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From baby carriers to Cardi B

With travel plans cancelled due to Covid-19, make the most of the situation by bringing the world into your home

These times are about adapting to the mundane in our own way getty images
These times are about adapting to the mundane in our own way getty images

We will travel all over with them," my husband and I told each other when our second child was due just 16 months after our first one was born. “They will be international babies; we will get noise-cancelling headphones and those little animal suitcases that they can ride through airports. They will adapt to everything."

We were determined to be the cool parents, even with two under 2, not bound by rigid schedules and routines, drinking wine at airport bars while the babies played on the ground behind us with toy aeroplanes. We got animal-print baby carriers and strapped them both in as we strutted through security check.

We took them all over India and the world right from when the first one was three months old. We would return to Mumbai, tired but happy. At 2am, we would all wake up and watch The Little Mermaid and eat the cheese we had brought back from our latest trip until the children fell asleep again.

I Instagrammed romantic pictures of our late-night feasts. Look, I boasted, look at how well my little travellers adapt.

We were so smug, so foolish.

This month we were planning to go to New Zealand to visit my in-laws. Then the coronavirus news began and we cancelled and decided to go to the Maldives. Then the coronavirus news started getting a little worrying and we cancelled and decided to go to Goa. Then the coronavirus news became terrifying and we cancelled and decided to spend a few nights in Lonavala. Then I stopped being able to look away from the news and the numbers creeping up steadily and all the global fear and uncertainty and we cancelled Lonavala, my elder daughter’s school closed early for spring break out of an abundance of caution and responsible social distancing and now we are all at home together, in our small two-bedroom apartment.

And unfortunately we never figured out how to adapt to the mundane.

Colour-coded schedules have become popular on parenting social media—an hour for academic work, an hour for quiet time, an hour for free play, and so on and so forth. These schedules look beautiful, organized, like a food triangle, but I never quite figured out how to make my largest block fruits and vegetables.

So we are adapting in our own way. We watch a lot of Peppa Pig and my almost three-year-old has most of the dialogue memorized. I give myself a pat on the back. Older generations are forever harping on about the benefits of memorizing poetry and what is Peppa Pig if not the poetry of future generations?

When I feel guilty about the ease with which I allow screen time, I like to imagine parents during the 1918 pandemic arguing over whether or not to allow their children radio time. And then I put the TV back on and pick up my phone to google whether or not radio was popular in 1918. Google tells me the 1920s were the golden age of radio. That’s not something I would have learnt while travelling the world with my children. I tell my older daughter about that.

“Radio, what’s radio?" she asks. Then leans over to get a better view of the television because I am blocking it.

On screen, Peppa and her friends are making pottery using the coil technique, and she is intrigued. I make some flour dough and give it to her to try to make her own coils. The one-and-a-half-year-old pummels her tiny fists into the dough. I turn the screen off and praise myself for the “crafts".

Since evening activities are cancelled and toddlers have endless amounts of energy, we blast Cardi B and have dance parties at home.

“Mama, why that auntie isn’t wearing pants?" my daughter asks at one point in the video.

I shout over the lyrics that feminism has many different facets and iterations and my daughters must explore their own ideas of womanhood or personhood. They ignore me but at least they are getting their exercise.

We rip up the latest issue of The Economist to make confetti because when am I next going to find time to read The Economist? And then we use the broom to sweep up the confetti.

While my back is turned, the older child manages to rub slime into the hair of the younger one and I do some quick research and learn that hand sanitizer can help get the slime out. I am certainly not willing to use precious hand sanitizer on a baby’s head in today’s world, so she gets a much needed haircut.

We are adapting. We have brought the world into our little home. And fortunately, it doesn’t include jet lag because I was lying through my teeth all those times I pretended I enjoyed our 2am wake-ups.

Diksha Basu is the author of The Windfall (Bloomsbury). Her new book, Destination Wedding (Bloomsbury), will be out in June.

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