OPINION: ‘My beef with rule of six is that my diligent family has instantly suffered’
PUBLISHED: 20:00 28 September 2020 | UPDATED: 08:29 29 September 2020
Our parenting columnist explains her views on the most recent social distancing restrictions.
After documenting my woes as a larger family facing the new rule of six a fortnight ago, I have received some strange messages on social media telling me how selfish I am.
It makes me wonder if the commenters had actually read my article for the tones seems to imply my words were taken to mean I don’t care, won’t be socially distancing and will be encouragingly spreading the virus at will. So, I’d like to set the record straight because that message is the antithesis of what I wrote.
Firstly, I stand by the fact I’m disagreeable to the ruling allowing only six people to get together. But, and there’s a massive but, only when this number includes children. As an initial thought the number six seems pretty reasonable, we have to have a cut-off and yes, it is absolutely necessary to stem the virus after a summer of love where we were encouraged to “get back to normal” inviting the R number to rocket. In principle this number is entirely plausible - I don’t think the government had a bad idea. I do think however, that the decision failed to thoroughly think through practicalities when it comes to families.
Scotland and Wales offered a similar guide but had the wherewithal to think ahead at how this would affect parents of children and made little ones exempt. Considering they are at school socialising with classes of 30 during the week and deemed not a risk to each other or family at home afterwards, it would make far more sense on that level alone to exempt them from numbers but coupled with the fact families with three children or more instantly cannot see a pair of grandparents and the ruling is pretty off key.
Especially since most families I know, including my own, have been extremely diligent when it comes to social distancing and following the rules – we do not want to get Covid. We do not want our children to get Covid. We do not want grandparents to get Covid! Of course we have been sensible, thorough and stuck to the guidelines like glue. If anything I’d say most people I know thought I was a bit over the top when I would tell them the measures my own family go to in order to keep safe.
My shopping (Click and Collect, not in store) is sanitised before it comes in the house. Our post has a system where it is taken from the box and set outside in the garden for 24 hours. Even the toddler shouts: “To the side” if we see anyone coming towards us when out walking. You couldn’t get a more conscientious person than myself and though I had relaxed (a bit) with the summer guidelines, never as much as we were allowed and now the numbers are on the rise again we are right back on it, believe you me!
So my beef with the numbers is not a wilful neglect to keep my family and everyone around us safe as seems to have been bought by quite a few who read my column. Instead it’s saying let’s be practical but let’s be fair here.
We’re all allowed into pubs to drink and be merry with friends but I can’t have my in-laws over for a cup of tea at the same time. They can come in sittings with one waiting in the car and then they can drive off and see their other grandchildren too if they so wish but they cannot sit in my home together and see their grandchildren with nothing more potent than a mug of PG Tips to fuel the fun. It doesn’t make sense. As a family of five we can’t see them together but if we lived in Scotland, where everyone starts on a pretty even playing field of having one or two adults in the house, we could.
Matt Hancock, Michael Gove and Boris Johnson have stood by their decision like a reminder of my toddler digging his heels in about not eating a broken biscuit and rather than say: “Thanks Nicola, great idea, we will be adopting it too,” they have made us parents pay big time because actually, seeing family after the terrible time we’ve all had with loneliness is abhorrent. Just as it is important for children to be back in education that doesn’t involve a parent first trying to figure out what a comparative fraction is, they need the love and support of their grandparents too. And grandparents also need to see their children and grandchildren.
If we have to live with this virus for a very long time, and we do, then having practical measures to make it able to sensibly cope are the way forward. Yes have the number six and send that message to the teens and twenteens who live for Friday night but for families who want to be careful and understand the implications, please don’t make rash decisions that are nonsensical.
And please, don’t misunderstand my message, let’s all stay safe, be alert or whatever the jargon is that Boris wants to spurt this week and let’s just use common sense and have rules which are both easy to understand and to follow.
Ruth Davies writes a parenting blog at www.rocknrollerbaby.co.uk
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