“I SMELL HAND SANITISER”
Walking through a national park, surrounded by nature and not the confines and walls of our own home, I sensed a shift and began to think that maybe we were nearing the end of the corona time warp. Nothing like a pandemic to mess with ones sparkle.
I’m not very good at being at one with nature but nonetheless we had donned our active wear and decided that a Sunday morning spent in the bushland would be a suitable antidote to the restlessness the pandemic had gifted us.
Westfield had also reopened and yet a national park seemed more socially acceptable. Apparently.
We were on a narrow path, so had to socially distance and side step our way around our fellow walkers. An awkward shuffle, though necessary, feels like a passive aggressive way of saying “you might have corona germs”. Anyway, with much conviction, Charlie declares to us and our fellow wanderers:
“I smell hand sanitiser.”
Assuming it was the gum trees he could smell I laughed but then it made me feel a bit sad. Nostalgic. I longed for the time where the smell of eucalyptus wouldn’t remind him of best hygiene practice. I felt uneasy that his safe and sheltered childhood was being washed down the sink along with all that soap and water.
Twenty four hours later and as a good reward for my nature experience, I went back to my homeland that is Westfield. On entering and going up the escalator, just in front of me was a mother and a little boy and I watched as she turned to him, pleading “Just don’t touch anything”.
Presumably she wasn’t talking about touching and breaking a vase but instead touching and catching a virus.
Hey 2020 we’re having so much fun over here.
I’m yet to venture to a shopping centre with Charlie by my side. Not least because the bright lights and shiny things tend to cast a spell on him and turn him into some wild child with an inclination to lick things.
But the two incidents, closely linked, made me think about the impact all of this is having on the kids.
Do you think the kids are alright?
There is so much talk about the impact on our work and our livelihoods. The commentary around work from home, learning from home, social distancing and zoom fatigue. But what about the silent implications and I began to wonder, what will Charlie remember about all of this?
Will he remember waking up one morning and declaring “When I grow up I’m going to become an essential worker.” Will he remember that this comment prompted us to have a discussion about workers and their value and the way society is sometimes, unfairly judgemental on who does what. A grown up concept but since Charlie started the conversation I wanted to keep it going, I want him to grow up with aspirations but also humility. I want to understand we all have a place, whatever our job title or even if we have a job title.
Will he remember that he didn’t see his Nana for more than two months and that when he did, social distancing rules couldn’t possibly apply because all he wanted to do was hug and hold her. A reminder of what it is we take for granted.
Will he remember the board games, the Lego, the puzzles, the popcorn and the movie nights.
And the Teddy Bears. How strangers put teddy bears in their windows. A silent acknowledgement to say “hey things are a bit shit aren’t they but here’s a teddy bear to remind you it’s okay.” And maybe you would smile because there is something simple and hopeful and about a bear in a window.
Will he remember the time we spent doing chalk drawings of rainbows, clouds and cactus plants on the driveway but then not to romanticise the beautiful moments in isolation, will he remember that I got cranky because he kept breaking the chalk up into little bits.
Maybe he will remember my constant yelling and nagging for him to wash his hands, did you wash your hands? did you use soap? For the love of god please wash your hands.
Will he grow up with a form of health anxiety and a germ phobia because I was forever marinating him in disinfectant spray.
Will he know that this whole experience heightened my feeling that I wished I was a better parent. I have always said I parent better outside the house than inside the house. Give me an activity, cooking and baking, an outing, the zoo, the museum, heck even a park if there’s a coffee cart but imagination play, the sitting on the floor and playing with cars, making the voices and noises only to be reprimanded “say it like this mum, not like that” the constant, boring request to play and pretend, that is my weakness, my torment and the guilt I feel for this admission is profuse.
Maybe he will one day be at university and he attends a lecture that speaks of the pandemic of 2020. He will think to himself, “I was six at the time” maybe the memories will be faint and fleeting. In decades to come, he may become a parent and his child will come home from school and ask him about the pandemic and he might not be able to tell them much and so I hope, with all my being, that I will be around so that my grandchild can call me and ask me “about that time.”
I will remember it as the time the world went silent and time stood still but no matter what, we knew it would pass, we knew we were safe, we knew he had each other so we knew we had everything.
I hope he remembers that.