Babysitting in Covid Times

As I sit down to the laptop to write about Covid-19 days, I think a lot about the true life figures/people on our family trees who saw and lived through times just like these, but many years ago. They watched people close to them die, and struggled with physical symptoms. They dealt with the trauma of loss and experienced the dislocation brought on by illness. One of the real-life figures on my own family tree who succumbed to the Spanish Flu was my Great Uncle, my Grampa’s Uncle John ‘Jack’ Haddow. A wrangler, working on Forster’s ranch outside of the town of Drumheller, he saw countless inhabitants of the region succumb.

I ended up on a two-hour-long search of old Calgary Herald newspapers at this point and came upon some mentions of Great Uncle Jack and so never did return to this post until 6:30 next morning. I’ll try to get back on track, but it’s amazing to note that the item about the Country Dance of Berry Creek was published in October of 1906 and the marriage announcement appeared on April 17, 1916. Five years later, Jack would be dead as the result of influenza, this one, known as the Spanish Flu.

As I write, I also think about our indigenous peoples, the world over, who suffered trauma at the impact of disease through trade and colonization. This is not the first time the world has seen these life events unfold. All the conspiracy theorists aside and all of my readers who deny the seriousness of these events, I feel differently, and I will remember this as a global pandemic that caused the death and illness of many the world over. It is like living in a science fiction movie. Each person has to find their way through these events in a way that works for them, with respect for the medical people who are making educated assessments along the way. We must never take people who are working in the front lines for granted.

And now…for the subject of this post. Through history, whether it be in the days of the Spanish Flu or in the families of our indigenous peoples, disease has had an impact on children. I am exploring this because adults have a way of processing what is going on, but what are the children feeling through all of this?

When it came down to our family’s journey, I have only one grandson and his parents are both working from home. My grandson is almost three. When this all began, we were reeling and I stepped in to help at the very outset, but really had no intention of spending a pandemic as a child care provider. My son-in-law was still working out in the world, as a part of essential services, and so, at a point, when restrictions were becoming more clear and as we discovered that the severity of the illness seemed to be hitting seniors more than anyone, I became scared for my own health. I stopped providing babysitting and that was a very difficult decision.

I geared up for a number of different projects including the writing of a historical fiction, creating a paper barn owl and painting in the studio.
When I left my two week stint, babysitting, I agreed that I could return on the condition that my son-in-law was able to pull himself out of the ‘real-world’ workforce and remain home for fourteen days. Dr. Deena Hinshaw had already introduced the idea of adopting a cohort family for children to have at-home playmates, and so I applied the same concept to child care.

There are so many grandmas who wanted to do the same for their grandchildren, but who were keeping themselves isolated from their families, that I felt guilty at times or felt as though I was doing something wrong. I also experienced a lot of push back from some individuals as a result of my decision. But, as mentioned before, I made a decision that I felt would be okay for me and as long as everyone in our circle could respect that parameters of our cohort unit, I would do alright to take Steven under my wing.

Long-story-short, I have been babysitting Steven ever since. Is it easy? Nope. There are lots of days when my back and knees are sore. There are days I’d like to sleep a little longer and get home a little earlier. My border collie, Max, who is also aging is spending a lot of time alone. So, there are those things. But, I have to look at this time as being really very special, as well, and I work, daily, at creating magic for Steven as we have one another exclusively for all of these days.

I try to be child-like most of the time because Steven and all of his little peers are missing the natural socialization that comes with Library programs, swimming lessons, play groups and day care. Acting three years old all day can really create exhaustion and I find that when I get home, I’m mostly unproductive. Just recently, I’ve surrendered to the need to be an adult some of the time and giving me the time to ‘take breaks’ from play and exploration. I’ve done it so well that now Steven will sometimes be found sitting on the rocking chair. I’ll turn to him and ask, “What are you doing?” and he will reply, “I’m taking a break.”

I’m pouring over the photographs I’ve snapped through these months and it’s really difficult to narrow down and post just a few that represent what we’ve done together. We read a lot. We play outdoors A LOT. I’m trying to teach Steven as much as I can about the places that I love. I’m helping him to notice aspects of nature that are important to me. I’ve been leaning on the lessons my Paternal Grandfather taught me about respect for nature and understanding the gifts as well as the dangers that are a part of that respect. He has learned about ice shelves and has been learning to read the river….shallow water looks lighter….fast water can look murky and/or dark….”Let’s throw a stick into the river and see what happens to it. A stone?”

