Lynsey and Karim live with their son Ahmed (age 7) and his older sister.
Images from Lynsey, Karim and Ahmed’s discussion.
Lynsey and Karim
Have you talked about coronavirus with your child?
Lynsey: Well, he was quite aware of it because obviously there was a little bit of build up before the lockdown. We kind of suspected it was going to happen. We had been away the week before they actually locked down. We were at the caravan park. But before that, in school, they had been talking about it a lot. They had been working on washing their hands more and talked a little bit about it. He understood that something was going on, even if he didn’t understand it too well. We just called it Coronavirus basically and just like…it’s spreading germs like a cold but that it’s a lot more serious and it can make people really sick. But I mean, it’s kind of difficult. His sister is old enough to understand it a bit more.
At the start he was out to save the day and trying to think of a cure every day, wasn’t he?
Karim: Yeah, he was like ‘I’m a superhero!’!
Lynsey: When we were away, that was when we found out that the school was going to shut and I guess he was a bit excited at first knowing that he wouldn’t be going to school for a wee while. But then, when the reality set in, all he wanted to do was to go back to school.
Karim: But with Ahmed, we didn’t put the news on and we kept them a little bit, you know, not knowing as much about it as possible. We really didn’t want them to start hearing about how this thing had happened.
Lynsey: So yeah, we ended up not putting the TV on or the news. At six o’clock, we used to catch it but we couldn’t watch it anymore.
Karim: We’ve talked about the NHS and all that stuff, we’ve always thought that the NHS is good for us anyways. I always tell Ahmed that we’re lucky to have the NHS for free and to have facilities for free and to have this and that.
What were the initial weeks of lockdown like for the family?
Karim: At first, what we agreed was is basically the weans and the missus should stay at home and I would go and run about and get the food and whatever we needed. We started stocking up…I’m not going to lie to you…we started stocking like anybody else. We started getting more food in the house and I got in another fridge. Then, I have my bow and arrow and I was saying to the missus – look, if anything happens and food wasn’t there, I would know where to get a gazelle [laughing]. I was in survival mode. I know how to use the bow and arrow and all of that. We’d never miss a meal. I can get pigeons and anything – deer, rabbits!
But it has been just a little bit difficult for us. We were starting a new business and we couldn’t go and buy stuff to sell online. We had a wee bit of money in our bank account and ended up spending it all because of what was happening. We spent a lot of money making sure we were comfortable during the last five-six months. We lost a lot of customers and we’re just building that customer base back up. It’s a bit difficult. We have stock in there but we can’t sell it. Everything was closed so we couldn’t get other stock.
Lynsey: It definitely set us back in terms of the business. I guess we were lucky that we were in the process of starting the business because if we hadn’t had that wee bit of safety net – that wee bit of money in the bank then we would have really been in a bad position. We’d have been struggling.
Karim: Yes, it was hard for us. But family comes first for us all, so it didn’t impact us As I said, we did spend a lot of money in the first few weeks and then we heard that we didn’t need to worry as food was going to be here. We started to calm down a wee bit and it’s alright. We had food so it wasn’t a problem. We’re going to build the business back though- you better believe it. We’ll keep trying.
How did it go with learning at home?
Lynsey: For me, I wasn’t too worried as Karim had basically just taken control of all of that. I just had to worry about the weans. Of course, with home schooling, we got off to a great start. We had great plans and all. But I found after a few weeks, with Ahmed being a little bit upset and his mood not being as good, when he was doing his work, he was getting a bit bored and upset. I felt like it just wasn’t worth the hassle of bothering him and making sure all his work was done than actually just keeping him happy, playing games, giving him his colouring in. As I say, we had all the best of plans to get through all the work but after a wee while, truth is it wasn’t worth it because of how upset he was getting. Obviously in a school environment, they’re working with friends and it’s more enjoyable. But it just wasn’t viable at home, was it?
Karim: Aye, not for him. His big sister had done her school stuff in a couple of days but with him, we were like… well, as I said, I was outside doing the chores and Lynsey was dealing with the kids. It was hard. She’d try to start from 9 o’clock until 12 o’clock and do 3-4 hours with them of home schooling. The first two weeks were alright, but the third week was hard for us to get them to actually get into it.
