Like almost everyone I know, we are glad to see the back of 2020. It wasn’t a good year globally and it’s easy to say it was rubbish for us too. Yes, it was hard, unprecedented and we all had to learn to roll with the Coronavirus punches as well as adding a mask to the list of things to remember when we left the house.
The children in our care went back to school at the beginning of the year, and it was the first chance I had to take a deep breath and reflect on Christmas and the past year. My first instinct is to say how horrid it was, as I spent time in hospital with breathing difficulties, we had to self-isolate as a family a number of times, everything shut down and it was wall to wall 24-hour Covid news cover reminding us how awful life was. But was it really that bad for us, as a family? I started to think about the positives I could take from 2020 (I should add that I’m making mindfulness and positive thinking my mantra for 2021) and I’ll admit the list started slowly!
The obvious positives were that my family were safe. Yes, Covid had entered our lives and we had been personally affected but we were here to tell the tale and recovered. Having 4 young children with additional needs under 10 off school was by far our biggest challenge but due to 3 of them being Looked After Children they were entitled to go to school. After much discussion with everyone involved in their care, we all agreed the stability and consistency of school, which they loved, would be the best choice for them. But with no where to go apart from the back garden, we were all living on top of each other.
2020 came with a silver lining and the spring and summer weather was glorious and the back garden became their favourite place. When I was talking with our eldest foster child about the year, he talked about how much fun they’d had with the paddling pool, the cool slip and slide we’d made and me chasing them around the garden with the hose. He laughed when he remembered the dog laying in the paddling pool, me going splat on the slippery lawn, home made ice lollies, sunning himself on the patio and al fresco dinners in the cooler summer evenings. As he chatted, the others started reminiscing about my first attempts at making Zoom work for social worker meetings, trying a new food every week, lockdown birthdays, inventive virtual Brownie meetings and when we fully opened the patio doors in the early evening ending in an impromptu outside disco.
Their chat amongst themselves and to us was so positive and genuinely filled with happy memories, I began to see how being with each other constantly throughout the long summer of 2020 had enabled us to bond as a foster family. The children also recalled how much they’d enjoyed Clapping for Carers (or in our case whacking my saucepans with rolling pins so neither would be the same again!) and watching Captain Sir Tom Moore’s charity walk.
We’d managed to have a holiday in the final week of August and as it was their first proper holiday, we had so many milestone events and they loved every one; the ferry trip over to the Isle of Wight, staying in a (big!) caravan, cooking on a little camping stove, swimming in the sea, building sandcastles and eating fish and chips on the promenade whilst we fought off pesky seagulls. They even found delight in being stuck in traffic on the way home, playing I spy and teasing each other (I remember that journey very differently!).
Another positive was the local foodbank initiative I was partly involved in setting up with other residents to support children who would have normally received school meals during Lockdown 1.0, which is still running and supported children through Lockdown 2.0, then Christmas and is now still supporting local children and their families during Lockdown 3.0. This has brought the village we live in closer together as a community and has been expanded to include vulnerable adults and those affected by having Covid. Another positive of this initiative has been getting to know our neighbours.
By Christmas, lockdowns were normal. Staying at home was routine, soft play and cinema seemed like bygone words and the children took all these changes in their stride. It wasn’t always easy as our visit with Santa was cancelled along with our planned zoo outing and all the other Christmas day trips we had arranged. Disappointment was short lived though and we learnt to be inventive and it turned out one of their favourite Christmas activities was walking through the village looking at Christmas lights, culminating in the spectacular 30ft snowman erected by a kindly neighbour.
Yes, 2021 was billed as the antithesis to its predecessor but we all knew the vaccine would take a while to work its magic but it’s still an amazing positive to focus on. We’ve had 4 days back at school which ended in a phone call over the weekend from the head master which means one of my children now has to isolate for 10 days as someone in their bubble has tested positive. This was NOT the type of positive I was hoping for!
I’m not giving in though; we will get through this and 2021 will be the year we can hug again.