Let's vaccinate all the teachers and get our children back in school

I AM not a “fun mum”. I am definitely not the mum who spends endless hours doing arts and crafts with my kids.

I struggle to have them in my kitchen because of the mess they make but I can — on occasion — be roped into playing the card game Uno.

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I’ve carved out my place in their lives as the one who cooks, nurtures, soothes, empathises, and shares their mistakes, vulnerability and honesty.

And yet, now, a week into the new year and a new national lockdown, I find myself deeply worried about their mental health. And the mental health of all the children out there unable to go to school.

My oldest, Cameron, 26, no longer lives at home and Bo, 20, has returned to university, but with no lessons per se.

The two youngest — Malcolm, 12, and Martha, 16 — I have at home, and I’m struggling to find how to properly support them.

I understand the concerns around the spread of the virus. Teachers don’t feel safe and I don’t blame them. But in March I did not think for a second we would still be in this situation.

I don’t understand why they don’t vaccinate teachers. I’d happily forego my vaccine for a teacher just so we can get the kids back.

How can we sustain this until early spring? I will go round the bend and my kids will have lost a year of schooling.

In the first lockdown, the novelty of school closures was riding high in my household. But months of not going to school have and will take their toll.

I’m no stranger to mental health issues, so maybe I’m more alive to the matter. But I know that a sense of purpose and discipline are the friends of good mental health. A daily routine, rooted in self-discipline and a sense of duty, is crucial to keeping your mind robust.

There are lessons online. There are vague timetables. But my children also have the misfortune of having a Luddite mother who is clueless when there are cries of: “I can’t log on.”

They’re good kids. But what will be the collateral damage of their loss of interpersonal skills, the lack of face-to-face learning and services, access to resources and peer support groups? I know they’re lucky enough to have social media which connects their peers, but it requires something else of you to sit in your room all day and only see or communicate with a screen.

 

I’m sick to death of people saying how spoilt our kids are because back in the days of yore they lived in a cardboard box without any sides. Our children grew up with this, and asking them to do without it is like telling all adults to uninvent the wheel.

I have always taken great pride in offering my children hope. Sometimes I’ve been economical with the truth because young, fragile minds do not need the shock of absolute reality.

But in these circumstances, I struggle to offer them some kind of guarantee of an improvement of our times.

I am not enough

I feel useless and helpless because I, too, am suffering. I feel unreliable, unsettled, unpred- ictable and all the other “un” words. I don’t feel like the strong, supportive mother I once wanted to be. I feel intimidated by all the calls to arms of “we’ve got this”. I don’t feel I have.

I want my children to be allowed to be the social creatures they need to be. I want them to see more than these four walls and feel the joy of their teacher’s face when they get something right in class and the pinching pain of the cold playground.

Instead, despite making efforts to show positivity and enthusiasm and direction and affirmation, I know I am not enough. And I know I’m one of the lucky ones.

My children live in a decent house, have devices and the best food. But what about the less fortunate kids for whom home might actually be one step away from hell itself? What about their development and mental health?

I worry there will be this cluster of Covid kids who will for ever be changed.

And when I lie in bed having finished worrying about that, I start to worry about how the hell I will get my children readjusted to physically returning to school, whenever that will be.

Kids are resilient, I remind myself. But they are also very vulnerable.

MY WILDE THOUGHTS

NOT going to lie. Utterly jealous of Olivia Wilde dating Harry Styles.

I don’t fancy Harry. But I’m in love with their age difference and love the idea myself as I fantasise about being in a relationship.

Don’t bother to come knocking at my door unless you were born after 1998.

#currentlyrecruiting

HOMELESS NEED HELP

THE “Everyone In” policy initiated by the Government during lock- down one managed to house 15,000 rough sleepers. But it drew to a close in May. Statistics indicate that there has been – unsurprisingly, in a pandemic – a 21 per cent increase in homeless people in 2020. Young people make up 11 per cent of that.