Lynsey: It was really about getting them enjoying it. Ahmed wasn’t enjoying it and I felt like it wasn’t worthwhile getting him so upset about it. As long as he was doing a bit of reading here and there and some letters…he likes his numbers more than his reading and the school used to put on Sumdog competitions, so he liked doing that a lot. But it was definitely quite challenging.
Did you have access to a garden or outdoor space? And how is your access to devices or internet?
Lynsey: Yes, we are lucky, we’ve actually got a shared garden. We have a trampoline and we used to have a swing set but they’ve outgrown it. We’re quite close to a few local parks as well so we used to go on bike rides there. We did say at the time, I don’t know how we would have managed without a garden because it was difficult for the weans. Before we lived in this house, we lived in multistorey flats and I can’t imagine how people in that situation must have dealt with it.
Karim: We were always saying about how lucky we were because our weans can just go outside and get a wee bit of sun. Play football, frisbee – all stuff like that. I actually bought them a trampoline so all of us can play on it. That was actually alright but lockdown wasn’t too good for anyone. The government spent a lot of money, people are shutting their businesses…but you know, this kind of thing prepares us for anything that might happen. We’re ready for anything now!
Lynsey: In terms of going online, we mostly use our phones. We’ve all got a smart phone so we’re quite lucky in that way. And we’ve got a Wi-Fi connection that we pay monthly and it’s a good one.
Overall, how do you think the children experienced lockdown?
Karim: For his older sister it was ok, because she is older and she can talk to her friends on WhatsApp but for him it was totally different because he’s younger and he can’t talk to his friends in the same way. It’s been like two different things. His big sister enjoyed it more but my wee man, he’s like ‘I’m bored, I just want to go to school’, do you know what I mean?
We like to make them feel as comfortable as possible and make things as fun as possible and that’s what we could do, you know. We deal with stuff one thing at a time.
Lynsey: It was just really upsetting seeing him that upset and not really being able to do that much for him. There were times where he was really quite low and lonely because although he has his big sister and he has us, but he really just wanted to spend time with his friends. Whenever she was on WhatsApp, he was like ‘it’s not fair, I can’t talk to my friends. I miss them so much’. And it was really out of control. We had nothing we could do about it.
Definitely in the lockdown it was really affecting his wellbeing. He was quite upset and getting quite upset quite easily, wasn’t he?
Karim: Aye, he just wasn’t himself. Even going out on a bike ride and stuff like that, when we came to the house, he’d be like ‘I’m bored’, even though he had just been out. So we’d put a film on or play some PlayStation or a game or whatever. But he’s still get bored. Especially the minute his sister was talking to friends on WhatsApp. That was a little bit hard for us. His Mum spoke to one of our friends and asked if there was anything we could do to arrange for a few of his friends to speak with him. It happened once but it didn’t happen again.
As a family though, actually we enjoyed ourselves a lot because basically we weren’t having as much time and all of a sudden…well we usually like to spend the days together at home. We always enjoy it.
Lynsey: We enjoy the school holidays a lot too.
Karim: So it maybe wasn’t as bad for us as other parents. For us, it was enjoyable as we watched a lot of movies. Played a lot of PlayStation…but my boy, his behavior changed because he couldn’t see his family and friends. Other than that, it was actually alright for us and thank God for that.
Lynsey: So for his big sister it was fine, but Ahmed’s behaviour wasn’t always 100% but it was understandable. He was getting really frustrated by the end of it. He was desperate to see his friends and spend time with other people. We used to go to the swimming pool once a week and then that was cut off as well as so obviously we tried to make it up by going for long bike rides but as soon as he was back in the house, it was like reality hit him and he was like ‘oh, I’m stuck’. I think he felt like he was stuck, aye. I think we was sick of the sight of us!
How did you and Ahmed feel about going back to school?
Karim: Well, we weren’t going to send them back to be honest.
Lynsey: Right until the last day of the holidays, we were undecided about it. But definitely it came down to Ahmed. How upset he was and everything. They did say they’d only be going back two days a week which I’d probably have been a bit happier with but at the end of the day, I think the school knows what they’re doing. They’ve always taken care of the kids, the whole time they’ve been there so we trusted them enough that they knew what they were doing. We were a bit apprehensive though.
