It’s the middle of March 2020. From the beginning of the year, we had troubling news coming from China about a virus that had the potential to become a pandemic. As of last week, it is. Many countries across the world are on lockdown, borders closed, travel banned, shops closed or half empty because of panic shoppers. The UK is fast approaching these measures. For now, the schools and shops are open but it feels like a matter of days or maybe weeks before we too are in this same situation. So what does this mean for George and I?
As of today, schools are open and so far are showing no signs of closing. The rules are that if any child does exhibit signs of the virus they will self-isolate and not return to school for seven days. The school will also be closed and deep cleaned if there is a confirmed case. Additionally, all non-essential visits to the school have been banned.
Frankly, I don’t see this lasting much longer, my assumption for the past week was that schools will close this Friday (20th march) and remain closed until after the Easter holidays. We will see.
Arleen Foster, First Minister to Northern Ireland, said she envisioned 16 weeks of school closures. This would take us to the Summer holidays so we’d actually be looking at around 22 weeks. Obviously Ms Foster is talking about Northern Ireland, however, they are following the same advice as the rest of the UK so this does feel like a possibility. More on the extended holidays below.
Shopping has been the strangest phenomenon so far. There are no real signs of the virus out on the streets beyond one in a thousand wearing a face mask. Except, of course, the panic buying. It is very strange to see the shops so empty. We are doing alright though, we have not succumbed to panic buying as we usually have enough food to last a week anyway and although we have had to make some alternative choices we continue to be well-fed and have access to most of what we need. Finding antibacterial soap was a bit of a challenge, and, oddly, rabbit food. Otherwise, we are doing ok.
I do feel weirdly guilty buying essentials though. George loves spaghetti, but grabbing a couple of packs when I go shopping now feels like hoarding, it makes no sense, but little does about this whole thing.
George and I are currently fine. As is my wife and George’s siblings. My father, and Chrissy’s mother, father and step-father are also all fine. My father is self-isolating though as he is in his 70s with underlying health problems. Anything he needs is being delivered however my brother and I are here if he needs something urgently or that can’t be shipped.
I have made the decision to take a hiatus from the photography work I do and not meet anyone in person for web design. I’ll be working from home but otherwise, the web design side of my business will continue as normal. You can read more on that decision here.
Extended School Closures
My biggest fear with Coronavirus, beyond my family getting sick, is how to cope with George being home 24/7 for an extended period of time. School closures are essential and we know they are coming. The Summer holidays are for six weeks and are extremely difficult. They are financially, emotionally, physically and mentally draining. The thought of up to 22 weeks is beyond imagination.
I know it sounds selfish, but if you do not have a child with severe special needs you literally do not understand. I have other children, and sure the school holidays can sometimes feel like a bit of a drag but it is nothing compared to this. I love George more than anything, I will do anything for him, I have, and will again, make massive sacrifices for him. However, I must also understand the toll 20 hours a day without a break, day after day, has on me. Spread that across 150 days and I do not know how I will cope. I do not know how I will work, as I can’t take five months off. I do not know how I will keep him happy while housebound. I just do not know.
We do, at least, have the workings of a plan though. Something that might help. If they announce anything more than a month of school closures we will jump into action. We will be putting our dining room into storage and will convert that room into a playroom. We will get a bunch more toys and sensory equipment and see if we can’t create a space to amuse, and somewhat, contain him. We will be contacting charities, like Family Fund, to look for help and guidance.
Whereas many families action plans seem to revolve around toilet paper stockpiling we are focused on distracting and amusing our child, in the hope that we can survive both Covdi-19 and George. To everyone out there, good luck!