When my first son was 18 months old I wrote an article about whether or not I should allow him to play with the iPad. How would technology affect him and his ability to learn? The mind-sapping power of screens is obvious – everyone is sitting in front of one nearly all the time, and this was well before the coronavirus pandemic. I worried for his imagination. I worried for how he would become a balanced individual in the age of technology.
Cartoons are like a drug for him. And not all cartoons are created equally. Dora is a caffeine pill, Dinosaur Train is a glass of beer, Paw Patrol is crack cocaine. Before coronavirus the rule was simple: no cartoons during the week, half an hour on weekend days after he takes a nap (and only if he takes a nap), a family film on Sunday mornings if the weather wasn’t nice. He can get so riled up when the cartoon ends. We had a balance that kept him mostly in check.
Now the coronavirus confinement has ejected all norms. The demands of working from home coupled with his constant need of attention means that cartoons are used to appease and occupy multiple times per day. I downloaded Disney+. I scoured Amazon Prime Video. We’ve restarted the series he’s already seen on Netflix. I know, I know, our goal now is to get through this thing to the other side. We need to do what we need to do. No judgement. Plus I put them in English, so it’s sort of educational too.
But I can’t help but wonder about what effects it will have. Like my elbow, will his brain be forever altered from this period of confinement and surcharge of cartoons? What lasting scars will we carry from the coronavirus pandemic?
Stand in our courtyard and you can hear shouting from multiple apartments. These are not cries of joy. China saw a big increase in divorces after they lifted the restrictions. Anyone joking about a coronavirus baby-boom is overlooking the fact that many relationships were precarious at best and based on highly limited interactions. Forcing people together is going to pry a lot of them apart.
Confinement is a pressure cooker with no release. Domestic violence is shooting through the roof. And it’s not just partners, children are probably facing unusually violent parents. Coronavirus has put everyone in a time out. You can’t send a misbehaving child to her room when that’s where she needs to spend her time anyway.
Patience has never been so virtuous. Neither has forgiveness. Both are in short supply. There is no reset button. No separation. Arguments end with people on opposing ends of a couch, divided by one cushion, wishing they too could social distance for a little while. Without forgiveness each passing day represents a fresh accumulation of resentment. Kids might not understand what’s going on but they feel it. They definitely feel it.
So we self-medicate. Another legacy of coronavirus will be an increase in alcoholism. Day drinking, formerly reserved for tropical vacations and bachelor parties, is becoming a frequent sight on Instagram. Quarantinis too. Supermarkets can’t restock beer fast enough. Will the wonderful sensation of freedom be enough to break the bad habits that many are putting in place? Or will we struggle with the effects of this added addiction? It all depends on how long this all goes on.
We are on Day 27 and President Macron is slated to speak on Easter Monday. He will certainly add time to the confinement. Countries like Spain and Italy have prolonged their confinement efforts until early May but with certain exceptions. Booksellers and baby stores will reopen. People can go walk through the woods. Smaller countries like Austria and the Czech Republic will let smaller shops get back to work. Some Scandinavian counties will reopen preschools and kindergartens. Are these the first photons from the light at the end of the confinement tunnel?
How much time Macron adds is anyone’s guess. Rumors of May 4th and May 10th are circulating. If its the latter that will make it almost two full months of confinement. And release won’t apply uniformly to the entire population. Schengen borders could be sealed until September. The elderly might be inside until a vaccine is created. In 2021.
Speculation is worthless. What will be announced will be announced. We will have no choice but to live with it. Yet this announcement will have a particularly strong impact on the fragile mental state of the French population. Ask for a month more but give us something, a small gesture, a first step towards deconfinement. Otherwise public morale will tank.
The sooner we plant the seeds of hope, the longer we will be able to withstand the confinement.