I fell for the fantasy that, freed from our scurrying schedule, spare time would pool around us. It hasn't.by Hephzibah Anderson / May 5, 2020 / Leave a comment
The evening before my daughter’s nursery closed its doors until further notice, I stayed up late tossing so-called Stem toys into a virtual cart. I wasn’t alone: if stock levels on the John Lewis website were anything to go by, middle-class parents up and down the land had been busy doing in private what the Costco-stripping hoi polloi were decried for doing in public. It wasn’t just maths and science activities, either: one friend with a toddler was bulk-buying craft supplies, another had ordered a playground set larger than most back gardens, her own included.
Despite two full years having passed since I last had to occupy my daughter all day every day, I was feeling relatively sanguine when the prospect of school closures first reared its head. I may be the lone adult in our household, but my daughter has only ever known me to work from home so we’ve had practice, she and I, and at four, she’s far more willing and able to play by herself than she was just six months ago.
For one golden afternoon, I fell for the fantasy that, freed from our scurrying schedule, spare time would pool around us. Finally, I would be able to complete those stalled interior design projects, I would rid our home of its perma-piles of books and teddy bears and ironing, and against that immaculate backdrop, my child and I would embark on fabulous learning journeys together.
The raising of children has never before come with as much instruction. Giving birth requires a reading list, with another to see you through the recovery period. Weaning demands cookbooks and blogs and endless apparatus, not to mention a first aid course. I’d always resisted the urge to read up—until now. Several shambolic days into our new normal—days that felt like some bizarre kind of interval training for a dual-headed, many-armed she-god, with 10-minute bursts of parental indulgence followed by frenzied 20-minute attempts at rational thought and coherent sentences, a deadline breathing down my neck and a tenacious child trying to scale my hunched shoulders—I turned to the self-declared experts.
There was advice to suit every parenting style going. Establish a routine, some urged. Be flexible, others countered. Remember that kids need stimulation and don’t forget that boredom is…