Do you remember how outgoing and daring she was before all this? Keeping her home has taken the edge off her. She no longer likes to socialise and needs to be pushed into even talking to other kids.” This message from my friend, a mum of three gorgeous, gregarious girls was a wakeup call for me.
I remember S as a pretty boisterous and genial child, the one who’d chatter incessantly at the bus-stop and go racing down the pavement and play hide and seek behind trees and cars. So much so that my then 5-year-old was in complete awe of this walking talking little doll who’d keep us engrossed with her antics and shake off our early morning stupor.
For the past one and a half years I can count on half of one hand the number of kids his age my 6-year-old has socialised with. Ever since schools closed in 2020 and the unexpected home schooling turned all our lives topsy-turvy, we’ve been caught in a spin, busy wrapping and rewrapping our loved ones in bubbles to avoid any contamination. But at what price does this safety come?
Cue my brief WFH routine where I’d sit surrounded by my office paraphernalia in one corner of the house, with the best wifi connection. If I could put up a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the door, I would have but my demeanor, I am informed, is enough to stop any yakkers in their track. Yet way back in 2020, in the midst of an animated discussion with a team member when I saw the door slowly inching open, I gave off the ‘zip your mouth’ sign to the kid.
’m not confessing anything here but there might have been occasions previously when I have ordered him to stop speaking entirely while I was working. Anyhow in the middle of the phone conversation, I heard him shushing my husband who had just walked in with a loud whisper: ‘Shhhh… don’t make a sound, otherwise her office will think she’s working in a nursery!’
Recently it was brought to my notice that not only was I encroaching on his personal space in the house, but now he was expected to keep mum during my work hours just so I could be ‘in the zone’. No wonder he now waves a cheery bye when I step out of the house because at least my R2W has ensured he has his space back to clutter, to play pretend superhero, jump from the bed or dive under to search for hidden treasures.
For our peace of mind and obviously the safety and security of our ward we had opted for home schooling in the last academic year. But the news that from October onwards Dubai schools will be fully open for kids has come as a reminder that childhood should never be put on pause.
The little minds we nurture need nature too in order to grow to their full potential. And nothing beats an exuberant, even if unruly, physical greet and meet with pint-sized friends made on the computer screen. The future is virtual I keep hearing, but until we can let’s keep kids in the real world please.
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