We Should Do More Than Go Back To Normal

Over the past two months, we’ve gotten used to new norms – one marked by mask wearing, social distancing, online food and grocery ordering, home-based learning and working, and sending (and receiving) yummy gifts to each other.

It has been different, uncomfortable at times, but definitely different.

We live in unprecedented times. But the times has also revealed many things to us – the cracks within our society and system, the inequalities that exist, the deep biases and prejudices we still hold about others.

In some cases, it has brought our families closer, as we made conscious decisions to overcome certain emotional struggles or baggage that we’ve been carrying.

In other cases, it has torn people even further apart.

All of us long for the good ol’ days, when we could meet our friends and loved ones at will, hang out at a nice cafe, enjoy a sumptuous brunch, and talk or bond over fun games and funny stories.

We long for normal. For shopping Saturdays, and lazy Sunday mornings. For good food and wine and ambience and service.

But for others like our migrant workers, their normal was hard and rough work for 6 days a week. Their normal did not include hanging out at attas cafes, shopping in swanky malls, bubble tea on demand, or even taking time off work for special occasions. Their normal was a whole lot harder and less palatable.

I don’t know about you but this Circuit Breaker has taught me some lessons on how we can do life – as a family or as an individual.

1. It has taught me to be kinder (even when others aren’t).

You just never know how dire another person’s home situation may be. It’s tempting to take offence and react, but in such times I think it’s wiser to simply walk away from a tense situation/person.

2. It has taught me to really feel what it’s like to be in another person’s shoes.

Before this, we never thought about migrant workers, much less talked about them. They were an invisible part of society, although the products of their labour are visible and enjoyed by us all.

Also when walking with friends who may be suffering losses of their own, I’m learning to be slow with my words or advice, choosing instead to feel their pain, to listen wholeheartedly, and to sit with them even when I don’t know what to say.

3. It has taught me that I need less than I think.

Although we took some time to adjust to staying and studying and working at close proximity, it felt like we had everything we needed because we had each other to hold on to.

The kids had each other to talk and play with so they never complained of boredom. They also had sufficient devices to study with so it was still manageable. We really have a lot more than we imagined, and also need a lot less.

4. It has taught me to dig deeper into the Word and the love of God.

When times are uncertain, we tend to grasp at the things we can control. This pandemic has taught me that there’s very little indeed that is within our control, so for the rest we need to trust and lean on God. He knows our needs and our deepest fears, and he loves each of us more than we’ll ever know. I’m trying to read more of His word daily and commit my worries to Him.

5. We are more adaptable than we think.

When CB started, I warned my children than some foods that we used to enjoy may no longer be available. At one point, it was difficult to get a certain brand of pasta and sauce that they liked. But you know what, we all rolled with the punches.

I also thought they wouldn’t be able to wear a mask for the entire duration of school, but they did! So yes, we are all adaptable creatures, and sometimes crisis forces us to think outside the box and be creative.

As I shared in this Salt & Light article, my daughter was at first resistant and grouchy about having to do home-based learning. In her own words, “I just don’t like change.” But she also enjoyed the time she had at home to bake bread and cookies, and make terrazzo jewellery.

6. In light of the bigger problems of the day, I’m learning to worry less about my child’s academic progress.

They’ve adjusted back to school, alternating weekly. They’re coping well with the new rules in school, and are generally healthy and happy. It may seem so basic but I’m grateful for these little things. As long as they are responsible with their school work and learning, and are thriving mentally and emotionally, I’m letting go of the rest.

Grades and all seem to pale in light of health and social issues, don’t you think?

teach kids to change the world with kindness

 

Though we all say we want things to go back to normal, I think we should turn “normal” upside down.

I don’t want to be too idealistic here, but I’m talking baby steps. Perhaps get to know some of the workers living or working in the neighbourhood, be able to exchange greetings and a wave. And maybe when this pandemic is over, even share a meal or drink sometime.

Make a bigger effort to expand our social circle to include friends and neighbours whom you’d never have thought of including before.

Try to reuse and recycle more, especially with the rise in use of plastics and waste generation.

Love and give more generously of our time, money, and energy.

Just small intentional steps…May we never forget the lessons we’ve learnt through this crisis. May the lessons and stories be remembered and used to bless the needy and even our future generations.

How to make school reopening safe for everyone in COVID-19 season

Next week, my eldest will be heading back to school. She’s confident that she can wear the mask for the entire day, but I bought a face shield for her just in case. I will also pack 2 disposable masks in case her cloth one gets dirty or damp with sweat.

  • School bags packed – almost
  • School shoes – check
  • Snack box – check
  • Stationery – check
  • Sanitiser – check
  • Homework – check
  • empty Ziploc bag (Labelled, for storing mask during PE) – check
  • 2 Ziploc bags with extra disposable mask in each, in case a change is needed – check

*Ziplocs should ideally be wide enough to slip in a mask easily without folding it.

I asked her how she was feeling and she said:

  • Happy – to see her friends again in real life after only zoom meetings and virtual play dates
  • Scared – “What if I get the virus?”
  • Irritated – have to wear mask the whole day

Still despite the mixed feelings, I get the sense that she’s generally looking forward to getting a slice of normal back.

While some kids just can’t wait to get back to their school routines, many parents are feeling worried.

“School where got safe distancing? Still 30-40 kids in a class what?”

“Kids where got hygiene standards? Cough into the air or in someone’s face also!”

It’s true. If you want to talk about worries, the list can be endless. But let’s focus on what we can do to stay safe.

Here is my wish-list regarding school reopening in Phase One:

  1. Stagger recess timings such that only 1 primary level is in the canteen at any time. (Many schools already implementing this)
  2. Allow flexibility for children to have recess in class (for those who have packed food from home).
  3. Stagger drop-off timings, or demarcate different areas for parents to pick up different primary level kids.
  4. Allow sufficient catch-up time’ for students who may have had difficulties completing their homework. So they don’t feel unnecessarily stressed at having to hit the ground running.
  5. I hope teachers don’t zoom straight into full-on academic learning. Instead, spend some time reflecting on our individual and collective COVID experiences in class. Maybe even using it as a starting point to talk about the different emotions as well as challenges that we’ve experienced during the circuit breaker period.

But what about those weeks where they have HBL? From my position as a WFH mum, here’s what’s on my wish-list:

  1. Streamline HBL and limit to 1 or 2 different platforms per day, so it doesn’t wreak too much tech-havoc in the family.
  2. Allow kids to hand in work physically the following week, instead of emailing or uploading onto Google drive. Remind them to store homework in individual subject folders.
  3. Instead of meeting kids on Zoom all at one go (with younger kids, it gets too noisy, and it’s mostly one-way lecturing by the teacher), engage kids in small groups (about 5 pax) so that each child gets a chance to speak up, ask a question or clarify anything they don’t understand. You may say, “so time consuming”, but at this point I think fewer but better quality interactions matter.

What about you? Are you feeling more relieved or worried? What is on your wishlist?

**Here’s little Josh happy with his new face shield. Because he’s in Primary 1, and less likely to be able to wear a mask for the entire day, I got him this as an added option. It props up on his head well, so he can eat comfortably with this too.

Face shield

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