Natalie and Jon are parents to Lila age 5 and her little sister.
Images from Natalie, Jon and Lila’s discussion.
Natalie and Jon
When lockdown came in March, what was it like for you initially?
Natalie: It took a while for us to get used to it. Just getting into a rhythm. I was thinking ‘How am I going to handle having Jon home all the time?!’ [laughs] But then my brother was with us at the start which was good as we had another adult to helped with that.
Jon: I was quite anxious at the beginning. It was strange for everyone because we didn’t have too much information.
Natalie: Yeah, everything in (country named) was kicking off where Jon’s family are so that was tough. Lila also ended up in hospital. She got some weirdly viral infection and I actually thought it was related – like anxiety about what was going on that she wasn’t able to express.
Jon: At the beginning, I was more checking the media so I stopped checking the media and everything was then fantastic for all of us. I think the media affects everyone. I think there is a lot of more information than we should know and be aware of. I think if you just don’t pay attention to all of this crap, you can live a better life. Today, people pay too much attention to social media and media and it’s making a lot of damage. More than we think. And we’re losing the connection with the nature. So, if somebody in charge and with power is listening to this – we should do something more with the nature and with the environment and teach the new generations. What we need is more, good education to change the world for everyone and to build something much better altogether. We are losing a lot of important things, we are producing so much waste and we are taking care of silly things and forgetting the most important things – which are love and helping each other, in my opinion. There is a lot of greediness and we are getting stressed because we have to be focused to pay bills and deal with this and that. We can’t even give 100% attention to our children and they’re the future of the world. So, what do you want from us? We’re working so hard to raise our children, and just to live. We want to live in a better world.
Natalie: During lockdown, we made a rota and this kind of helped Lila to know what we were doing. We all took it in turns to play with the children outside. Lila really missed other children. There was a lot of Facetime happening. She wasn’t that into it but a lot of friends were phoning her. And even now, a lot of her friends have gone back abroad and aren’t intending on coming back so there’s still a lot of calls happening. It’s a different kind of contact. We even tried a flamenco class online. There were people even from Spain in the class so in that sense it was nice. But it was a bit tricky to follow the teacher, so we didn’t do it again.
How do you think the experience of recent months has impacted on the children?
Natalie: It’s very hard to know because I was talking to a teacher discussing behavioural issues and they were saying ‘nothing is normal for her’. We don’t know what these children…if their behaviour is because of this, the pandemic, or if it’s normal. I’m a (education role) and when we started, we were all like ‘What children are going to greet us? What are we going to meet in the classroom?’. Where I work, one class is still incredibly noisy and boisterous and they’re constantly talking. Part of me feels that they need this as well. Three classes in the school are in isolation – that’s a lot. It makes you think, we have to be so generous with these children.
What’s been really good is the one-to-one time the children have had with Papa. That’s been great throughout lockdown. Now he’s not at work, it’s a worry financially but it’s lovely having him around.
How do you the children feel being back at nursery?
Jon: There are new friends, new environment, new teachers, new buildings. She is enjoying it.
Natalie: The children spend most of their time outside at nursery – that’s how they’ve arranged it for now. That’s going to change with the changing weather but they’re just teaching them in one big group. Usually there’s a few teachers but for now, it’s just one big group. But it’s been a funny old week because last week the nursery had to close because someone got a positive covid test.
Looking ahead, what kind of support do you think parents and families need?
Jon: I think that maybe the government can start to think about funding different types of alternative education because I think it’s very important. It really focuses on every single child and I think it’s very important to do this. But, this kind of alternative education is going to end up being for rich people and the people who maybe really need this education are not going to have the opportunity to send their children there,
Natalie: Children really need the arts to heal and recover from all this and to continue. They need to do as many creative things and physical, balance exercises as possible – all this kind of thing. Not academic heavy stuff. It’s just not needed. Our school is moving more towards outdoor play but that’s not because of a higher consciousness but because they’re forced to be outside. We can use it as a positive thing – we can get them all outside and then start educating people that actually, it’s for their betterment as a whole. They need to be doing more outdoor learning.
I think because the girls are quite young and because we didn’t let them go in that way…we had to be very conscious about not watching the news. I mean, at the beginning, we were all just watching it all the time, weren’t we? We needed to know what was going on and it was really difficult to keep away from it. So, I think that’s why Lila was anxious but didn’t express it.
Jon: She saw the anxiety in us. That’s the problem. So when we stopped with this watching the news constantly, it was better for everyone.
Natalie: The questions that Lila has had have been about the mask wearing. We’ve made it funny. Legally, she should wear a mask apparently because she’s five so we’ve got one which she puts on sometimes but yeah, we try to keep it as light as possible. You know like the other day when the nursery had to close, we said ‘it’s just a funny old day!’ and that’s what the teachers told them too.
Jon: And because of the current level of lockdown I can’t work just now so Papa is on holiday. So let’s enjoy the holidays!
Natalie: I know that they’re doing everything to not close schools but I really hope they don’t. It’s not ok that children are even more anxious than they were – they were already struggling the last couple of years. I think we’re letting a whole generation down and it’s just not ok.
I am 5 years old. I like to play at the park. We collected flowers and we made nettle soup and dandelion soup. And elderflower syrup, with ginger and honey. My favourite thing was on a Saturday we made a cinema and we watched Laurel and Hardy.
This is my Back to Nursery playdough model. This is me going back to nursery. I wasn’t at this nursery before lockdown. It’s a new one. Everything is different. That’s sun and rain and this is muddy puddles. These are bowls for playing and making mud pies. That was when it was really really muddy and rainy. It rained all day and one day, all night too! That’s another puddle. That’s me, that’s (friend) – she’s little because she’s far away – and that’s (friend). We’re playing and jumping! It’s a big puddle with a really deep bit. And that’s me in the sandpit by myself. It’s only me. Other people don’t play there. Here’s me climbing a tree with (friend). That’s a nest. This is all in the middle of the day – I’ve done it in a line. At the end of the day, there is a little story. So that’s my teacher reading a story to us.
This is one of my pictures called Coronavirus and Me. This is us watching the cinema. That’s me, that’s my little sister, that’s Mummy, that’s Dad. These are the covers, blankets and curtains. This is my poster for the film, and that’s the screen – the place where we’re watching the film.
This is my other picture called Coronavirus and Me. This is about Christmas. I have lots of things to talk to Father Christmas about. Hairbands and rings! That’s Father Christmas going down the chimney.