• Sun. Sep 26th, 2021

Lockdown has a silver lining for parents of older children

Jul 25, 2021

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As a parent of young adults, I see a glistening silver lining to this lockdown. And I feel guilty writing this, because lockdown is truly awful for young people. Doing school online, doing university online, doing VCE or HSC online, missing out on socialising, missing out on work experiences, is terribly isolating and depressing. I wish fervently for the progression of the bloody vaccine rollout so that my children can be safe and their lives can resume.

Still, as much as I ache for my three children, I can’t help enjoying the one great upside. Every single night, when I go to bed, they are safely in their rooms.

In normal times, having older children breeds anxiety in parents.

Having children is like walking around with your heart outside your body. Three independent, roaming hearts, in my case. My children take those hearts with them wherever they go, and sometimes, they go far. Part of being a parent is learning to tolerate the constant, low-level, thrumming anxiety of your children being out in the world. This can be particularly challenging when your child starts to drive, when they are female, or when they are venturing out in the dark.

Just getting to sleep when your child is out on a Saturday night is a triumph of reason over emotion. Even so, you never fall deeply asleep; you drift off, one ear on the door, only to spring awake at 2am. Is the hall light off? If it is, you can relax. Is it on? This means she’s still out and about. Is she in an Uber with a seedy driver? Has she been in a car accident? Is she drunk in a ditch? You pick up your phone, checking messenger and WhatsApp to see when she last logged on.

“OK,” you think, “she was online 20 minutes ago. She’s probably still alive.”

Just before the pandemic hit, my son was studying in New York for five months. One evening – his morning – he rang to tell me he was feeling ill. The next morning – his afternoon – I couldn’t reach him on the phone. I was awash with panic. I started Googling flights to New York. I was convinced my son was comatose in his dorm. A couple of interminable hours later, he finally phoned me back.

“What is it, Mum? I’m at the climate change rally.” Yeah, good on you, son. Save the planet but kill your mother.

And so, it is a rare and precious treat to go to sleep each night knowing my three children are here under my roof. I have no idea when this lockdown will end. I have no idea when the world will return to normal. But for now, tonight, my three hearts are safe.

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