before to riding the bus and standing in the lunch queue to not being able to get up and stretch one’s legs in between classes or have parents pop-in for that quick look-in to check if the child needs anything, it’s a big change to get used to.

I was away from home while TO rejoined in-person school and Red messaged me saying the house seemed really quiet and empty without him there. Although there was a regular amount of strict parenting going throughout the day while he was attending online classes, there was something comforting about seeing him hunched over the laptop while I went about my day.

While I’m not seeing my child struggle with his disenchantment for online lessons any further I am also dealing with a regular worry of either him or his peers coming down with coughs and colds which could potentially turn into something more serious. And while this worry isn’t debilitating, it’s not something am able to shake off either. His environment was so well-regulated for so long and under the supervision of two adults who had no greater goal than to keep him safe; relinquishing his safety to others who are miles away is something I struggle with.

What makes it easier is seeing him head out the door without the heavy zombie steps he used to take towards his laptop at the start of every school day while at home. He comes back happier too and while I shake my head that the kind of stains he inevitably gets on the pristine whites of his school uniform, it’s this kind of normalcy that I had also missed right from the middle of March 2020.

Whether the pandemic is entering into an endemic stage, whether the third wave is nothing more than just a slight blip, whether the vaccine for children is genuinely going to help keep them safe; as a parent our worry never ends. It eases a bit when you check in on them while they’re fast asleep or when you see them eat their fill, play their hearts out with their friends.

And I sincerely hope that’s where the world is slowly heading back to; parenting shoving their kids out the door while they’re still putting their shoes on and the school bus is about to pull away from the curb or the chidings about leaving assignments till the last minute. Am mighty sick of face masks, sanitisers and social distancing. It’s not the kind of parenting any of us want to do. We all want to tell us our kids off for the good ol’ reasons that have been handed down to us over the generations.


The Pandemic: A Timeline of Delayed Gratification

Most people I know have dealt with the fallout of the pandemic to the best of their ability. Some have been lucky to not contract the virus at all or recover quickly if they have and thankfully not too many have faced any irreplaceable losses. But we’ve ALL been touched by the effects of it fairly deeply in our psyche.

My erstwhile largely happy and manageable child gets down in the dumps at the slightest hint of any change. It might not even be a significant event but just the prospect of having to do without something gets him reacting like never before.

The concept of delayed gratification whether it’s being able to step outside the house, socialise, go to the grocery store, run an errand at the mall, attend in-person school, travel on a whim or not be able to play because it’s raining outside; leads to so much mental preparation needed to adjust and adapt these days just to weather the disappointment of yet another compromise being made.

When I think of how this phase has impacted me, I can honestly say I’ve become more withdrawn. Ask Red and he mayn’t agree since he thinks I’m still the loudest person in the house but given an option I’d rather not do anything but just read a book and possibly stay bundled up somewhere cozy. Call it a start of a myopic personality trait or just a reaction to the times we live it.

I do my daily calls to the bestie, often twice a day- no mean feat given that we factor in time differences of 12+ hours and the interruptions that come in when you have kids hovering around. I speak to both my folks often, separately, their schedules and the frequency of our need to communicate with each other being dictated by daily occurrences as well as things happening in the family.

However, till the end of last year I was all about embracing being around people, having someone to hang out with, talk, have a meal with or just interface with; for the most part of 2021, I’ve been craving the quiet.

I haven’t become unsocial per se but a strong thread of being asocial has come in. It may be a coping mechanism or even a sign of something a bit more worrying but am not looking at it under a microscope because despite everything I’m feeling, I haven’t become dysfunctional due to these new tendencies. I do find myself leaning more towards solitary activities and wanting to linger there more than ever before though.

Lest this become a solely whinge-post let me say this: I have a lot to be grateful for. Coming from a country that has well over a billion people, I still got my opportunity to be vaccinated relatively quickly once the vaccines were available on the market. The people closest to me are as safe as I can hope they are from the disease and otherwise of fairly good health given their ages. We as a family are still able to make and utilise many opportunities to laugh, enjoy ourselves in each other’s company and not constantly have to worry about tomorrow.

The biggest change that’s crept in is that I’m unable to plan. And I used to plan things out to the hilt! Not necessarily down to every single brass tack, but planning and the anticipation of something coming about was part of the high.

When I was in college, the university or living away from my folks; going home used to be a cause for a celebration. I’d have my bags packed a month in advance. Any trip that we planned on as a family (Red&I) would have me looking forward to the minute we’d lock the door and step out; weeks in advance! The last international trip I took had an epic amount of planning and preparing going into it and that’s always been part of the overall experience for me in the past. Not so much now.

