Gabriel lives with her family on the Island of Madeira, where a warm climate provides the perfect environment to enjoy the outdoor life.
The Challenge of Going Back to School
It has been six months since my daughter Riley left school on the 13th of March to be home schooled. She danced out of the school gates a huge grin or her cheeky face. She'd hit the jackpot: no school.
I could say it was a challengeing time, an intense experience, frustrating even, but the truth is, we had a ball. The first few weeks we watched latenight TV (I haven't done that for years) we slept late and ate whatever we wanted for breakfast which to be honest soon turned into our usual cereal, toast or eggs, pancakes at the weekend. There is only so much salted chocolate popcorn and fizzy drinks I can stomach while watching Spiderman and a whole bunch of Superheros I never knew existed.
Working for oursleves meant that Riley spent all her time with us. Our routine soon evolved into school in the morning followed by an early lunch then over to the land with our ninety odd chickens, ducks and guinea foul. Feeding, watering and running baths (for the ducks) followed by watering our fruit trees and vegetables. Late afternoon often saw her sitting down to watch me catch up on my writing. Soon it was her that was doing the writing and months later let me tell you I have an aspiring child writer on my hands.
As the summer came to an end and September loomed Riley sarted to ask about school. Going back to school was obviously something that was concerning her. Our time together had gone very quickly and as a tight knit family of three we had bonded even more and laughed so much that not being with us during the day was bothering her. It also happened that my home schooling had helped and not hindered, her maths had improved no end (my favourite subject in school). And her father's love of loud music and her micro phone (modern karaoke) provided histerical entertainment beyound all expectations but at least it kept the neighbours at a safe distance. All the running around outside too of course had contributed to a very happy child.
It soon became apparant to us that Riley's concerns of returning to school were becoming more heightened, she was talking about it all the time and wearing a mask all day was really troubling her. Her father took the reins in hand and began taking her out more socially to the supermarket, the butchers, the bakery, to the DIY store and the agricuture store. All these places require you to wear a mask and wait your turn with save distancing. The up side was that Riley soon got used to her mask and began to relax about wearing it, sanitising her hands regularly became just another routine and respecting safe distancing was easy to follow as she pointed out, you only had to stand behind the lines. Apart from another five ducks and twelve chickens and enough fencing to build a wire house not to mention chocolate donuts and bags of cheetos it seemed these regular outings had proved succesful.
Monday morning arrived and Riley went back to school. Masks are compulsory, temperature check at the school gate (parents not allowed in), hands are sanitised and shoes too. The children must sanitise their hands every time they leave the classroom. This is the new norm for her and her school and for many schools world wide.
Going back to school after the long school holidays can be challenging for any child or teenager but going back to school after such a long time due to lock-down has been a whole different ball game for many children. I realise more than ever how important it is to communicate with your child, and in most cases that means listening.
As parents we can tend to be too busy to listen, what with work, our homes, cooking dinner, doing home work, walking the dog, bathing the ducks and trying desperately to get some me time. There's not much time left in the day to listen to your child but listening to your child is something you must priorities.
A child's concern is a huge weight on their young shoulders. They will dwell on it, something that really isn't that big a deal will become so problematic that they can't see a way to handle it. School is the centre of a childs life and going back to school can be difficult enough for lots of children but the worry of wearing masks, all these new rules to remember, not being able to play with their friends and missing the long days and weeks at home are all new and extra concerns that didn't exsist before.
I am generally a good listener, maybe because I like to write and a good listener will get great stories from other people or at least new ideas and material to work with, so listening to my daughter is enjoyable for me, funny most of the time. I listen to her chat about her day, I ask her how she feels and I tell her all the time that I love her and I show her that I love her. My daughter of barely eight years of age regularly asks me how I am, wishes me a good morning and loves a cuddle.
It's Friday, Day Five
It's been a quick week and Riley has done fabulously. She's happy in school and telling us all about the boys and girls who are naughty and the boys and girls who are nice and the teachers who are new and the ones that look less scary in a mask. She describes her lunch with minute detail with such hilarity I am going to give you an account of one such lunch:
''It was that awful soup today. The green one, like watery pond water. Then I think it was fish because it smelt funny and it was mushy, it looked like grey mashed potato. I had a piece of yellow lettuce, can you believe and a slice of tomato that was so soggy the skin was peeling off. The rice was good but it was just a tiny bit. And I had half an apple for afters, it was so hard I could have broken my tooth.''
That was actually one of the better days and let me tell you she gets a good dinner in the evening at home with us altogether albeit she is rather the food critic.
Listen to Your Child
Listening to my child has difinately helped create a close bond. I have told her she can tell me anything and she does, at times I find it difficult to remain composed and struggle to keep my laughter from exploding in a raucous bubble. Then there are times when her beautiful blue eyes well up with tears and she tells me her troubles and I hug her small body and her heart beats loudly against mine. I wipe her tears away and we have a little chat. A big smile soon appears and she runs off to play.
I know being eight that my daughter's issues are not so big, but they are to her. I hope that by listening and talking together I will be able to help her prepare for the world and help her understand that there are always concerns and things change and new rules and new ways are not just the new norm that they are always the norm.
Life has it's up's and down's and we all have different ways of dealing with things but listening to your child is so important. And another thing! we tell our children all the time to hurry up! lets go now! I am not using those words any more and if I need more time for my child then I'll make that time.
I have lived in the fast lane of city life, fortunately I am now living in the fast lane of country life but lock-down has thought me something that I should have already known, my daughter, my family are more important than anyone or anything and that time is something I can never get back. Time with her as a child, as a teenager, as a young woman. I will spend it wisely and I will spend it with great care.
One day mushy fish that looks like grey mashed potato will be a boy she hates but really likes, a horrible boss, a mean colleague and the challenge of going back to school will be heading out into the world. The challenge of the new norm will be another new norm as her classroom becomes the big wide world and no mask will shield her from the future but she'll know where I am, and that I will always listen. I love you Riley.
© 2020 Gabriel Wilson