Right, before you get entirely the wrong idea, let me just confirm… I know lockdown has been RUBBISH.
Like many of the parents reading this, I would gladly never do another family video call again ( “Boys, Grandma is trying to ask you a question… boys, stop shouting and come here… no, Mum, you’re on mute… boys, stop shouting, get those pants off your head and COME HERE… we still can’t hear you, Mum… BOYS, CAN YOU JUST COME HERE AND SAY HAPPY BLOODY BIRTHDAY TO YOUR GRANDMA PLEASE…”) , I now know the location of every damn blade of grass in my local park and if I have to find another way of making running laps of the cold, wet garden with Daddy sound like fun, I might properly lose it.
For a father of two boys (Ben, four, and Freddie, nearly two), lockdown has had its charm.
I wrote a piece recently about how the pandemic might actually have benefited my two year-old, as he has seen so much more of his father than he would have done in the days when I spent hours each week stuffed into a train carriage with dozens of other commuters/absentee parents (how nuts does that now sound, by the way?).
What I hadn’t really thought about when putting together that article was that, while the lockdown has allowed me to be a more present parent, it has also (in some ways) made parenting… simpler.
Not easier by any means – my kids are too young for me to have gone through the hellish rigours of homeschooling, so my never-ending respect and admiration for those of you who took on THAT challenge – but one thing has been blissfully absent from my experience of parenting over the last year or so.
The Fear Of Missing Out. Or, as some of the cooler kids call it, FOMO.
In the pre-Covid days, I would go through the same process of parental FOMO every weekend. I would realise on Friday night/Saturday morning that my wife and I had no activities planned.
By late Saturday morning, various social media platforms would inform me that my friends and family were on a variety of wonderful planned excursions with their respective broods: picnics at national heritage sites, BBQs at a friend’s house, magical trips to new adventure playgrounds etc etc.
And by Saturday lunchtime, I would be struck down by a crippling case of family FOMO – the sense that I was letting my children down, because they weren’t getting to do all these marvellous and wonderful things that other people were doing with their kids.
Fast forward to the height of a pandemic and the strictest lockdown and… were we bored in my house? Yep. Were the kids climbing the walls?
Absolutely. Was I desperate for this madness of unrestricted and unlimited TV viewing to come to an end? OH YOU BETCHA.
But what were we missing out on? Nothing. Not one damn thing. Because every single other parent in the land was in exactly the same boat. FOMO became a physical impossibility.
What is your view? Have your say in the comments section
Take birthday parties. If you’d told me 14 months ago that Ben, my eldest, would not be able to have a party for either his third or fourth birthday, I would have been crushed.
And yeah, it was horrible not being able to celebrate the way we would have done under normal circumstances. But for Ben, it wasn’t actually that big a deal.
No-one else has been able to have a birthday party in such a long time, missing out didn’t really matter to him. He doesn’t feel like he’s lost out because he’s not lost out in comparison to any of his peers.
That’s why the current shove back towards normality has got me ever so slightly worried. I’m delighted to get back to doing ACTUAL things with the family again and seeing people properly, of course.
I’m aware the fact that everyone was having an equally crap experience of lockdown is not a positive. And yes, I know raising a family is not a competitive sport.
But I fear the nation’s rampant desire to live life to the fullest as quickly as humanly possible is going to lead to an avalanche of social media posts showing families doing wonderful things at wonderful locations I didn’t even know about.
See, there’s that FOMO starting up again…
This article originally appeared in Lemon-Aid, our parenting lockdown newsletter – you can sign up here