With decreasing temp-eratures and increasing numbers of Covid cases, I haven’t heard any mention of homelessness.

Have they all found nice, warm homes to go to, I wonder? Or can we not be bothered with them? Again.

SAIRA IS BEST OF WOMEN

I ALWAYS thought of businesswoman Saira Khan as the gobby one from The Apprentice.

She has carved out a nice career and became the gobby one on Loose Women, too.

I fell into the misogynistic trap of labelling a woman with forthright opinions as “gobby”. It’s insulting. But since I got to know her last year, we laugh about it.

Saira has left the Loose Women panel on her own terms. She spoke her mind in her farewell by claiming that “others [on the show] have had their time and they need to renew and refresh”.

This may be seen as a swipe at her female colleagues but you’d be mistaken for thinking Saira is not sisterly.

She’s warm, kind and empathetic. She is different from many women who claim to be your sister but whisper behind your back while filing their claws.

FEELING HEAT IN THE KITCHEN

HAVING made a partial but passionate transition from showbizzy b****cks madness to the kitchen – and the world of cooking and catering – I have a lot of new friends and acquaintances in hospitality: Chefs, cooks, restaurateurs, writers.

And I have watched how their businesses and careers have – in many instances – fallen off the edge of a cliff. Despite immense creativity and a willingness to adapt, many are swimming against the tide of constant change.

For most of the three million employed by the sector, and a further two million who depend on it, there isn’t masses of money to be made. People are in it because they are passionate.

But hospitality creates £130billion of activity, of which £38billion is collected in taxes. So you’d think there might be a minister for the sector who could be its champion.

This is being debated in Parliament on Monday and you can sign the petition. Go to linktr.ee/Seat_at_the_table to give your support.

CELEBS MUST FACE UP TO LOCKDOWN TOO

lIN Tier 4 – and presumably it’s even more the case in lockdown – “you can only travel internationally where you first have a legally permitted reason like work or education”.

So to Zara McDermott (Maldives), Zara Holland (Barbados) Vogue Williams (St Barts) and the ’slebs slumming it in Dubai, I hope you’re enjoying your educational trip in the sun while the rest of us are forced to face the grim realities of the pandemic in a cold and grey British January.

We talk a lot about how the pandemic has shown up inequality across society.

Here’s another stark example of how the wealthy don’t have to face up to lockdown.

PUPPIES DESERVE BETTER

RESCUE centres are being flooded by “lockdown puppies” and the RSPCA is said to be “very concerned”.

All the short-sighted owners who thought a puppy would be fun in a lockdown are now struggling to cope because, for some reason, they didn’t realise that puppies are living creatures who grow up and are a ten to 15-year commitment.

Suddenly people “don’t have the time” or there’s been a change in their “work circumstances”.

I could have written this script in March last year. I fully anticipated this would be the result of bored and frustrated families with kids at home for months on end.

The irony is that the first few months with a puppy are the hardest – it’s comparable to having a newborn but one that bites your fingers and your skirting board, wees on your carpet, yaps and requires constant attention.

If you just hang on in there, life does become a bit easier and you could end up with a new best friend.

I’m furious with all those owners who didn’t realise that a puppy is for life, not just for lockdown. But how do we stop it happening?

BE A FAST LEARNER

I STARTED my lockdown with a virtual speed awareness course.

No, it’s neither funny nor clever to do 33mph in a 30mph zone. And I’m not proud of my actions. Not this time. Or last time . . . yikes.

This is my third course in 14 years and I learn something new every time. Because I’m ageing, I also forget some things.

This course was the best by far – predomin- ately because I was able to do it from the comfort of my home. We were a small group of six and the instructor wasn’t a bore.

Everyone should do one of these as a little refresher once in a while. I think it could save a lot of lives.

Oh, and guys, don’t be fooled into thinking there’s a ten per cent tolerance on the speed limit. If it says 30mph, don’t even do 31mph.

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