“With just three days until Chinese New Year, faced with the gradually spreading coronavirus epidemic, my husband and I decided to refund our New Year’s Eve train tickets to his home and to cancel plans to reunite with my in-laws for the ‘Spring Festival’, China’s most important holiday. Our family of three would stay in Beijing instead. Except for a meal with parents and sisters who were in Beijing for the Spring Festival, we could not visit restaurants or shopping malls, and could not meet with other relatives or friends. We wanted to relax, but our wandering minds couldn’t help but pay attention to news of the epidemic’s developments and to the extraordinary and heartbreaking efforts of medical staff in Wuhan – watching them was like wondering when a hanging heart would finally fall.
But life must go on. The Beijing city government encouraged employees to work from home and postpone visiting the office. My husband and I were uncertain when this 24/7 balancing act would end, so we set up a home office and with a baby to look after started the new Spring Festival holiday life.
Our five-year-old daughter doesn’t have a habit to sleep during the day, but hardly going out during the day, how could she consume all her energy at home and still fall asleep early in the evening? This was an issue that my husband and I discussed often. How long could the novelty of an indoor trampoline last? My husband and I took turns hopping with her before dinner to make it more fun. As children like to imitate adults, my husband and I followed an exercise app on our tablet for yoga and aerobics with our daughter. But in the end, my husband undusted the Xbox, having left it untouched for several years. Among the games, the dancing, skiing, and active themed ones became our family’s staple evening entertainment. Was this enough for our daughter to burn all her energy to be able to get to sleep early each evening? Not at all. Don’t even think about it! We relented and let her sleep later, so long as it didn’t affect daytime activities.
Family tensions did occasionally run high, but my daughter gradually submerged ever more deeply into her world of Lego and Peppa Pig dolls, curating themed and innovative scenes for them, arranging their respective characters for intense playtime. And when you grow tired of playing and start to get angry with your child, out come the fruit snacks to save the day. Free online children’s courses and newly acquired hobbies such as calligraphy and painting have become part of our lives. If your child is having a good time, then we adults can take advantage of the opportunity to do our own thing. After so many days of having “nowhere to escape”, I found the parent-child relationship remained mostly a mother-and-child bond. This cornerstone having been laid, it allowed my husband and I to run our household smoothly.
During the holiday, my frequent discussions of the virus and epidemic with my husband did not escape my daughter’s ears. We found a newly produced cartoon on viral sciences to watch and explain what was happening to our daughter. Gradually, she learned why our vacation had become so long without the resumption of her kindergarten; why her dad had to video conference from home; why she couldn’t play with her classmates; and why the courier couldn’t deliver direct to our home, but that an adult had to go downstairs to a special desk to collect deliveries. We had to explain why she couldn’t accompany her mother to the supermarket to choose her favourite snacks, not to mention hearing about the ‘uncle’ wearing protective clothing at the supermarket entrance taking everyone’s temperature before they can enter. My daughter would suddenly say: “Mom, I hope you can also be a doctor in the hospital.” Funnily enough, not long ago her kindergarten arranged a ‘virus prevention’ painting activity. My daughter’s piece was of ‘mother in the kitchen making tasty pies’, which she would eat to ‘strengthen her resistance’.
It is now the “Spring Equinox” season of the Chinese lunar calendar, where the weather outdoors begins to get warm and there is a feeling of summer approaching. As the fear of the virus recedes, the number of children playing downstairs in the community area is slowly increasing, and more and more restaurants around the city will gradually open for business. I believe our 24 hour ‘home life’ will soon be over.”
– Fiona is an accountant at Imperial Tours.
–Translated from Chinese by Terence Parker. You can read Fiona’s Chinese version here.