Dawn lives with her 4-year-old son Oscar and with Cathy who is Oscar’s Granny. As one of Oscar’s carers, Cathy is also part of this story.
Images from Dawn, Cathy, and Oscar’s discussion.
Dawn and Cathy
Have you talked about coronavirus with your child? What does he understand about it?
Dawn: Yes, but not much. We didn’t say much to him about it. At the end of the day, he’s only four and we didn’t want to worry him. To be honest, I don’t think he understands it, or minds it too much. He might ask when we go to a shop, ‘Do I have to wear a mask?’ but that’s about it.
Cathy: We called it the virus. It would more be in response to him, like ‘We’re going up here because of the virus.’ He couldn’t go to nursery because of the virus and things like that. So, no big sit down and explaining everything to him apart from what he would need to know.
What was the immediate impact on the family when lockdown began?
Dawn: I was working at the community centre every day, but different hours, shorter days. Well, we both work here, and our lives and work completely changed overnight. He wasn’t at nursery and so he was with us at the community centre, making meals for people. He missed nursery, but he like being here and we were seeing lots of people when the rules were strict. We were seeing people at the community centre and when we were delivering food. So he was outside playing a lot, and by the time we would get home from here, he would be wiped out.
Cathy: We would go and collect food in the morning, he would carry things in, he would help cut the food, peel the potatoes, peel the carrots, help grate the cheese. He’s very resilient. He just got involved in everything and he would help when we used to go over to the pensioners to deliver the food, he would go up to the doors, knock on the doors and put it in to their kitchens for them. He just got so involved, which was amazing for a four-year-old. Just totally amazing. He would say ‘what time are we going to the pensioners’?’ He was just all for it. He was living in an adult world, mostly, so he was very in tune with what was going on around him.
How was Oscar during those first weeks and months of lockdown?
Cathy: He loved being at the community centre. He really enjoyed being around people, playing football and everything else. He loved drawing, playing football here, all of that.
Dawn: Aye. I think he liked being here. Anything that was to be done, he just mucked in a helped. He likes to help, and he likes listening in to conversations. He would be helping out, then he would go away, and then he would come back to help. In the beginning it was just him, but then that last month he was here, two other kids were here too. So, at first, he was really helping us here and then, towards the end he would go play more, but he would help us too. But he really missed nursery and there’s so much about it he loved. He’s been in a couple of nurseries and he has just totally taken to them. He had a really good friendship with a wee girl. He had a really good relationship with her, but that’s it. He’s quite resilient, he just took it in his stride and coped with it remarkably.
We’ve got front and back garden at home, and a big green space across from our house, but by the time we would get back there, he was usually too tired to go out and play there.
How was it for you as parents and carers during that lockdown period?
Dawn: I found it alright to be honest. Probably the cheek that I got off him was hard. He started giving me lot of back chat. But being out here, working, him being here with us and kept busy was good. I don’t know how we would have coped not being here and being in the house all the time.
Did Oscar’s nursery keep in touch?
Dawn: The nursery only phoned me once, and if it wasn’t for me going on the website I wouldn’t have figured out what was happening with him starting school. I know other schools and nurseries had a little gathering for families, but we didn’t have that. Again though, even though nursery was closed, I think we were alright. He was getting stuck right in to what we were doing here. We were lucky. I could work and bring him with me and know he enjoyed it. If I wasn’t able to bring him here, I wouldn’t have been able to work.
What has changed in the past month or so for you and Oscar?
Dawn: For me, at the start, I didn’t go back to work full time. That was to help ease him in to school because he started in P1. To settle him in. I was able to take him to school because I had the first week off. He was kind of looking forward to seeing friends when he went to school and it was a wee bit of an issue to see if his close friend was in his class. Unfortunately, she wasn’t, she was in another class at school. They were really close.
How were you feeling about Oscar going back to school?
Dawn: I was quite glad. He was ready. Looking back, I wish they had just scrapped this year and that he had just started school next August. He’s not going to have assemblies, or the P1 Christmas nativity. He will miss all that. But he’s happy to be there. He just takes everything in. He can put letters together to make words. I’ll have put him to bed, and I’ll hear him shouting, ‘Mum, what’s 13 add 13?’ and I’ll be like ‘just go to sleep!’
