Making our bubble great again

Free-range kids

As lock-down 2.0 was announced on August 13th, Auckland schools closed, and we retreated back to our bubbles, we decided not to add any complexity to the ever changing and (sometimes) absurd rules that governed our strange world, and let our children be free-range. No virtual hui. No homework. No schedule. No pressure. Except to let us work in (relative) peace, and help with the daily chores. And so they were left to their own device, although mainly off device*, free to explore being alive, get bored, and find things to do. Play outside, play inside, play some music, make huts, play Pokemon battles, climb, jump, run, row, swim, cook, bake, draw, write, read. They’ve really impressed us by demonstrating initiative and being totally able to entertain themselves (involving neighbouring kids and parents at times), while consolidating knowledge and learning new stuff in the process. Proud moment.

The bubble expands

We were also fortunate to be offered to stay at our friends’ house, while they were away from Auckland, enjoying freedom at the mountain. So, still in Bayswater, we became landlubbers for a few days, and indulged the luxury of space, a human-sized fridge with freezer (and even a mini door-in-the-door leading to the dairy compartment), a bath, a desk each, a trampoline, a veggie patch with abundance of fresh greens, a near home-cinema set-up, games galore for kids and adult alike, a view on Auckland skyline, and no need to bend to get to the kids room, with the risk of bumping a limb or our head! A very enjoyable stay overall, even though I must stay I struggled to get a decent night’s sleep away from my trapezoidal bed, the gentle rocking of the boat, and the sweet sounds of marine life popping underneath.

Spring clean

And finally, I took advantage of the whole family being away from the boat to undertake another paint job with Azur who relished the opportunity to assist me. We did a good job at lightening up the saloon with some more white (#cestmieuxenblanc). And back to the boat, every idle time was spent cleaning, polishing, or varnishing something, to slowly restore Obelix to her former glory, as they say. A never-ending task, but showing visible progress nonetheless with tidy bathroom cupboards, a leak-proof prism, a brand new emergency tiller, shiny brass fair-leads, and a vintage Sestrel compass promising to bring some cachet to our cockpit.

All in all we did our best to make our bubble great again, but let’s admit that this second time round wasn’t as pleasant as the first. The weather didn’t play ball, and the whole thing had a bitter taste of dejavu.

*However Thomas kindly reminded me that they actually spent a couple of very miserable days in the marina lounge with him, each on a screen, drawing on Paint 3D, watching scientific videos from NASA engineers, and, yes, playing video games. And now that I think of it, Azur even remarked that this second lock-down was way better for them because they were allowed to play Farmville 2, which he vouched was teaching them ‘stuff’.

Obelix takes a deep breath

Oblivious to the world’s turmoil, Obelix is soaking in the peace and quiet of the marina. Silence, and stillness, with the reduced traffic on the motorway, and the absence of wind and ferry wash.

Yoga on the deck

Every now and then, some boatie walks up and down the pier, smartphone in hand, discussing the current lock-down situation and its alarming implications on their business or lives, illustrating what seems to be our modern rallying cry “I communicate therefore I am”.

And it is hard indeed to resist the urge to reach out to relatives and friends, or keep up with the influx of information pushed from all directions, make sense of it all, and prevent the brain’s cogs to get out of control. Yet, I try hard not to get distracted by the outside virtual noise, and draw inspiration from one of the ‘growth mindset mantras’ pinned to our bathroom bulkhead: “I am safe. I am calm. I can handle this.” as a counterpart to the government’s message “Be kind. Stay home. Save lives.”

But I admit that I never thought a trip to the supermarket would be a high risk activity for which you’d need to queue to wait for your turn as if you were about to bungy jump, and, when, going for the daily walk or bike ride, we meet other people in the street, people we might know, I have this surreal feeling of being like a dog, held on an invisible leash, unable to get too close to them, or stop for too long to exchange greetings and make small or philosophical talk.

9 a.m. at the supermarket

So, to relax after a day split between working, home-schooling, and tempering dark thoughts, I do some reading. The Testaments, by Margaret Atwood. Not sure it is wise to escape a dystopian reality by reading a dystopian novel, but it put things in perspective. And I can’t help thinking: at least we can still wear what we want, read, write, play and listen to music, dance, prepare food we like, talk to each other freely and relish our creativity.

Exercising with kids

And actually, life in lock-down is very different, yes, but we also take notice of all the positive changes it forced, or decided, us to make:

  • Waking up with the sun (or upon kids stompy footsteps) – no alarm clock
  • Yoga on the deck (almost) every morning with Thomas (and sometimes Azur)
  • Less time working + less time escaping to the fragmented bubbles of my life = More focus and mindful parenting
  • Zephyr mentors Azur and teaches him maths, origami and spelling
  • More frequent video calls with our family and friends in France
  • More french spoken by the kids!!!
  • New yummy cooking & baking experiments
  • More family discussions around the table, as we eat all meals together
  • Kids taking turn to do the dishes
  • More DIY tasks getting ticked off, and providing knowledge sharing opportunities (I taught Zephyr how to divide big numbers, while working on a pattern for a bbq cover)
  • New activities on or around the boat: swimming at the local tiny beach (high tide only), climbing or swinging around the mast, laps walking around the boat on the rub rail while holding onto the life lines, dinghy fishing trips at sunset, and even putting on a talent show to compete with our friends on Calypso…

And nearly a week on, we even have some good news: our pier neighbours have kindly agreed for us to use their boat Mahanui’s cockpit as our home-office, we’ve received the Wifi repeater and (most of the time) can connect from within our lovely submarine, and the marina ablution blocks have re-opened which means we could treat ourselves to a real shower!

What if we enjoyed our time confined as a family?