I am putting limits on how long I can sustain this, but I will look back on this time as being a bit of a gift of sorts to our beautiful boy. He is so very important to all of us. To all of my readers who have made other choices out of concerns for the safety of your circle, you are giving a tremendous sacrifice, as are those who have decided to take care of your grand babies through these most trying times. I have your backs…all of you.

Gratitude, also to Wee Wild Ones SE who have provided weekly FLOW events/colouring sheets/creative links and recipes for goo and mixtures, music videos and zoom meet ups…while we can’t do all of it, we are glad for the connection and send our love to all of the hard workers! I have continued respect and love for you!

Zoom! in Covid Times

A friend shared a thought last week about writing down some of the events and experiences of living through these times, in the case that her grand children ever wonder about the historical realities of living through a pandemic.  Clearly, it was my experience to suspend writing because I felt some sort of oppressive push against everything that is ‘normal’ or natural in my life and so my writing ground to a halt.  Well, this morning, I am inspired by Mary to archive some of the ways we are remaining connected through this event.

Each one of us is experiencing a birthday or other important anniversary through this pandemic.  For some of us, that means a Zoom meet up…here is one, held for my friend Bee, just last week.  Each of us brought a candle and we sang happy birthday together and as his daughter Christina led us through questions, we shared memories of Bill.

Zoom has provided for some wonderful fun through these strange events.  For those of us privileged enough to have a phone or a desktop computer or a laptop, this experience has helped us to sustain connections.  I add this caveat because I didn’t always have the means to own a VCR or a microwave and I’m pretty sure it took me a long time after it was the norm, to purchase my first desktop computer.  It is important through a pandemic to realize that our neighbours are not all able to access the same resources.  This is one of the struggles during an epidemic.

Easter Dinner was actually my very first Zoom experience.  Grateful to my daughter for always taking the initiative to get us doing something different.  She made the invite.

Another family gathering happened.  Those who could, showed up and I loved every minute.  And yes, even pets show up now and again.  Hi, Nellie!

On the anniversary of my brother’s passing, family members from across the country, connected so that we could feel closer.  It was a difficult time.  To this point, I have not ever initiated a Zoom conference, but I’ve been blessed to be invited to these events.

We raised our glasses!

My father is living in a senior’s community and his social director organized for a trivia contest where Zoom family members would appear on large screen in their gathering area.  It was a funny hat event and so my siblings and I showed up for that, of course!  Given that Dad’s population is under restrictions, it is a blessing that Stirling Park has kept a social program going, alive and well.  I believe that we all need connection at this time.  The next few posts will also be about different ways that you might connect with people you love.

The Colours That You Mix

It’s a very other-worldly feeling to be journeying life through a pandemic.  In the grocery stores, yesterday, I felt to be plunked into the opening scenes of a Sci-Fi movie.  Sometimes a person just has to find a way to ground themselves when all else; health, economy, events and travel are floundering.  I almost feel that this is a guilty pleasure in these times…writing about children and painting.  But in doing this, I feel like a rope has been tied around my ankles…someone is tugging…and I am easing my way, like an overfilled balloon… coming to rest on the ground.  This is what I do.

At one time, I wrote about painting with Green in March.

This year, my friend, Claudia, inspired me by the painting she did with her students.  My practice, as a guest teacher, is to promote painting with children.  It can be so messy…there is the preparation and there is the clean-up…but Claudia doesn’t shy away from any of that.  She is a remarkably inspiring Div 1 teacher.  Thank you, Claudia!

After seeing the results of Claudia’s art lesson, I went out into a Div 1 classroom and painted the very next week.

And following that, Gillian also painted with little ones.  Gillian has had a long and accomplished career as an educator and she is also not one to shy away from paint.

I wanted to post all of these resulting paintings at the same time in order to illustrate the variety that can be achieved with paint….same concept…same lesson…but, each and every painting is unique and each of the three sets of paintings is using a different palette of green.  If you look about the hallways of elementary schools, if you see that there is a sameness about the works that children create, there is the possibility that their outcomes have been engineered to be close-ended; it also means that the means to get there may have been closed. (the trouble with most Pinterest activities) Try letting go, just a little, at first.  The resulting projects may not be as predictable, but this is what creativity and visual art should excite in children.

Children are magical.  May they be safe and may their teacher’s be safe through these trying times.  Happy March!  Happy GREEN!

Claudia’s Palette.  (I didn’t include images of students painting because their little faces were in the photos.)

Kath’s Palette.

Gillian’s Palette