Cathy: It was great. He was all for it. He loves the drawing. He loves the writing. He loves the spelling. He loves sums, arithmetic. He can count no bother up to 100 and can count from 100 down backwards. We weren’t worried about him. He’s a total sponge. He couldn’t wait to go to school so we were happy with that.
How has the school been managing the return to school, because of Coronavirus?
Dawn: We didn’t have any worries about any of that. He couldn’t wait to start school. I just sort of just went with what people were telling us to do. I could keep him wrapped in cotton wool. I thought, I will let him go and I will deal with whatever happens. There have been a couple of cases in the school. It is a tricky one. Families are asking me what to do because of my job here. Families of kids from the breakfast club are asking ‘Do you think I should keep her home or send them in?’ I think each family just needs to decide that for themselves.
Practically then, the school first days back, it was full days, 10 – 2:50. That was him first time at school and I felt they were just throwing them in at the deep end. To be honest, I think it actually worked for children. Normally quite a few kids crying but it wasn’t like that. There was one kid crying but everybody seemed to be quite happy going in. At the start, I felt they were flung in at the deep end, but luckily it didn’t seem to affect him in any way. That was great.
One thing that they could have done was more information from the nursery and the new school. We didn’t get to meet the teacher. We didn’t get a tour of the school. It was like, ‘In you go and that’s it.’ That was hard.
Do you have any concerns looking ahead?
Dawn: The virus is here. I don’t think there’s much point worrying about it. We will deal with anything as it comes up. There’s no point in getting myself and him all worked up. Now that he is at school, we would have concerns about how that’s going to work because, my opinion of the home-schooling is that most parents can’t deal with it. I was saying, ‘we’ll need to get to night school!’ They would need to knock that home-schooling on the head and say: ‘Take your kid to the countryside, take your kid to the beach, take your kid to the farm, and do learning exercises that way.’ You can do that – count the trees, count the branches. Baking, measuring, counting, that kind of thing. Talking, free time, out wandering about. Or they make sure everybody has access by giving everyone a tablet and internet connection and they do big, massive classroom sessions. Not this half and half thing. Parents I know were getting so stressed with that.
Cathy: I’m worried about another lockdown. I’m worried about people being hungry. I think that’s coming. If it’s going to be bigger and badder before, I am not keen to put us and the staff in the community centre at risk, but I know there are people out there suffering extreme poverty and I think that needs to be addressed. How do we strike the balance between that and keeping ourselves really safe? We have a pantry where people can get food for a few pounds. I can’t tell you how many people come for that, but when we open there’s a queue round the corner and it brings in £500 every Tuesday.
What would help you as a family in the coming months?
Dawn: All his wee activities he used to go to have stopped. He used to go to something every day. So obviously, if those kind of things opened up again that would be good. He goes to football now and there’s another one he will go to on Saturdays. I’d like that to keep going and for the other things to open up again.
Cathy: Nothing much – we have a dog, we get out walking, get out cycling – that’s good.
I am 4 years old. I like playing. Playing on the slide because it’s so fun going down. Cycling.
Because there is Coronavirus we have to use soap to wash our hands to get all the germs off, then they’ll be killed. If you don’t wash the germs off your hands you get ill.
When my nursery was closed it was good to go to the community centre and to be playing. I was happy, excited. I wasn’t at nursery. I was seeing my mum every day. I liked it.
I was at nursery and now I am at school. I play with my friends. We play football. It’s good. We do writing. I’m not bored, I’m happy. It seems like a long time ago that I wasn’t at school.
This is my drawing called Me and Coronavirus. This is me here at the community centre with all the food. We were here cooking and packing bags and playing. There are carrots. There are tomatoes. That’s me in the car delivering food. I was the chef. I was cooking tatties. We’d be here and I would be counting the food bags. And I would count in 10s, ’10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100!’ I liked making up the food bags.
This is my drawing called Back to School. This is me going to school on my bike. And all the numbers that we are counting.