A very happy new year to all of you who read this blog!
This time last year my family were all recovering from our Christmas Covid infections, and so we knew we would not be returning to school straight away. Of course we went straight into a lockdown with schools closed for a while. This year both of my children have gone back into school today, for how long I don’t know. I think we are doing the right thing sending them into school – they were certainly excited to get back to seeing their friends – but I cannot be certain, and cannot be sure that they will be there for the whole of the term. I do expect they will have some periods of absence from school whether that is from them being ill, or the school not having enough teachers available to keep it open.
However, while the start of this school term feels similar, in many ways, to last term, it is also very different. I am hopeful that things will start to change in terms of this pandemic we are living through. I think that with both vaccines and advances in understanding Covid, and developing treatments, we will get to a place where life gets easier and we can go about our business more easily.
The pandemic, and the last couple of years have undoubtedly been difficult. We have had to stop doing a lot of the things we wanted to do, or wanted to experience, and we haven’t been able to spend as much time as we would normally do with loved ones, but I wanted to take this opportunity of the New Year period to think about the positive ways that my family’s life has changed.
Before Covid when my children were not in school (it started just before my youngest turned 3 and my eldest was just 5 so they were out of school a lot more than they are now) we spent a lot of time either with Grandparents or out of the house at the shops, or looking at and travelling on trains. Surprisingly both of my children, and especially my eldest, loved museums, so we often went there. I found it very difficult to spend long periods of time at home with them on my own and wasn’t sure how to pass the time.
With all the lockdowns we have had, we have spent an awful lot more time at home together, finding things to occupy the children with so they don’t just fight with each other when I wasn’t supervising remote schoolwork. The children and I have, therefore, spent lots of time together creating – messing about with paints or stickers, or making things out of cardboard or Lego for example. They have helped me test out making instruments for this blog. They have got much better at going off to play either on their own or together for a little while each day. We have become much better at and comfortable with spending time, happily, in just each other‘s company.
The other thing this time has given us is plenty of time to listen to and mess about with music. Whenever we did any artwork (most afternoons we spent some time with some sort of creative play), I would put on some music. A lot of the time I would put on Disney songs or the Peppa Pig soundtrack for my youngest, or the Start Wars or Marvel soundtracks for my eldest; but I also put on lots of classical music, lots of musicals, lots of Indian classical music, lots of 20th century music. The children got to hear a wide variety of music even if they weren’t actively listening to it. As I got the children to play with the percussion instruments we have at home a lot, they can now regularly be found (or heard!) having a look in our music box and choosing an instrument to play with.
Last winter with nursery provision open my daughter went back to nursery before my son got to go to school. He found this period very difficult. He liked having the time just me and him, or just his Dad and him at lunchtime, but found it hard that his sister got to go and see her friends and he did not. His best friend’s parents are keyworkers so he was in school, and my son could only see him on video calls at the weekends. As music has always been a great comfort to me when I was going through difficult times, being able to find music to play or listen to to suit or help improve my moods, I encouraged my son to see if it would help him, explaining to him how music had helped me manage my emotions over the years. He started to voluntarily play the piano . I had been trying to teach him to play ukulele, which he was not enjoying, but this time the piano appealed to him, and he has been happy to continue to practise since then. Of course, finding some Star Wars piano sheet music also helped!
It is clear that music, both listening and playing, is helping my son to express his feelings about situations he finds difficult, as it did with me as a child, and that it is something he enjoys doing. He is now much more willing to tell me if he likes a piece of music. And we had a lot of time together to start playing the piano a little and often, instilling the habit of practice.
The pandemic has been hard for everyone, much harder for many people than it has been for others definitely, but the last year has also given us a lot of time as a family, and time to explore creative pursuits, as well as school work, which has been very valuable.