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Covid-19: No pandemic parties and more ideas for a dull summer

As the coronavirus keeps children at home, mothers are brimming with ideas that range from study classes to virtual museum tours

This is the time to embrace boredom.
This is the time to embrace boredom. (Getty Images)

If they keep closing schools like this, some mother will surely find a cure for coronavirus, says a popular WhatsApp forward doing the rounds these days. It’s talking about moms like me.

We are going to work out together every day, I told my nearly 10-year-old one morning after her school shut a few weeks early for already-endless summer vacations as many educational institutions did their bit to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

We raced up and down the building stairs, had a skipping competition, did endless jumping jacks and then went into a strenuous mother-daughter yoga session. I had coronavirus-type shortness of breath for the next two days, while she bounced around the house, dribbling her basketball energetically, puzzled at how easily her mother had fallen: “So, we are not doing this tomorrow again? But you promised…"

Even if I did have the stamina to play, there aren’t too many places to play. We tried playing badminton the other day. Our effort began at the party room in my in-laws’ building but the shuttlecock kept hitting the ceiling, so we moved to the badminton court painted on the pavement outside our neighbourhood park but it was too difficult to dodge the dog poop, so we moved again, to our building compound. There, the wind played havoc until the shuttlecock flew into a locked apartment in the next building and the game ended.

Thank god for the husband’s dramatically different approach—more is better—to the summer holidays.

He offered to take her swimming every day. Just as I was confirming you can’t get Covid-19 from the pool (at least in non-peak hours), the pool shut down. So now swimming has been replaced with one-on-one tennis and basketball and my old man comes home looking happy but exhausted.

Better him than me. I am utilizing most of my energy to stave off my daughter’s demands to participate in her second favourite water-based activity—a water balloon fight.

One friend posted on Facebook that Isaac Newton got a lot of important work done when he was forced to work from home during the 1665 plague. We all know he didn’t have a 10-year-old dragging him away from his gyaan on gravity with a pleading “Play with me."

It takes a village, they say. My yoga instructor doubles up as her chess teacher and a neighbour has kindly consented to teach my daughter Bharatanatyam. My mother-in-law has put herself in charge of finding online educational resources. Thank god my daughter loves to draw and enjoys making her own banana oat pancakes. I have just managed to convince her that it would be fun if she and her father competed to cook something for me.

What about reading, did I hear you say? The counterpoint to bringing up my daughter sporty is that she is unable to disappear into a book for a few hours, like I did at her age.

Babyjaan’s book behaviour is very adult. She loves browsing through the racks in Bengaluru’s many beautiful book stores on Church Street. At the end of 40 minutes she’s ready with the teetering pile she wants to purchase and a long negotiation ensues.

More often than not, she comes out tops because she has the skill set that many of us only acquire after a business school course: “1. Take the multiple-offer approach; 2. Exercise confidence; 3. Don’t take “no" personally; 4. Understand your weaknesses; 5. Practice." Babyjaan didn’t have to get this information off a website, she’s already a master at all of the above.

Books purchased, you would think the next logical step would be reading them. It took a few trips to the book store for me to realize that she was also an expert in the art of tsundoku leaving a book unread after buying it. The silver lining? She’s writing poetry.

Fellow mothers are brimming with ideas that range from Khan Academy classes to virtual museum tours. Create a schedule and stick to it, is every mom’s favourite unworkable tip. One shared a colour-coded Covid-19 Daily Schedule which included impractical slots like quiet time, academic time, morning walk and afternoon fresh air. She quickly followed that up with a tweet from funny dad Simon Holland: “No one is full of more false hope than a parent making a colourful daily schedule for their kids during the Covid-19 quarantine."

“He isn’t a schedule kind of kid," one mother told me about her son. High five, sister. She bought a fridge last month and saved the cardboard box it came in. Now she’s hoping it will keep her 10-year-old engaged for a while, building a fort or a rocket or a maze. Maybe I will give that a shot. My apartment already looks wrecked after a week of holidays, an oversized cardboard box would fit right in.

Other things mothers are making their children do include monitoring the bird’s nest in the garden, ensuring that visitors to the house wash their hands with soap, and upping their at-home duties such as looking after the dog and doing the dishes. Hectic negotiations are ongoing with Babyjaan that since she wakes up at the crack of dawn, she should use the electric kettle and brew me my morning cuppa.

One forward by an ER doctor emphasized it’s great that schools are shut: “Please do not arrange play dates. No pandemic parties, no sleepovers. This defeats the purpose of closing the schools… Cancel the birthday party, postpone the trip, LET YOUR KIDS BE BORED."

Yes, this is the summer Babyjaan will learn to embrace boredom, to meander leisurely through a long hot summer observing the ants that have built a nest above the toaster in our kitchen and watching the fungus grow on the hibiscus plant. Now all I have to do is convince the husband not to have too much fun playing with her.

Priya Ramani shares what’s making her feel angsty/agreeable.

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