For a few blissful months, our kids spent their days in school and with friends, not with us and on screens. Then we added “variant” to our lexicon, with the shocking surge of a much more transmissible version of the coronavirus. On Dec. 19, the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, canceled Christmas. Stores were closed, and meeting other people was forbidden.
The government said schools would reopen on Jan 4., and some did — for a day (not ours). Then the government made another U-turn and shut all schools until at least February, though they remain open for the children of frontline workers. We’ve now been told that my daughters’ schools will be closed until at least early March.
The variant is very real. Last March, it was only the doctors we knew who came down with Covid; in December, it seemed like everyone had it: couples, kids, entire families. From 500 cases a day in August, Britain’s cases exploded to some 60,000 a day — and nearly 1,500 deaths.
My kids dreaded home school 2.0. But humans are adaptable creatures, and kids even more so. Teachers are more comfortable teaching online, and the kids have more self-direction. They still get lonely: When I asked my 10-year-old what she needed as she crawled by me during a Zoom call, she replied: “Company.” It was like she was saying, “I need humans and you working ones SUCK.”
Recently, the numbers have come down a bit: The seven-day average for cases hovers around 33,000. The U.K.’s vaccination plan is going pretty well: among people age 80 and above, four out of every five have been vaccinated. But deaths remain stubbornly high and the National Health Service is on its knees.
The weather still sucks, parents are epically stressed and kids are falling behind. But we have gotten schools open once and I’m betting it happens again. Some days we mope, other days we grasp at silver linings. The sun now sets after 5 p.m., more than an hour later than at the end December. A small victory, the result of nothing more than the passage of time, but one we will take.