And while I do miss that overly-enthusiastic part of me who used to want to and couldn’t help but plan for things; it’s been a very solid learning to focus on the here and now and leave the future to unfold as it may happen.

I still can’t entirely let go of the tendency to plan to be honest. For instance, a part of me wants to bookmark this post and look back at it a year from now to see how things are. They may not be much better, it could even be worse than before; but for now the unfailing warmth and comfort from a cup of coffee+a few pages of a British mystery will have to suffice. 2022 will be upon us soon enough.

The Tale Of Five Tests

By the time the words Corona (the problem and not the beer), Covid had infiltrated our lives, I had hoped I would be able to avoid the situations which led to me having to take a test to see if I was positive or negative. And for a largely positive person (outlook in life-wise and not disease)I was looking forward to staying negative for a long, long time to come. But in the words of John Lennon, “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.” And so I had reason to get tested. Not once, but multiple times as it would play out.

During the first test, I kept looking at best case scenarios which would be me testing positive and taking a 2 week holiday, all expense-paid, in the guest room and getting waited on hand and foot, without having to interact much with anyone. I would binge-watch, binge-read and just wait out the germs exiting my system. The worst case scenarios would have been my 80+ father-in-law getting it. He has co-morbidities, is a difficult patient with the most minor of issues and no one wanted him to have that over his head at his age.

Instead an 11-year old fidgety boy came up positive amongst all of us. He took it like a champ. Got everyone’s attention and basked in it for whatever it was worth. Was prayed over and showered more love and affection than he has been since he broke his hand a few years back. And Covid was dealt with in a manner so calm and efficient that it hardly seemed like a problem.

The second test was a necessary follow-up to the first test and when the results came, I whooped up so loudly both Red and TO came running out of their rooms to see what had happened. We did our own versions of “take that you nasty pathogen!” and went our merry ways.

The third test was necessary before I went in for a surgical procedure late last year and while I was fairly sure it would show me as non-reactive, my mind was already bracing for the intrusion of the excessively long swab burning through my nasal passage and making me gag. I needed only to gag because the nose was thankfully left alone and I was cleared for the surgery.

The fourth test came up recently when I traveled after a gap of almost a year and a half. The place I was landing in mandated a negative test report so I went through the rigmarole of the burning nose and retching to get the said report and I was nighty put out that no one checked or even mentioned it when I landed. All that swabbing up and down dark alleys in one’s body and all for nought.

Am getting tested again in an hour or so. I came back home and have what are now called “mild symptoms“. In a pre-Covid world, I would have been able to accurately put them down to a change in climate, exposure to the air conditioning in a cramped place or just a cold and let it ease itself out of my system. But in circa 2021, they are mild symptoms and need to be viewed with suspicion till forays through my body prove otherwise.

The world that we know has changed but not the people. Not much anyhow. We are still doing the things we want and are pretty comfortable with taking what we think are “acceptable risks”. You live with something unpleasant long enough and it stops being a Boogeyman and gets reduced to being an inconvenience.

A year ago having an occasion to have a test would have given me quite a bit of worry. Now it’s just a matter of temporarily moving into a room on my own for an enforced staycation vs. being free to move around and cough in public without being looked at as Typhoid Mary. And while I hope that this post doesn’t get added to with an anecdote of a sixth test, it is entirely a possibility and one that will be taken up with a weary “here we go again” +some kind of tongue-in-cheekness.

TO put it very succinctly before going to bed last night, “Be NE-GA-TIVE Ayu!”

Before The World Flipped Upside Down

3 friends went on a quick trip. It was an extended-weekend kind of a trip. The respective husbands were either lackadaisical of their choice of destination or pooh-poohed it outright but these three were firm on a place and there they went!

The families were semi-cautious about them traveling at a time when Covid was gradually becoming a buzzword but no one knew then what we know now how things would become. Back then it was meant to be a quick but not hurried trip, with like-minded people, to a place which has something for everyone and it was also meant to give ourselves a break from our families and day-to-day and give them a break from us in the bargain.

In a nutshell? We had a GREAT time! We walked, talked, ate well, drank in sights, admired architecture, caught up with old pals, slept in beds without any smaller bodies smooshing in with us or stealing the sheets in the middle of the night. We walked back to our accommodation after midnight; a bit wary but knowing that this is the city that never sleeps. We danced, we club-hopped. We looked for paan with a vigor bordering on the obsessive and (re)discovered a city that everyone seems to know a lot about but doesn’t always know well.

And because it was a trip where not a whole lot of expectations were pinned on, we had a better time than we expected. It was perfect in its own way. And it helped in weathering the lockdown that followed almost immediately after our return.

What’s the moral of the story? NEVER underestimate a mother’s wish to put some distance between herself and her kid(s). Albeit lovingly.