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As lockdown restrictions start to ease, Stephen shares how his children, Ayda and George, felt about going back to school and what their plans are for the summer months.

When lockdown restrictions started to ease, both Ayda and George were happy to get back to school. When we were all still staying home, Ayda enjoyed Zoom class meetings daily and doing her school work by herself or with her friends online. George wasn’t sure about online work, so after trying (and causing stress for us both) I contacted his teacher and was able to sort out a weekly homework pack for him. Seeing the physical work and getting through it at his own pace made a massive difference. George didn’t like his classroom Zoom calls once a week – he missed a few due to serious anxiety; he was getting himself very worked up and upset. Both missed their friends, so in the main couldn’t wait to get back to school.

The hardest part about lockdown was the routine. With lockdown and strict rules about staying inside, it was too easy to play fast and loose with mealtimes, homework and even bedtimes, as we didn’t (and couldn’t) have any plans. Once school returned, it was back to early mornings and school runs which, although hard at first, was certainly what we all needed. After a week or so, the kids had settled back into it like they’d never been off, which was great.

With restrictions easing, we’ve not really made any grand plans. Partly because it’s still a worrying time and that we aren’t out of the woods yet, and partly because we just aren’t used to making plans or thinking too far ahead. We’ve all gotten used to not being able to see family and friends, so I think just seeing people in person and enjoying the simple pleasures such as meet ups have been more than enough. We have started slowly and haven’t ventured too far, but the biggest thing we’ve done since the restrictions have eased is a trip to the seaside and the funfair for the day. It’s not quite the same as before the pandemic, but you learn to appreciate things like that because of it.

We did have our first real family holiday abroad planned since me and my late wife’s wedding in Greece eight years ago. Obviously, that had to be cancelled – but we still plan to go away, the three of us, my sister and her little one at some point – maybe next year now. We are in the process of booking a road trip with my family for this summer. A trip to the Midlands to see my mother’s family and some of the sights around there, and then on to Liverpool to see my dad’s side of the family. It’s going to be special as we haven’t seen them in a very long time.

Keeping the children entertained throughout the summer holidays isn’t always straight forward. They would happily go here, there and everywhere – but that’s not feasible (pandemic or not!). My family are great, and my sister is a teacher, so she has the summer off which is a massive help – especially as she loves planning things! Seeing my sister and her little one helps the monotony of it being just dad 24/7 – something which is valuable for all three of us.

I’ll be honest, I’ve got very used to staying in and just not making plans, so I do find it hard now that things have eased, to break out of that cycle. It’s been a crazy eighteen months, but things are improving slowly. I suppose it’s about looking forward and changing the mindset slightly towards what we can do rather than what we can’t. The biggest thing I’ve learned is to appreciate the little things, which maybe we all took for granted before.