By Rebecca Gelsi, West Footscray Neighbourhood House
The last five months have been a time of constant decisions—decisions that used to be minor have become exhausting in their relentlessness. Nowhere is this more apparent than with our children.
“I’m not sure what we should do really.”
“I think we’ll wait at least a couple of weeks… see what the numbers do.”
“Are you still open next week?”
West Footscray Neighbourhood House runs a small community-centred childcare program and three-year-old activity group. During lockdown part one, we closed, keeping connection with families through weekly Zoom story times where our educators Lily, Vilma, Liza and Fiona tried to amuse without descending into hysterical laughter at one another’s antics. Children received weekly activity kits at home and proudly showed off their creations in the next Zoom.
We reopened our community childcare and three-year-old activity group in the space of hope between lockdowns and this time we were ready to keep going. Newly armed with protocols, Stand Here stickers, disinfectant, hand sanitiser, and the mother-lode of Government-issued health advice posters.
Each day parents and staff put on their best smiles to help children navigate this time with all the attachment and security we can offer. Our staff take it in turns to greet families as they line up to come into care. Every morning we throw open the doors, give our best greeting, check each child’s (and Bear’s) temperatures, wear our most colourful masks, smile with our eyes, and chat away—full of reassurance.
Then everyone’s gone. Take a deep breath behind the locked doors, disinfect the lift buttons, the handrails, the door handles. The children are playing together in the sandpit or the house corner, happily oblivious to the extra toy washing, hand washing, vigilance for signs of illness. Parents too are all smiles during the day, painted on endless patience, a constant stream of snacks, then calling to check on their own parents, catching up with the news and purchasing supplies online, all after bedtime. We stumble over what to say when parents decide not to send their children for now. Our emails and phone calls echo with platitudes; keep well and stay safe in these uncertain times. But we back all those decisions, and changes of mind, because we feel them all too.
As hope for returning to normal drifted into hope for a new normal, and then into this uncomfortable holding pattern we’re now experiencing, it’s time to back one another up. Let the village hold one another as we struggle on with those constant decisions and our ever-changing not so normal.