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To meet up or not meet up? The tough decisions every family is facing right now

PUBLISHED: 12:14 19 May 2020 | UPDATED: 12:24 19 May 2020

Reporter Abigail Nicholson with her parents Michael and Tracy. Picture: Abigail Nicholon

Reporter Abigail Nicholson with her parents Michael and Tracy. Picture: Abigail Nicholon

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Almost two months into lockdown and the emotional turmoil of families not being able to see each other is starting to bite. Here, three of our writers discuss some of the tough decisions this has left people facing.

(from left to right) Kim Powles, Freddie, Cheryl Powles, David Powles, Michael Powles and Alex. Picture: David Powles(from left to right) Kim Powles, Freddie, Cheryl Powles, David Powles, Michael Powles and Alex. Picture: David Powles

David Powles

How do you tell a four-year-old and seven-year-old they won’t be able to see their beloved grandparents for weeks on end?

Rightly or wrongly we decided the best way to deal with the reasons why our children’s social circles had suddenly closed in was to be open and honest, rather than shield them from everything that’s going on right now.

But that hasn’t made it any easier.

Caroline Culot with her family left to right; son Leon, partner Kit, stepdaughter Lucy and stepson Nico. Pic: submittedCaroline Culot with her family left to right; son Leon, partner Kit, stepdaughter Lucy and stepson Nico. Pic: submitted

We’re lucky to have a very close family and our boys’ ‘Nanny’ has been a godsend over the last seven years, giving up two days of her week so that both Mummy and Daddy could continue to work.

We reckon these last few months have, therefore, been the longest they’ve gone without seeing her in their lives.

When Boris Johnson eased the restrictions slightly so that you could meet up with one person outside of your household, but even then socially distancing had to be adhered to, the initial reaction was disappointment.

We’d joked only a few hours early that we already had the kids in the car, ready to drive them over for a sleep-over and to give us a break, should the ‘social pods’ concept be announced.

And I’ll admit that initially we did have discussions as to whether to go ahead and meet in a country park somewhere and catch up face-to-face whilst still socially distancing.

But in the end we decided not to. Firstly we were worried about the risk our boys, in particular our youngest, might get upset about not being able to cuddle their grandparents. We feel they’ve remained mainly happy during this difficult time and we don’t want them to form memories of what would be a pretty horrible situation.

But most importantly we decided that, given we’d come this far and managed to stay apart, there simply wasn’t any point in letting our guard slip as we enter, what we all hope, will be the final stages of this terrible ordeal.

Caroline Culot

One of the toughest parts of lockdown for me has definitely been the isolation from family. And the complications surrounding seeing them again are indeed tough on the emotions. My 22-year-old son is in London and I have a 21-year-old stepson in Lincolnshire and a 14-year-old stepdaughter in Norwich. My elderly parents live in Suffolk. I’ve not seen any of them since lockdown.

As a mother, it has gone against every instinct not to just bring my son home. Instead, I’ve had to cherish the memory of the last time we hugged, the week before Mother’s Day. Compared to the misery and pain coronavirus has brought to so many people who’ve lost loved ones, my experience fades into insignificance. We’ve coped and found new ways of engaging with all three children such as online card games and multi Facetime sessions. However, I suppose naively, I never really considered until now how all this would resolve itself. Months ago, coming out of lockdown was, presumably, after a vaccine had been found or the virus somehow had magically disappeared. But the reality is very different. So, my partner and I are now, like so many, discussing how we see them all again. We’ve talked about the very real option that this may not be before Christmas. For health reasons, we have been strict in lockdown. However, as a result, again of medical reasons, we have needed to see some clinical staff so I feel there could be a risk to my parents, one who is 80. We have, however, broached the idea of meeting in a public place and keeping 2m apart.

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As for our children, this is incredibly difficult. My son has no way of getting home other than using public transport so we would need to fetch him and then sit in a car together for the journey. He lives with a flatmate and has ventured out for essential shopping trips so he would have to self-isolate completely beforehand so as not to pose a risk to us. We would also have to drive into central London and all the potential risks this presents.

Seeing my stepson is easier because he’s in Lincolnshire with his own car but he’s in regular contact with a friend who’s a paramedic, so we feel that is a risk to us. My partner is considering meeting both his children separately, staying 2m apart. The irony is that the thing we all really want to do, hug our kids, isn’t possible so it all seems rather sterile and for the (albeit minimal) risk it poses, is it really, right now, worth it?

Abigail Nicholson

The last eight weeks of lockdown have flown by with the blink of an eye, but at the same time it feels like an eternity.

Luckily, my family has been fortunate enough to endure lockdown without any health issues or problems - apart from a rogue Nan still insisting she ‘needs’ to go to Morrisons for her weekly shop.

A struggle I have faced during this period is not being able to see my family, most of whom I haven’t seen since late January and are 250 miles away in Merseyside and County Durham.

I can’t help but feel that I haven’t been there for my family in the way others have, as going to do weekly shopping for my grandparents in the North East hasn’t been an option.

I am also hugely jealous of the families that have been able to spend lockdown together, although they have been brought together in a horrible crisis, the months spent together must have been precious.

The moment this hit me was when I was on a Zoom call for one of my colleagues birthdays and the question was asked ‘what would you keep from lockdown?’

Most peoples answers included spending time with family and slowing life down for a few months. When it came to me I was struggling to name one thing.

Once restrictions were lifted by the Government on Wednesday, my first instinct was to get straight into my car and drive to see my parents in Merseyside.

After thinking it through, as much as I was dying to see them, I knew they wouldn’t have been thrilled with me driving for almost ten hours in one day to sit on their driveway.

I also knew I wouldn’t be able to see them without giving them a hug.

Thinking ahead, I’m not sure when I will be able to see my family again. If I was to see them, where would I stay? Would I be able to buy and cook food? How long would I be able to see them for? And most importantly, would it be safe?

For now I am going to wait until we have more guidance from the government, but will keep my fingers crossed for seeing them at the start of July.

Until then, long phone calls and video chats on WhatsApp will have to be our ‘new normal’.


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