Although many may have associated lockdown as a negative experience, we eventually benefited and even flourished from this unusual time.
Family Time, Working from Home, Home Schooling and Staying Active have all manifested positive outcomes from what could have been a negative experience – had we not learned to embrace our Spanish Coronavirus Lockdown Adventure.
It feels over the last week we have felt a sense of normality returning to our lives: Our kids are allowed out to play; we walk into town and us adults can exercise again.
After weeks of being in our apartment, to play outside with kids and run around the city is incredible. Getting our groceries from the open-air markets at Devesa Park literally felt like I was in another universe. People seemed relaxed and more at ease; despite the masks and social distancing, it could have been like any other market day.
At the time of writing Spanish COVID-19 numbers are gradually, but steadily improving. Signs of normality like the markets and getting a haircut (for those with hair) are lifting the spirits of a country that is coming out of one of the strictest lockdowns in the world.
Although restrictions have been relaxed, they are still part of the daily routine. Adults are now permitted to exercise individually within the same municipality from 6 AM – 10 AM each morning, then 8 PM and 11 PM each evening. Children are permitted outside from 12 PM – 7 PM each day. Between exercise and taking the kids out, we now spend a good bit of time outside.
The ever-present spectre of Coronavirus unfortunately still hangs in the air. Standing in the markets the other day I couldn’t help but observe that while people are being cautious, the potential for another resurgence plays on one’s mind. Ironically, as someone who (had) cancer I am used to pushing such fears to the side and getting on with my life!
As a family (my wife Valerie and children Molly and Callum) I am proud of the little team that we are. We have pulled together and not just endured, but flourished over these last few weeks. As a dad who regularly works away, I have never had so much quality time with my family. After two challenging weeks adjusting to our new norm, we found our rhythm, and our feet and adapted. Our family has had our moments, but we feel we are in our groove.
We learned that as much as we initially had grand aspirations of structured routines for activities such as homeschooling, this was causing conflict and doing more harm than good. Eventually, we ended up rolling with it by allocating portions of time for activities to be completed daily. These commitments are then completed when the kids feel like it. Our job as parents is to reinforce the requirement it still needs to be done.
The more we introduce a flexible routine, the better the kids respond to it. As our children won’t be returning to school in Spain until September it has been important to get this right.
For our little ones, they spend the rest of the day playing inside and out,; reading, drawing and usually a movie or Netflix in the evening. As a family, we have intentionally limited screen time, social media and even the news in our house. In the beginning, we were constantly watching the news; the kids were on Nintendo or Netflix. Thankfully, we recognised the problem and literally pulled the plug. The results were positive and instantaneous; we were no longer anxious from the media and the kids are no longer feral from staring at a screen for too long – and we have no plans of plugging back in – ever!
Working from Home
For me personally, I have been one of the lucky ones who has worked from home through all of this. It’s amazing that only recently I had been despairing about how much time I had been spending away from home of late whilst working abroad. Suddenly… BOOM, the universe has granted your wish; Be careful what you wish for!
Overall, I have adapted to the new norm and built work (and writing) into our family routine by allocating the required time each day to keep up. Early starts have been key to keeping on top of this as the day gets more “flexible” once the kids are up. Grabbing a few hours before the house comes alive has been essential.
As a society, I’m hoping many businesses can sustain this approach as some good that has come out of this.
Without a doubt, homeschooling has been one of our foremost priorities with the kids spending so much time away from school. The local schools have been good in providing online classes, tutorials and materials.
I now understand the challenges our children face when they have to translate their Catalan School Work into English (and that’s before they even start the task).
It is still good to see them positively challenged, and they continue to improve daily.
We also use an online language tutor for Spanish and Catalan (as does Valerie). Our worry with the kids is they were losing their immersive language learning through isolation. We are looking forward to being able to interact more with the local families and returning to school!
Staying Active Inside And Out.
Personally, In the early stages of lockdown, staying active was an enormous challenge. I have always shunned indoor exercise in favour of outdoor pursuits such as trail running and surfing. These are in short supply when you are confined to an apartment.
Valerie, being the household superstar, was putting me to shame getting up at 4 am every morning for Meditation, Yoga and the Spin Bike. I spent two weeks sulking about it while she cruised along. As any good partner does she gently pushed me to the spin bike, handed me Joe Dispenza’s Book “Breaking The Habit Of Being Yourself” and firmly told me to shut up and get my ass into gear – I complied. Fast forward a few weeks and guess who’s up at 4 AM every morning! – I have learnt to appreciate the blissful quiet of this time of the morning, especially with a house that is a little more “confined” than usual.
We have even introduced our kids to some mindfulness and meditation. Molly (nine years old) has been receptive to it.
As for getting Callum (six years old), I couldn’t get him to even sit still, let alone meditate. He has been happily terrorising our apartment 24/7 roaring like a T-Rex and pretending he is a Velociraptor – I love it, but I genuinely feel sorry for our poor neighbours! – His Jurassic Park style T-Rex roar is very convincing.
My morning runs have now resumed, and whilst the people disappeared – the beauty of Girona didn’t go anywhere. Running through empty streets each morning is an unexpected delight in a city that is usually bustling with tourists.
Better For It.
As always, we continue to appreciate the life we lead and the challenges it seems to throw at us. We feel closer and more resilient than ever. As I alluded previously, we have never had so much time together.
Through the difficulties and the insanity of the first couple of weeks, we seem to have emerged from the haze intact. But if the universe is listening, maybe a challenge-free few months might not do any harm.
On second thoughts… sounds kind of boring.