Monday, 27 April 2020

Window Pain

It has become a season for watching.

My toddler and I have spent hours staring out the front window of our house, counting the squirrels and starlings and stray cats. He waves frantically at dog-walking neighbours, and has made fast friends with the garbage men and our mail carrier — but their appearances, though diverting, are tragically brief. He stays at the window long after they have waved good-bye and gone, hoping another friendly face will soon wander our way.

Our home has other portals through which we interact with the world beyond our walls. Video chats with faraway friends and family have become the core of our social diet, and these calls are sustaining and even reviving many important relationships. We spend hours staring through the thin panes of glass that collapse hundreds of kilometres into millimetres of distance and we feel closer to our loved ones than we are in reality... but it’s still a window.

We miss hugs. We miss the helpers who love our child and desperately want to scoop him up and offer us a little parenting relief. We miss grandparents and babysitters and beloved neighbours and aunties and church folk and our village! They are all so willing and so helpless to help us from the other side of these painful sheets of glass.

Our home is a good place. In so many ways we are blessed and safe, and life now resembles in many ways our life as it was pre-pandemic. Our baby boy has both Mum and Dad in the house, and there is love, and food, and play, yet we stand at the windows and yearn for away. Other places, other faces, other things to have and do. We escape our home at the windows of our imaginations, longing for lost access to both sides of the glass that has suddenly walled us in like an aquarium.

But I'm trying to redirect my gaze. It takes an effort of will to focus my heart on the precious inside things my attention has slipped from. Have you noticed, for example, how many different fabric textures exist in one load of laundry? Have you recently revelled in the beauty of a halved red onion? Small things, I know, but I want to swap out the metaphorical binoculars I've been using for a microscope and marvel at my close-up world.

For a while, anyway.

I still need my windows. Birds and squirrels, distant relations and dear friends, cooking shows and Mr Rogers and marble races and comedy specials... it is a season for watching. I'm just trying a little harder to watch the world on my side of the pane.

Saturday, 25 April 2020

Neighbo[u]r

When asked if I watched much television as a kid, I sometimes joke that Ms Frizzle was my babysitter.

I don't think we watched more than the average TVO Kids kid, and even looking back at it through the lens of "screen time awareness," I don't think our consumption was excessive in those early years -- but we made good use of our bush cable, and I can still catch most of the 90's programming references when they come up in conversation. The shows we knew, we knew by heart; there was no shame in reruns back then, and classics were syndicated to death.

(My sisters and I also had a lot of freedom to play. We spent a much larger portion of our time thrown outside with instructions to "stay in sight of the house," and return when Mum whistled. I dare say that woman could still summon us with her mighty, piercing blow.)

I haven't introduced Liam to the Magic School Bus gang just yet, but I am extremely grateful for the time that we spend every day under Mr Roger's gentle care. Mr Roger's Neighborhood is a peaceful, musical, curious realm that I am more than happy for Liam to wander through when my attention is needed elsewhere. Our boy asks for "Rogers" pretty regularly, and I don't feel guilty indulging him for fifteen or twenty minutes, a couple times a day. Through my sister's Prime Video subscription we have access to two dozen episodes, spanning from June 17 - July 22, 1968 (that final airing exactly twenty years before I was born). Perhaps when Libraries reopen after this COVID crisis eventually passes we will be able to get more, but, for now, we are looping them happily, re-learning lessons every few weeks.

The songs sprinkled throughout are catchy and positive little jingles, and I find they have replaced most of the pop music that used to run through my mind. Fred's kindness and joy has been patiently influencing the growth of Liam's little heart and reshaping my own internal landscape one heartfelt moment at a time.

I feel we are both in good hands with our dear Mr Rogers. This morning he taught Liam how to say "it's raining" in several languages, and also the importance of waiting (aka delayed gratification) while I folded a load of laundry in peace.

We're into more active play now, and I keep getting beanbags stacked on my keyboard as I type, so I know it's time to redirect my attention. When the day gets long or the making of meals calls my name, I'm thankful that I can beg a favour from for our beloved American "neighbor."