Wednesday 13 May 2020

Dealing with the unspoken

Welcome back lovely readers!

We have passed the halfway mark of Ramadaan and heading towards the last ten days, and as always this month seems to be passing us by in a whirlwind. It is a bit of a contradiction since life has certainly slowed down in many other ways, lockdown has meant no work, no school, no sport, no socialising and no coffee or dinner dates. The very concept that the world has 'shut down' is incomprehensible, and yet we are living through it. I have heard and seen the words 'unprecedented' and 'unchartered waters' so many times in a day that its meaning has subtly somehow worn off. The solitude we find ourselves in can be comforting for some, welcomed even, while it may be a nightmare for others. And it could be both, depending on how we're feeling on a particular day. 

It has definitely been a blessing to experience a Ramadaan without the outside noise, to be encouraged to stay home and restrict social engagements. There could be no better way to spend this month, the only thing missing is the nightly congregational taraweeh prayers, which have now been replaced by our own family 'congregational' prayers, with each son taking turns to lead. This has been the first year we've done this and it will certainly remain a memorable and special Ramadaan for this very reason. We have spent so much time together as a family, even with the demands of tertiary online learning in the evenings. 
On the other hand, everyone misses the social engagement, misses talking face to face with a friend or laughing with family. I have my days where things feel like they're never going to settle into a 'new normal' and I struggle in frustration to comprehend what that will be like. In the same way my kids will be anxious about things related to lockdown. Remote learning is definitely not for everyone, and becomes extremely challenging when the workload is already pretty heavy. Since I have older kids, I can see the amount of time required for them to catch up with missed work, and at the same time maintain a current work schedule. A crucial part of attending campus or school is the intermittent breaks with your peers, bringing fun into the day. These breaks offer relaxation, the opportunity to laugh, play sport, chat and eat; easing the anxiety and pressure of enormous workloads and complicated concepts. With lockdown, the only relief  available is to video call a friend/s, play online games, read or watch series. This is a very isolated existence for social beings like my kids. One of the biggest losses for them during this time has been the inability to play team sport, and to make it even worse, all soccer leagues were suspended. Pre-COVID much of their lives revolved around soccer, whether playing it or watching it and debating stats with friends. They would host FIFA tournaments at home, play fives every weekend, enjoy game nights and watch soccer matches together. They've missed birthdays, 21st celebrations and even graduations 😳

All their socialising came to an abrupt end 59 days ago when our home when into lockdown, and their only social engagements was with their siblings and parents. It has actually been great, and upon second thought, I realise that from my perspective it has been great. The element of loss for our kids and uncertainty would add to anxiety and stress. In addition, seeing the large numbers of infected cases around the world and at home, as well as the growing numbers in the Western Cape further exacerbates feelings of fear. All of this has an impact on them, and as parents we seldom consider what seeing parents leave to do essential shopping wearing masks, and upon return disinfecting every single item purchase before packing it away (as I do) may do to them.  We've resorted to FaceTime calls to share birthday wishes, a virtual 'party' for Ihsaan, and even though they fully understand the state we're in, it doesn't make it easier for them. My younger nephews want to know when things will be 'finished' - a clear message that they're done doing lockdown. Some households have major financial implications, struggling to make ends meet, and this adds more stress to an already untenable situation in the home. 

Despite doing our daily gratitude exercises, we talk about what this lockdown has meant for the kids, and how they feel about it. Feelings vacillate, one moment they are happy that the country has taken this seriously enough to enforce a lockdown, on the other hand they are frustrated, stressed, anxious and worried. There is no solution to quickly end lockdown, and this means that these feelings will remain, so the only thing I can do as a parent is to allow them the space and offer support, this looks differently for each child. I can only be there for them, provide a shoulder to cry on for when they're feeling down, and be understanding when they're feeling frustrated, angry or stressed. As we experience our good days and bad days, so do they, and they may not necessarily have all the tools in their toolbox to manage these feelings and emotions. If they won't speak to you as the parent, explore alternative options to help them, I am sure there are many counsellors or psychologists offering services during this time. I am grateful that we are not 'stuck' in an abusive home, however it does not mean that our kids aren't in need of support. It is essential that we are tuned in to what our kids may need from us (or an external provider), so we can attempt to keep them mentally healthy, capable of working remotely and getting through this hard period of isolation. 

I've seen some concerning posts on suicide and depression, and lockdown has certainly triggered a surge. As a parent, please be vigilant to your kids' state of mind; and if you're the one feeling like this, please reach out for help or just a chat.♥️

"The only thing more exhausting than being depressed is pretending that you're not." —Anonymous

Some lockdown images...

This Ramadaan, I have decided to recite and read the transliteration with notes and commentary

Lockdown baking and cooking happens on the daily

As part of the FLC team, we created a photo collage message

My garden is really my happy place 

Our family games nights have been replaced by family taraweeh prayers


Caio for now, 
RuBe xoxo

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