Karim: Before they said he was going to go to school, he started to get used to it, being off. But then we told him he’d be going back to school and he was like ‘aww I don’t want to go to school now’.
Lynsey: As it turned out, the first week he was so happy but the second week, he was like ‘I’ve had enough! I’m too tired. I don’t want to be up in the morning!’
What are your thoughts on how the school has been supporting the children’s return to school?
Lynsey: I think they’ve managed it well.
Karim: The school that we take our children to is a brilliant school and to be honest with you, I don’t like schools. But that’s me, because back in (country of origin) schools are not the same as they are here. But this school is absolutely amazing. All the teachers, helpers, the pupils – it’s just amazing. They do good work with our children and I’m so happy we have such a good school with people we can trust with our weans. For me, in lockdown and after lockdown, I did say that we weren’t going to take them back to school until we saw what was going on because our children aren’t guinea pigs. If the government can’t sit in Parliament then how could our kids go to school? But we thought about it and knew that he needed to go to school, do you know what I mean? All we said to him was ‘wash your hands nicely’ and ‘do what your teacher say to do’ and that’s all we could do. We left it to God.
Have you noticed a difference since he’s gone back to school?
Karim: Oh it’s amazing! A big, big difference. He’s back to his usual self.
Lynsey: He was becoming quite withdrawn in lockdown, he wasn’t his usual cheerful, everyday self, bouncing around. He was getting really tired, lethargic and bored. We were going out for bike rides and he just didn’t want to go anymore. He was so used to being in the house he’d had enough of everything.
Karim: Now, he’s absolutely amazing. I can see my boy is back and actually wants to do stuff and is excited about doing stuff. His imagination is back. His big sister is just the same.
Do you have any concerns looking ahead?
Karim: My only concern is that they are going to lock us down again and I know it’s going to happen again and that it’s no good for our business. My family, we’ll be alright but business wise, I think about it every day. I’m stockpiling stuff just now so I can sell it so if lockdown came again, I’m ready for it.
What do you think would help you in the coming months as a parent?
Lynsey: I don’t know. I’m just worried that if we lockdown again, schools will shut. As I wouldn’t want Ahmed to go back to how he was. It really did take its toll on him.
Karim: I would like them to actually get some tougher rules so people wear their masks and actually not lock us down again otherwise I think the whole country is going to go bust.
Lynsey: It’s worrying because this is not just going to affect us for the next year or two. It’s going to affect them all the way into their adulthood. Everything is going to be different.
Karim: As a mental health thing, I’m just worried about if we lockdown again, what it will do to my boy. I don’t want something to happen to him.
Lynsey: Being back at school is the most important thing. At first, we were worried about how much school Ahmed was missing and how that might affect his future, but actually, it’s been more about his wellbeing through everything. All the kids are missing out on the same things, so they’ll all catch up together but it’s that little bit of loneliness that’s been the worry. I’m just really glad that we got the chance to tell his story, to get through. I think definitely it’s important for younger ones to have a voice as well as it’s a lot harder for them.
I am 7 – it was actually my birthday the other day. I like to spend time with my family, watching movies and playing games.
I have heard about Coronavirus. It’s not so good. It’s a virus that spreads a long way. All over the world.
It’s not good because when there was a lot of coronavirus, I didn’t get to spend time with my friends but now I can hug my friends and see them in the garden. We weren’t allowed to go to other people’s houses, soft play or school ,the swimming pool…everywhere! We weren’t able to go to the beach either.
I am in Primary 3 now, it feels wonderful. Because I get to see my friends again. We haven’t been doing too much, just homework homework homework. I’m getting on really well with my new teacher. But everything has changed. I think the world has changed. I don’t know what’s changed about school but it feels different. We have to stay two metres apart from the teacher, I can’t hug the teacher, I have to wash my hands and that’s it.
This is my picture called Back to School. This is a picture of my class. I wanted to make a whole view of the classroom. I’m doing my homework, my work. It’s back to school. It’s got a smiley face to go with it, made out of playdough, because I was happy to go back to school.
This is called Coronavirus and Me. This is my picture about how I felt during lockdown. It’s me in my house watching telly and I’m saying ‘I miss my friends’. Lockdown was a tough time. How has coronavirus been for you?