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Here are 24 things I learned from my adult children during the lockdown
On Friday, 27 March, the day that the then Taoiseach Leo Varadkar placed the country under lockdown, our previously empty nest became a hive of activity.
The prohibition on non-essential travel, the closure of pubs, clubs, gyms, cinemas and restaurants, and the two-kilometre restriction on physical activity forced many young people out of the cities. A house in the country with a fully-stocked fridge, constant hot water and an under-used entertainment centre was infinitely more attractive than a small Dublin city apartment or a student house in Cork.
The student was first to arrive home and settle himself into his favourite spot in front of the TV. Next came my eldest son and his girlfriend, anxiously scanning the house for a place where they could set themselves up to work remotely. As I surveyed the collection of jackets, bags, computer screens, plants, pots, (yes, they brought cooking utensils), shoes and sports equipment strewn about the hallway, I wondered how all this was going to work. We all knew that lockdown would persist longer than the two weeks announced by the Taoiseach on the 9 o’clock news. Dax, our big friendly Labrador retriever, showed no such reservations, moving happily from one newcomer to another, oblivious to the social distancing recommendations. It was a wonderful time to be a dog.
Almost four months later, they have all returned to their earlier lives, and the nest is again empty. This strange and eventful time has left me with a lot of memories and a combination of new knowledge and skills.
In no particular order and with no analysis or judgement as to the usefulness, here is what I learned while spending time with millennials and Generation Z:
• How to attach a pink and purple patterned cover to my plain silver laptop.
• How to play hide-and-seek with a dog.
• How to connect a second screen to the newly-decorated laptop.
• How to play Amazon Prime on the TV. I thought that the only benefit of Amazon Prime was that it saved me money on delivery charges. I now have access to an entire world of movies, series, and music.
• How to spend a guilt-free afternoon bingeing on one of those mini-series. I would highly recommend Little Fires Everywhere, or Will Ferrell’s new movie, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga.
• How to reward myself every day with a break for morning coffee and afternoon tea.
• How to stop working when I need to.
• How to clean a cast-iron pan using salt.
• How to make mojitos and margaritas for Friday night cocktails.
• How to grow lemon trees from organic lemon seeds in repurposed bean cans.
• How to spare my wrist when scooping ice-cream by dipping the spoon in water first.
• How to add an electronic signature on a Mac. I had spent a couple of unsuccessful hours trying to figure this out by myself.
• How to record a video on Zoom and upload to YouTube. This is another thing that I should not have tried to do by myself.
• How to switch off the television after one episode of Sopranos and get to bed at a reasonable hour.
• How to barbecue the perfect steak.
• How to always find a reason to celebrate, as is not good to store bubbly in the cupboard for 20 years. This lesson had to be taught repeatedly and that cupboard is finally bare.
• How to nurture my house plants and not kill them by over-watering. 10mls of water once a week is enough for an orchid.
• How to make fajitas to go with the margaritas.
• How to play gin rummy — the card game — this is not another alcohol-related activity.
• How to set up an exercise programme with a coach on a SmartWatch.
• How other people manage to complete their SmartWatch programmes.
• How to be inspired and appreciate the applicability of statistics by listening to David Spiegelhalter.
• How it feels to walk in Barefoot shoes. If you have not tried this, it does feel like walking in your bare feet, except with shoes on.
• How to use a gravity blanket. This is a weighted blanket that claims to increase serotonin and melatonin and reduce stress and anxiety. I am not sure if it does what it claims to do, but it certainly feels good.
And every little helps in these extraordinary times.