How can something so cute be so sad? A Zoom call with 20 kindergarteners who haven’t seen each other now for a month: they wriggle with happiness to be there.
They all talk at once, except for the ones who are struck dumb with shyness – a normal reaction because this is an unnatural way to interact.
Meeting online – cursed term – sucks spontaneity, warmth and esprit de corps out of togetherness. It turns kids into screen boxes.
The teacher handles the mute button. Everyone gets their turn. All the children very much fail to sit still. Some ricochet off screen altogether.
They can’t talk to each other, not without the grown-ups listening, which is all they really want to do.
The whole thing lasts 20 minutes or so, and if you’re me, you stupidly let your kid use your laptop for the thing, meaning you just lost what was probably your only window to get some uninterrupted work done today.
Home schooling is a cosmic joke enacted on working parents – overwhelmingly women – just at the cultural moment when we are supposed to be “having a conversation” about “workplace flexibility” and “equality in the workplace”. HAHAHAHA!
The economy has always been powered by the unpaid labour and sometimes-intolerable stress of women in caring roles. The only difference is that now nobody is pretending it is otherwise.
Our leaders and our health experts are explicitly asking working parents (again, mostly mothers) to literally do two jobs at once. But not once has this been acknowledged by the nearly-all-male political class, all of whom (I will bet my wine budget on it) have someone else educating their children.
Home schooling while working is a raucous joke that splits the day into atoms equivalent to your child’s attention span. It pulverises concentration. It robs you of quiet. It is adorable and infuriating. It is very hard to combine with any other activity.
It destroys peace of mind – which is probably the only common note in all the clashing experiences of this wretched pandemic: we have all had our peace of mind destroyed.
We all live in a weightless space between the circumscribed present and the formless future.
Home schooling is just another of the privations and inconveniences that our leaders have asked us to put up with, while doling out platitudes about Aussie spirit and “we’re all in this together”-ness.
But with the explicit removal by Prime Minister Scott Morrison of “targets” for the vaccine rollout, and the vagueness from the NSW government about when lockdown might lift (Victoria looks more hopeful), the compact between state and populace has collapsed.
We are keeping up our end of the bargain. We work and home school. Beloved relatives stay stranded overseas while reality-TV stars are granted visas to enter the country. The stupidity of these “stars” could be overlooked, perhaps, if they weren’t also so transparently offensive. We are unable to attend the funerals of close family members. We are unable to visit dying relatives in hospital. Weddings are cancelled. Residents of aged care homes sit alone in their rooms, many unable to understand why their families don’t visit any more.
All of it would be tolerable, barely, if the horizon was visible, but no leader, certainly not federally, seems interested any more in providing one. So the terms of the deal seem too onerous.
Who would bother planning anything now? A holiday, a festival, a party?
We home schoolers have had to brush up on our arithmetic. Luckily, we have had some interesting lessons in mathematics from our federal leaders. Have you noticed the blizzards of statistics Morrison and Greg Hunt throw at us? A million doses administered a week; 30,000 lives saved. We have tripled the level of double-dose vaccinations.
Morrison likes to include the numbers of people who have been vaccinated once. We also get stats about the people “eligible” to be vaccinated, disconnected from the experience of people who cannot secure appointments. All of these numbers bury the only one that will set us free – the rate of fully vaccinated people, which sits at 15 per cent.
The cohort most at risk from the rare blood clots associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine – people under 40 – are told that’s the only one they can get. Meanwhile, NSW has only used 15 per cent of its AstraZeneca supply because older people are shunning it.
Cue some rather dark muttering about Boomers – first, they refuse to give up their negative gearing and their superannuation tax lurks, now they’re holding out for our vaccines!
Apologies are like vaccine rollouts – better late than never, right? But when it arrived on Thursday, after sustained pressure, the Prime Minister’s apology felt a little cheap. It came after everything else had failed to please.
First, he deployed the weasel word “regrettable”, and cast events in the passive tense. He fully exploited the royal “we”, never being so brave as to claim the first-person singular. “We are about two months behind where we otherwise would have been” and “we’ve had our problems early on in the program”.
After a day of harsh criticism, Morrison fronted the press on Thursday with a firm political objective: undo some of the damage. “I’m certainly sorry that we haven’t been able to achieve the marks that we had hoped for at the beginning of this year. Of course, I am,” he said.
If only the apology hadn’t been so irritable and defensive.
Ever asked someone, plaintively, if they are truly sorry? “Of course, I’m sorry!” comes the reply, and strangely, you feel like you’re the one in the wrong.
Sorry is only hard to say if you don’t really mean it. Otherwise, it rushes right off the tongue.
A five-year-old could tell you that.