It was already a struggle … and then kindergartens closed

It was already a struggle … and then kindergartens closed

When lockdown was extended, my heart broke. The thought of having to explain to my young daughter there’ll be no birthday celebrations again this year, and to her older brother that there’s no surprise unicorn party for your sister.

Children are wired to enjoy social engagement.Credit:iStock

Then Saturday rolled around and my broken heart just sank, not that I thought it could sink much further these days, with the announcement that childcare and kindergartens are to close because of rising case numbers.

I am a mother of two children. My eldest is six years old and in grade 1. It pains me to see him in another year of his school life where most of it is with me as his teacher, a playmate, therapist and parent.

He has some learning challenges, and the pressure my husband and I feel to support him, reassure him and keep him focused is immense.

I work for a prominent NGO. My work is considered essential but it can be conducted at home. With our current policies, that means I have one child home-learning and now a three-year-old daughter who can’t attend kindergarten or childcare.

For our daughter, and for us, childcare meant she had vital social interaction, her needs of attention and engagement were being met, a small escape from home. The predictability and routine she receives from her attendance at childcare and kindergarten is so important to her developmentally but also allows the rest of us time to focus on what we need to do for work and for my son’s learning.

I understand public health, I have an undergraduate degree in the field, plus a nursing degree, and I truly understand what measures need to be taken to protect people. My husband and I are fully vaccinated and we follow all the lockdown rules, but I am so afraid of the damage these policies are having on a generation of children, without even commenting on the rest of the community’s wellbeing.

The era of imaginative play with your mates is evaporating with electronic interaction frighteningly overtaking it – there are only so many castles we can build with the kids and only so many bike rides we can go on around the local area.

Do you remember playing with your parents when growing up or your friends? I remember my friends and the secrets we shared and adventures we had – I hope this reality will return.

What the next few weeks hold for us, with two working parents and two children at home, means tears (from all of us), it means trying to explain to my three-year-old why she can’t see her friends or go to childcare or the playground. It means juggling my son’s schoolwork with my daughter’s needs and the attention she desires.

It means stressing about completing work deadlines and having two children in the background during Zoom meetings. It means built-up frustration between my husband and me over the pressure we are under just to survive this.

Yes, it is survival mode now; it feels as though we are losing sight of the purpose of lockdowns.

We did this all last year – Victorians are true lockdown survivors.

Have a look at the countries with the longest lockdowns − we are set for the gold medal soon.

We have suffered significantly − the untold stories of stress among families, taking months to overcome, or breaking people and families altogether. To be put back in this position again is now compounding and our defensive mechanisms aren’t working this time around.

I know that I join millions of families in the same position and I know I am not alone in this.

But we are all struggling and I truly worry about the implications this policy will have on all of us and most importantly our young generation of children, who ultimately will be left to pick up the social and economic pieces.

Lauren Lombardi is a Melbourne mother of two.

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