“Daddy… I WANT go on a train!”
So demands my two-year-old every hour or so. It’s impossible to explain to such a young mind why all the things we used to do are not happening right now. “We go museum on Sunday?” is another. And those are the ‘nice-to-haves’. More fundamental experiences, like seeing grandma, going to school and hanging out with friends are also impossible for most of us.
Nobody knows quite how long we’ll be living restricted lives. Hope remains that things might begin to open up by spring, when vaccine effects start to mount. So it feels the right time to ask “what do you miss doing most,” and “what is the first thing you’ll do when restrictions are lifted?”.
The BIG Things
Nobody enjoys the isolation of lockdown, but it does remind us of what is important in life. If a quiz show panel were asked “What do you miss most about ‘normal life’”, the top answer would surely be “getting close to friends and family”. Who could have ever thought that a simple hug from grandma might ever be illegal and dangerous? A playdate? A picnic? That gathering in our top image would be an offence that could land you a fine right now.
While some grandparents have been able to mix with grandkids through social or childcare bubbles, many have not. For most if not all families, reuniting with loved ones will surely be the one we’re most holding out for.
The safe return of schools for most children would probably come next on the list. In the UK, we’re part way through a school closure that will last at least six weeks, and quite possibly longer. It’s a challenge for kids, who miss their friends and may fall behind with study, but also for parents who struggle to fit homeschooling into their already busy lives.
What Else Do We Miss?
Those are the biggies -- the missing experiences we crave every day. But what else are we looking forward to doing again, once the tide turns? We asked our Kidadl friends on Facebook.
Travel seems to be a popular longing. Lockdown forces most of us to remain in our own small neighbourhoods, and only venture out for exercise once a day. Small wonder we’re itching to broaden our horizons, whether for a holiday or to see family. Personally, I’d be grateful even for a trip into a different town or county, if only to show my kids a park or nature trail that they haven’t already explored 100 times.
Festivals and live events are also sorely missed. Even over the summer, with cases low and lockdowns eased, live events were tricky to put. No major music festivals went ahead, other than by virtual arrangement. It was possible to celebrate the Notting Hill Carnival at home, but nothing can replicate the buzz of the real thing. Theatres had been allowed to partially reopen, but performances were few and socially distanced. It will be some time yet before they can welcome back a full audience.
Have you missed parties? Kidadlr Lucy has. It seems like a relatively minor absence but then, when you think about it, our children haven’t enjoyed a proper birthday bash since March 2020 -- at least not legally. Softplay centres and party venues have all been closed or, where open, restricted to a small number of households. Under full lockdown, we can’t do anything more than a virtual celebration. It’s funny to look back to more normal times and think about how we rolled our eyes at yet another softplay birthday invitation, but how wonderful it would seem right now.
Kidadlr Abbie lists “Family, seaside, galleries & museums”. This touches on an urge similar to the travel bug: we all want to be out exploring with our kids again. The seaside has remained a distant dream for many of us. Even over summer, catching public transport to the coast felt like a risk too far, and not everyone has a car. Those who could drive to a beach may have been put off by the huge crowds who did make it. Meanwhile, museums and galleries are a big loss. My children crave them as places to feed their curiosity -- and I guess I do too. A trip to a museum will be one of the first things we do once restrictions are lifted.
Hoda in the Kidadl Facebook group offers a different take by suggesting “date night”. Many couples with children are struggling right now to have any quality time together. We’re too busy to talk during the day, and once the kids are in bed it’s time to catch up on the neglected day job. Oh for a night off or, even better, a trip out to a restaurant or cinema while the kids are with a babysitter.
Finally, Kidadlr Moushumi sums everything in one sentence: “I really miss so many things -- live theatre, gigs, galleries and museums, travel, experiencing all the wonderful markets and experiences London has to offer but most of all I’m looking forward to seeing my family again and being able to hug people”. Amen to that.
Although originally from the Midlands, and trained as a biochemist, Matt has somehow found himself writing about London for a living. He's a former editor and long-time contributor to Londonist.com and has written several books about the capital. He's also the father of two preschoolers.