This day… How Mirjam tries to avoid going crazy

What is going on at the moment, and how do we deal with all the changes? In this blog, someone from the Flow team shares how she is dealing with the current situation: both on a practical level and in her head. This time: Mirjam (freelance editor) talks about being stuck at home with children.

About a month or two ago—yes that recently—when there were a few people who had to quarantine for two weeks as a precaution, I joked to my neighbor, “I secretly like the sound of that: Make some photo albums—only got about ten years’ worth of photos to work my way through—sort out all those boxes of paperwork, finish that endless to-do list of chores.” Blissfully unaware of the fact that it wouldn’t be long before we would also all be sat at home.

And there are my two daughters aged eight and ten. I was under the impression that this would all work out just fine: the kids doing their schoolwork, playing and drawing while we happily sat at our laptops. After all, they always have a great time at the weekend, and—to top it all—the clubs, play dates and pick-ups and drop-offs aren’t happening at the moment, which saves a lot of time. I was happy that both of us could do our work from home, thinking how cozy it would be. So that’s how we entered the situation: in good spirits.

But then came the stream of emails and texts. Mails from different teachers with portals, weekly schedules, login codes, PowerPoint presentations, tips, references with regards to different capability levels and some extra links for home schooling—plus of course, useful sites for when the kids get bored… And let’s not forget the reading, kids’ news show and gym. We even received exercises from the soccer coach and gym teacher.

I delved into the teaching material, decoded references and thought of the fun creative things I wanted to teach them. When (logically) it turned out that the children really needed a lot of guidance and attention, I got a knot in my stomach. I noticed that I did not have the patience and focus for it: The explaining, the logging in, the passwords… The clock was ticking, and my own deadlines were looming. Repeatedly putting the kids’ textbooks and notebooks back onto their own piles and brushing the never-ending scattering of eraser rubbings into a pile to create something of an overview on the kitchen table and in my head.

When (on day three!) I read an email from the teacher that too few children were logged in and my eldest, with a questioning look on her face, handed me my laptop with nothing but a blue screen, I ordered the children a bit too harshly that they had to outside to play. I was crying before the door had even had time to close behind them.

The tsunami of tension and uncertainty that this virus has brought with it, the sense of chaos and perhaps especially the speed with which it has hit all came out… I’m the type of person who always wants to do everything the right way, but I no longer had an overview of it all. And of course there’s also the small issue of not having enough laptops in the house.

I looked at my screen, still blurry through my tears, as I typed an email back to the teacher. It wasn’t long before she called me. And again, I cried; I couldn’t help it. She reassured me in the same way that she sometimes does my daughter. And that made me laugh a little. But one thing the conversation made clear to me was: I mustn’t let this get to me.

We are now already in the fifth week and, in the meantime, the government has said we need to stay at home longer than initially advised. No photo albums have yet been made, but we have found our modus operandi. The weekly tasks are completed, and I leave all the well-meaning links for what they are. I enjoy the time we have together. That the four of us can go to the woods: my husband and I running, the girls on their rollerblades.

We are healthy and together, and I won’t allow myself to be driven mad anymore. As my youngest said so nicely to me this week when I didn’t know how to explain something: “Mum, don’t worry. My teacher studied for this and is qualified to do it; you didn’t.” And there you have it.

Text Mirjam Rosema-Verhulst; Translation Julia Gorodecky; Photography Sydney Angove