On Sunday 15th March I went swimming with my niece Bean and her dad, my brother-in-law, King Russell. Afterwards we came back to the castle and watched a film together. What I didn’t know as Bean and I sat cuddling was that this would be the last time we’d have close physical contact for many months.
Fat Sister, Bean’s mum, is a doctor and Bean’s been going to nursery throughout the pandemic, so we’ve been very careful about keeping our distance.
That is until today. This morning Fat Sister asked me to join her and Bean in a local park. I’ve been doing a few short trips out since lockdown was relaxed, and as the sun was shining, I headed out with my friend and support worker Nassy. We had a lovely morning playing in a quiet area of the playground.
As we headed home together, after checking with Fat Sister that she thought it was safe, I invited Bean to sit on my lap. This is something we’ve done so many times before. In fact, she’s been sitting with me in my chair since she was a babe in arms.
It was lovely to hold her close to me. Fat Sister pushed us in the chair, and gave my shoulder a long squeeze, too. This is the closest we’ve all come to a cuddle in a long time and it felt so nice. Sitting on my lap, Bean had her back to me and I was wearing a mask as well so this felt relatively safe.
Any risks felt outweighed by the benefits of feeling physically connected to my family. As we rolled along Bean said, “We haven’t done this for a long time… there are less sick people now so I can sit with you.”
Bean’s only three and I’ve been struck both by how aware she is of the changes caused by COVID and the ways in which different people need to respond to stay safe. I’ve written before about how naturally young children take an inclusive approach to life and wondered when and how we begin to lose this curiosity and concern for others.
I’ve waited a long time to cuddle Bean again – today felt like a big step in that direction and it’s made me feel happy and hopeful.