We have been entangled in extraordinary circumstances over the past weeks. Truly extraordinary instances, which shook all of humanity in unison, and most amazingly a teeny weeny microscopic, yet powerful and influential being turned ‘our world’ (as we claim) upside down! It’s high time we reassess this claim of ‘our world’, purely a figment of human imagination, that over time got refined to a belief, and finally into an engineered truth. In reality, this claim never was, or never will be true. The earlier we let go off the steering wheel trying to control self-organizing systems, and accept that we are mere specks, in the enormous timescales and expanse of such systems, the easier it would be to traverse through them.
Whoa! that’s enough of philosophical ramblings. I guess all of us have snippets of philosophy buried deep within, which occasionally pops out during emotional turbulence. But that is not why I am here, instead, I am here to pen down few stories and experiences from the last two months at our tiny dwelling place. The primary motivation behind this is merely because I like to ramble on (as you would have already realized!). More importantly, this word collage will serve as my keepsake from these extraordinary days, to look back at, and relish these memories. Additionally, I am sharing this very personal account in the hope that it brings a smile, be an element of positive energy and lightens up the mood for few of you who relate with these moments.
The significance of schedules, routines and discipline
In the first part of this series, I have penned down why and how we created and settled into schedules, that positively served our family. I was one of those people who used to be on their toes at work but rather laid back at home. Though I became naturally better at tackling home chores over years especially after our son, Thomas was born, it is indeed this lock down that forced me to physically jot down a schedule, literally being accountable for every passing minute.
When we realized that our almost four-year old was going to be home-bound for an extended period, we made a schedule for him and put it on the refrigerator. I was stunned by the power of a simple visual-aid on a child; within few days, not only did Thomas adopt the schedule, but started adapting, and evolving around it. First of all, he realized the criticality to learn numbers and read time. Soon he started vocalizing his opinions about modifying the schedule, interestingly, negotiating his way through his likes and dislikes. This was truly brilliant; how a simple activity as a schedule brought in such multifaceted learning, as well as cognitive stimulation and critical thinking.
Within a week after all of us got used to Thomas’s new routine both Sony and I had our own individual schedules jotted down. This was essential so that we both were aware of each other’s space and time, such that we could get our work done, keep the home running and most important, carve out some family time. There are few aspects we were mindful when we put together these schedules.
1. Maintaining the balance
With respect to Thomas’s routine, it was important to have a well-balanced day, that did not bog down or bore an active mind. Hence, it had to be a well-thought out combination of parent assisted activities and learning, playing by himself, limited screen time, and being involved in home errands. The last one was most difficult particularly for me. Being an obsessed, scientific and meticulous mind, I find it extremely difficult to bite my tongue and accommodate the mess and delays associated with involving a child in home chores. In this case, Sony truly complements me by being a patient and passionate father, helping him through simple tasks like cleaning, folding clothes and even some level of non-hazardous cooking.
2. Keeping it simple and flexible
All this might sound as though we are a totally mechanical family, running on schedules as a well-oiled machine. Absolutely not! These schedules were bare guidelines for us to function, get decent amount of responsibilities fulfilled within our limitations and chaos. Hence we kept all schedules, especially mine and Sony’s extremely simple and flexible. There were days and weeks I needed more time for work, while other days when Sony had more work calls than usual. In addition to the daily schedules, we also have a list of chores and responsibilities that needs to be addressed once or twice a week. We kept these more flexible, so we could make a call on them spontaneously, whenever our work load was relatively less.
3. Evolving with time and need
A couple of weeks after the lock down started we realized that we had completely missed out on our couple time. Many times our conversations were mostly broken half-way by our mischievous little one, who at times places his palms over my mouth saying, ‘Amma stop! Let me speak now’. So one night after we put Thomas to bed, we decided to ditch the schedules; usually I work late into the night, while Sony goes to bed early with Thomas, and wakes up by 4 am for work. Instead that night we stayed up late watching a movie together. After that night, we decided to do something similar once a week. As we put these schedules into practice, many such flaws started surfacing. In few instances, the activities we incorporated or the time slots we had assigned were not practical, while in other cases we had missed out on something very critical.
Outcomes: structure in chaos
Organizing our days worked in favor of bringing a sense of certainty during uncertainty, and structure in chaotic testing times. In addition to the discipline in completing tasks within stipulated time, they helped us to prioritize these tasks based on criticality and need of the hour. This was especially a great exercise for Thomas to practice essential skills like decision making, prioritizing and goal setting; traits that requires nurturing from early stages of development. As a bonus, all of us also managed to squeeze in some personal time, to center ourselves, and pursue or accomplish anything we loved.
Now, coming to our personal favorites, Thomas learned to how to hold a pencil firm and paint reasonably well. Sony designed a unique group coaching module, and I completed writing my manuscript. After almost a month in lock-down, we as a family also started practicing a good half an hour of ‘quiet time’. Sony has been very keen in introducing this into our schedule, which helps Thomas to settle down before bedtime, and lets Sony reflect on his day. The last person to come onboard was me, and that is precisely how the idea of lock down diaries came into existence.
Author: Asha Joseph is an experimental biologist, passionate about science and cooking, loves home decor and DIYs, and a simple dreamer at heart.
Picture credits: Jesna Philip, our beloved cousin who is living with us during lock-down.