Parents feeling powerless about coronavirus should remember this

Smiling through adversity: A Christmas party at Parham Airfield during the Second World War.

Smiling through adversity: A Christmas party at Parham Airfield during the Second World War. - Credit: Archant

Everyone is worrying about what to do next but we still have this one power, says Liz Nice

For at least half of the weekend, it felt like I was living in a parallel universe.

Whenever I turned on the news or looked online, all I could see were apocalyptic signs of terror.

Yet, in real life, apart from the run on loo rolls and pasta at the supermarket, everyone was carrying on as if nothing was happening.

I went to the village shop and was immediately accused of ‘stockpiling’ after buying two tins of dog food. I quickly realised the shopkeeper was joking – and, I have to say, what a relief to have someone being normal, sane and keeping his very British sense of humour firmly in place!

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Then I went into Bury St Edmunds to buy a birthday present and had a lovely chat with the ladies in my favourite gift shop.

‘Well, I’m 80,’ one said. ‘There’s no point worrying at my age,’ while her daughter, who owns the store, said, ‘If I couldn’t come in to work, I’d go mad.’

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On Saturday evening, I celebrated a friend’s 50th birthday in Norwich. Almost everyone turned up, despite fears to the contrary. There was a bottle of hand sanitiser on the table but otherwise it was just a normal night and, as is so often the case, historically, when an outside threat is looming, people danced like mad. There was an air of resistance. I guess that’s why people who lived through World War Two often used to say they had never felt more alive.

But as the weekend wore on, the mood changed.

The party had seemed like the right decision on Saturday.

On Sunday, you wondered if perhaps you ought not to have gone out and you’re suddenly in the unhelpful realm of feeling guilty for enjoying yourself.

Everyone, everywhere, is so confused.

Of course we’re all waiting on the Government to tell us what to do. Maybe they’re going to make us all go into lockdown, close the schools, never hug anyone again, but I can’t help thinking that we will all lose our minds if we don’t try to retain a little bit of rationality, and at least some power to make our own decisions.

That said, as the news got graver on Sunday evening, with an increase in deaths to 35 and talk of people over 70 having to self-isolate for four months, I rang my mother.

‘Maybe you should keep away from the children at the moment, Mum. I don’t want you to catch anything.’

‘Let’s just wait and see,’’ she said. ‘I’m not worrying yet!’

It struck me then that my mother has been making things alright for me all my life, whether they are or not.

It was an important lesson because, every time I read a scare story on Sunday, I would tell my son to wash his hands. Eventually, he said, ‘I wasn’t worrying about coronavirus before, Mum, but now I am starting to.’

That brought me up short.

Approaching this subject with our children really needs careful handling. I remember the nightmares I used to have about nuclear war after watching Threads in the 80s. Every child of my generation was convinced a nuclear explosion was just moments away.

It never happened and all that worry was wasted. Did we need it? Was it helpful? No.

There is a vested interest for all of us not to spread this thing around. We don’t want anyone’s health on our conscience and we don’t want to break our hospitals’ backs.

But, as my mother has always told me, ‘Worrying doesn’t actually change anything.’

Later, my son asked, with a perturbed look on his face, if the headache I had complained about earlier had gone.

“Yes, Mum’s fine now,” I said. His little face flooded with relief.

In future, I think Mum is going to be fine, even if she isn’t. Making sure my son doesn’t have to carry the weight of Mum worrying, is one thing that still remains completely within my power to do.

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