The last day of school leading up to these days of isolation was an emotional one. I did the school run with tears in my eyes as I contemplated how long the social distancing and expected isolation might last, how much the children would miss their friends, their learning, the fun activities of the summer term and their teachers.
I would miss our lovely school community. The thought of managing jobs, school work and play was also daunting, but I knew we had much to be grateful for even in this season. If my mind turned to those unwell and on their own, those grieving and unable to gather with loved ones or those children for whom school was their only safe place, I struggled to keep my emotion in.
This was me, a married Mum of two in my 40’s feeling emotions very similar to grief, struggling to process the questions and the unknowns. What were my children feeling in the midst of big changes to their routine? How would they respond to being told to wash their hands more urgently and frequently than before? What did they make of scary words, such as virus and Covid-19? How did they feel being told we could no longer visit Granny and Grandpa?
I used a very helpful guide to explaining the Coronavirus to my 6 and 4-year-old, but in the wake of schools closing, I was trying to gauge their levels of anxiety around it all and the impact on them. My daughter was struggling to get to sleep at night and both seemed to be much more demanding of our attention. This indicated to me that without being able to articulate their feelings, they were experiencing some anxiety.
In response, we did all we could to make the routine familiar enough for the children so they felt secure, but also accommodate our jobs and the chores of home life. I’m sure those things helped them settle into this new normal, but the real gold came in their response in the days ahead.
Processing some of my feelings on the phone with a friend in that first week, she mentioned something that had already caught my eye on social media. Children were making rainbows and putting them in their windows to encourage passers-by that there is hope in this crisis, that we are grateful to the key workers in our community and that we are all in this together.
I mentioned this to my children and within seconds, my daughter was at the table creating her rainbows for the window. It was something she could do. It was something she related to. She could do what she loved while contributing positively to this crisis. She was delighted and, in that moment, she was the best version of herself. What followed was more conversations about how we could help and bless family, friends, neighbours and strangers.
Cards and letters were designed and sent to individuals on their own and elderly neighbours on our street. My daughter wanted to use the prettiest and brightest colours and asked for help on the words to use to really make the recipients happy.
In a week of big adjustments, my daughter was learning that she can choose to respond in crisis by using her creativity in a way that would speak hope and blessing into people’s lives, even strangers walking past our home.
With all that had stopped or paused in our life, she noticed that the post, milk and parcels were still being delivered, so the next sign to go up in our windows was a thank you sign.
As I go for my daily exercise and see all the rainbows in the windows, I can’t miss the beauty. In the midst of this season of crisis, we are teaching this next generation that they can use the creativity that God has given them to impact their community for good, to be a blessing. We are teaching them that offering what they have does make a difference. We are teaching them that they can remind a grieving world that there is always hope.
The weekend before Holy Week, we decorated our home with our Easter decorations and we added a cross to the window next to our rainbow because, ultimately, the promise of the rainbow becomes truth in the death and resurrection of Jesus.
This week, I can look to Easter, not full of fear and anxiety, but grateful for the glimpses of resurrection life God has already opened my eyes to and with hope and expectation that he is at work in the midst of all we face.
Teri-Anne Cavanagh is mum to two.