Every parent has most likely dreamt of how they wish to raise their unborn child, be it teaching them piano from a very early age or preparing them for future spelling bees with daily flash cards. To understand what I wanted for Gabby, I need you to take a moment to pause right here, log on to YouTube and search for “baby gymnast”. Now imagine a little toddler seamlessly flowing from a back handspring right into a somersault. Better yet, imagine a four year old squatting her own body weight in the front rack position! During our pregnancy, my husband and I often discussed the type of parents we wanted to be and one thing that we both agreed on was that we would ban any electronic use until Gabby was over 6 years of age. I also remember promising myself that I would make all her meals from scratch, limit reheating any meals and prepare a strict meal plan to ensure she got all the nutrients she needed. Gosh, to think I judged every mother that did not aspire to be Martha Stewart!
During the first week of lockdown, home schooling went pretty well for a full 48 hours! Not only were we following the schedule set by her preschool, I had also added a few extra activities for stimulation which admittedly required some dedication to tidy up. By day three, we had shifted to a mix of home activities and television to help us make it through the day. We also found that a simple walk in the garden provided some sensory stimulation with simple activities including crumbling leaves, naming objects and digging up dirt. By day four, we had fully transitioned to the likes of “Dave and Ava” and “Little Baby Bum” to impart as much knowledge as possible into our twenty-one year old’s developing brain. After all, at that age they are able to learn new skills in the most basic environments… or at least that is what I told myself to deal with the mom guilt! My husband also downloaded educational apps so she could work on her problem solving skills. Now before you judge me, we did at least keep her feeding, napping and bedtime routines remained the same so as to limit any shock of returning to a normal life.
Our approach on parenting has shifted away from the textbooks and is focused more on teaching her what we consider to be essential survival skills. On one particular day as I was preparing an omelette for breakfast, I was thrilled to have the little fingers dropping the ingredients into the pot and seasoning the eggs to perfection. If only I had taken a picture of my husband’s reaction when he realised that the over salted and slightly overcooked egg was his baby’s first masterpiece. We can assume it was pride, though he could well have been a tad bit concerned.
Ten weeks into the lockdown, I have noticed a significant change in my toddler’s behaviour. Not only has she become more outspoken, but she has picked up on several new skills which would never have made it into our strict parenting programme. Don’t get me wrong, I am well aware that the learning curve is very steep at such a young age, but it is intriguing to see a twenty-two month old solving puzzles and naming objects that she saw in her nursery rhymes. She has also reached a stage where she asks for what she wants (in her adorable baby words of course) and takes ownership of the fruits she eats for the day. One particularly impressive skill she has developed is finding certain apps on my phone or her daddy’s iPad which she navigates with ease. Although this used to be a fear of mine pre-pregnancy, seeing the little one manoeuvre through technology (and admittedly performing some commands which I was not aware existed) has shown her ability to problem solve. She has also learnt the alphabet and perfected her counting skills by singing along as to several nursery rhymes while I toiled away in my “not so nine to five”.
In short, the biggest lesson my husband and I have learnt from this pandemic is to be flexible. Children are not and will never be predicable, so it is almost nonsensical for us not to adapt as parents. Spawn has definitely excelled during the lockdown and I do attribute a significant part of that to the animated teachers that captivated her attention and taught her quite a number of important lessons. For those of you keeping score; technology 1, mom 0.