During the COVID-19 crisis, we’re all at home rather more than usual. Miriam Riverlea writes about how myths and literature are helping her young family think about time at home…
While we’re self-isolating, I’ve been helping Milo, my seven year old son, learn how to tell the time. He’s got a handle of the basics, but is still struggling with the concept that the numbers on the clock face mean different things whether it is the long or short hand that is pointing to them. And the arcane term ‘o’clock’ remains a mystery to him.
Perhaps part of his struggle is that time itself seems to be moving at a different rate as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds. With nowhere to be but at home, the minutes and hours move quite slowly, but the days are passing by at breakneck speed. What day is it again? we ask each other, and, did that happen yesterday, or was it the day before?
This is family time, in a way we’ve never really experienced before, freed of the usual routines of work and school and other social outlets. Amid the anxiety and the uncertainty, I’m trying to keep positive and count our blessings. There’s much to be thankful for – glorious autumn weather, a big backyard (with a brilliant treehouse), siblings to play with, and unlike so many across the world, job security and good health, at least for the moment.
Books are offering a welcome escape from the grim reality of the daily news. We’ve been working our way through CS Lewis’ Narnia books in nightly instalments. We’ve had lots of conversations about the logistics of time travel, the possibility of multiple universes, and the relationship between primary and secondary time. And I’ve been reflecting on a different kind of time travel as I read aloud from a battered copy of the first three books in the series, which I’ve had since I was eight. It’s a real treat to share the stories that I loved as a child with my own children.
And while we are all appreciating its fantasy elements, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe also seems relevant at the moment for its representation of sibling dynamics. Having adjusted to life at home, my three children are (mostly!) enjoying each other’s company. But a story that foregrounds the lessons of loyalty, forgiveness, and courage is a valuable reminder of the importance of taking care of each other at this challenging time.
Alongside books, jigsaw puzzles and board games, we’ve had fun making mazes for each other. Jan Bajtlik’s Greek Myths and Mazes (2019) is providing plenty of inspiration.
I’ve got an idea for getting the kids to make comic strips featuring mythical characters in unlikely modern settings (the Minotaur goes to the supermarket?), and as the weather gets colder, we might attempt some simple weaving on cardboard looms. And with no clear sense of when normal life will return, maybe we’ll finally get around to making this model of the Parthenon out of marshmallows and gingerbread. If so, I promise to share our creation in another post for this blog!