I’ve been in lockdown for a week now. I’m in Naples, Italy, and the coronavirus containment measures caught me, my husband and my child at my parents’ place, during a visit. Since we have a nomadic lifestyle, and no home, we simply had to stay put as the country shut down overnight.
While living together without going out can be challenging at times, Lorenzo, who is one year old now, is showing us adults that entertainment can be pretty easy, even indoors.
He can find a dry leaf on the floor and walk around with it for a while until he finds a box he can reach and hides the leaf. Then he goes away and picks some magnets off the fridge and hides them under the fridge, circles back to the box and picks up the dried leaf. He does this, on repeat, until he feels like having a nap.
While I had to dust off some old board games to think of ways to play with my parents, Lorenzo seems to be able to play all the time.
But is he really playing? The saying goes that if everything is play, then nothing is play… So, what exactly is play, and why do toddlers seem to do it so much more spontaneously than us adults?
I have started researching play, and I will be dedicating some time to it. And, as more and more of us get confined to our homes, I’ll take advantage of your attention to hear your thoughts about my new research subject.
1. What would you like to learn about play?
2. How do you think play in early childhood has changed over the years? Did your parents play differently from how your children play?
3. What is the most defining element of play at the moment?
4. Do you have contacts or suggestions that will help inform my writing? And if you are yourself an expert in play, are you willing to contribute to my piece?
Please get in touch in the comment section below, or by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The responsibility of parenthood
Another upside of lockdown is that I’m finally tackling my list of films to watch. Over the weekend, I had a chance to watch one that had been on my list for a while: Capernaum, by Nadine Labaki.
In the film, Zain, a 12-year-old boy in Beirut, sues his parents for bringing him into the world. While it may seem like a strange (and unrealistic) premise for a film, the idea of questioning one’s parents along those lines brings up deep questions about the first 1,000 days. When is it OK to bring a child into the world? Who has the right to do so? How many people are in contexts in which they can’t survive without putting their own and their kids’ lives at risk?
When Zain ends up being the only carer for one-year-old Yonas, these questions turn into urgent screams. Zain mixes ice cubes with sugar to feed a crying Yonas, and I could do nothing but cry.
There is no doubt that this is a moving film. And far from being a simple tear-jerker, the film’s angry narrative made me uncomfortable and made me want to push back against injustice rather than hide away.
After the film ended, I couldn’t go to sleep. When that happens to me after a heavy film, I tend to watch cartoons. But this time I rewatched an episode of Sex Education and it did the trick: it made me laugh and calmed me right down. If you are a fan of the series, stay tuned: my piece about what we can all learn from Sex Education is coming out soon.
This is an extraordinary time. A good reminder that people do extraordinary things and that disasters and crises bring out the best in people, as my colleague Rutger Bregman wrote.
So, stay positive if you can, and remember to share the good things you read, watch or listen while at home – so that we can all stay inspired.
Until the next one,