By Shanna Bernier
Parenting during a pandemic is wild. There have been countless articles, blogs and rants shared online and in print about how untenable it is for most parents to manage their full-time jobs, children, a home as well as growing expectations of formalized distance learning or home schooling. This whole situation makes my brain spin sometimes. With announcements made about schools possibly reopening, instead of celebration and relief, a completely new can of anxiety-worms was opened as millions of parents must contemplate the safest and most reasonable approach to managing the never-ending to-do list. Our dark apocalyptic thoughts shift to fears of unleashing a second pandemic wave on our precious children. Barring a medical miracle or divine intervention this situation is not magically going to go away. As my first-grader and I re-read the perennial favourite Harry Potter book, The Half Blood Prince (a light-hearted read at the best of times) I find myself connected to the nervous parents worried about sending their children back to Hogwarts in a time when Voldemort is gaining power and is not under control. The government (the Ministry of Magic) can make posters and claim to have the situation secured, but none of us have ever faced a threat like this before (The Dark Lord – Covid-19). Clearly all this time at home is making me feel a bit loopy.
Despite my husband and I both having been trained as teachers, both having experience with the Quebec curriculum and classroom experience, we have taken only the most hesitant jump onto the home-schooling bandwagon. We are working full time at home, so we share the day back and forth, ensuring (on good days) that our kids are not overly neglected and are not too reliant on the delightful screens they love so dearly. Our kids are little, 7 and 4, so we aren’t too worried about them “falling behind”. We have been encouraging independent play, letting them colour every colouring sheet our printer can expel, going on many bike rides and watching the Quebecois treasure: Passe-Partout. When we do engage in formal educational activities, the joy is usually fleeting. There have been a few successes: a sight-word scavenger hunt in the basement, lots of math with baking and Lego building challenges. We also read daily. I love reading out-loud, and even when I am completely exhausted from the weight of overwhelming doom, I can still manage to read. In a wonderful moment of clear thinking, on the last days before the major shutdown we managed to get to our Lennoxville Library and stock-up on some books. This trip would prove to be the last for many moons, but we managed to borrow a few true gems in our panic grab of pandemic reading. One such grab, an impulsive and uninformed choice, yielded an enthusiastic new fandom I would not have predicted. Bea chose a series of graphic novels entitled “5 Worlds”. This was a success in judging a book by its beautiful cover art. These books, whose story is written by Mark Siegel weave a complex tale of a civilization spread over five small planets. The inhabitants of the five worlds are facing an environmental cataclysm and are collectively threatened by an evil force called the “mimic” which seems to be able to possess people who wish to gain economic or political power. It is a beautiful story of adventure and struggle against an unfair capitalist system, which punishes the vulnerable. The protagonist is a rebellious young girl, named Oona, who is gifted in the art of sand bending. Sandbenders do a kind of dance where sand is moved telekinetically, and some can achieve the illusive “living flame”. Oona engages in a quest to light the ancient beacons on her own world with the living fire and the four moons that encircle it, in order to complete a prophesy in time to prevent an apocalyptic scenario. After a war breaks out on her home world her adventure continues in the subsequent books, with her unlikely companions. These supporting characters include an itinerant youth plagued with a mysterious vanishing disease and an ability to speak to plants, as well as a robot with a soul. It is quite the epic tale. Three out of the five books have been released and we wait anxiously for the next chapter to unfold.
I think it is natural for us to escape into fantasy and magic in the time like this. I have always enjoyed fantasy as a genre, but I wouldn’t have thought as deeply about finding comfort or escape in the other worlds, as they are often dark and much scarier than our own reality. I know while re-reading Harry Potter yet again serves as a comfortable sink into a predictable story where I know what the ending will be but reading a new series like the “5 Worlds” books offer a moment of escape to imagination. While some of the social challenges and conflicts described are important and real in our world, it is still far cry from the our reality at the moment. This reality is hard, and caring for kids throughout is especially challenging. I can still count my blessings, and I am forever grateful to be able to escape into a good book.
Don’t forget about our local libraries! There are many resources available online, and many programs for folks of all ages being offered. Visit the Lennoxville library website to check out the latest news: http://bibliolennoxvillelibrary.ca/