The second COVID19 lockdown recently ended in Israel. How was it different from the first one and what did my family learn from it? That’s a long story with a long reading list. So get comfortable and listen carefully.
If you want to learn more I recommend that you visit my course teaching masterclass and review the free preview sessions. Further reading here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
We cannot trust politicians and experts
Why did we in Israel get into the second lockdown before any other country in the world? It’s not like we are stupid or lack good infrastructures.
Our medicine is one of the most advanced in the world with tourists coming from every country to be healed in one of our hospitals. We have allegedly a smart prime minister, whose rhetorics in the American senate is second to none except maybe Churchill. So what happened?
We are a very diverse country and each interest group performed its own sins: mass demonstrations, prayers, and weddings. Our politicians were helpless to stop their constituents. The politicians were more than happy to proclaim that there will be no second lockdown. Our doctors argued with each other and lost the trust and support of both the politicians and the public.
So all of our leaders were paralyzed and the numbers kept climbing until there was no other choice.
In the previous lockdown we were home as a family: no work, no learning. This time was different. The kids had remote learning, I had to work remotely full time, and Anna was busy elsewhere as a municipal administrator.
So while all of us faced the same crisis, each of us in some sense faced it alone. I was working, writing, and recording. Anna as a frontliner came home to eat and sleep. My bigger kids took care of their little sister. We help each other and heard each other, yet each of us had his own challenge.
Our biggest challenges
- Not interfering with each other. For example, during my recording, the kids needed to be silent.
- Internal motivation. I cannot make all of my kids visit their zoom sessions and do the homework.
- Crazy schedule. We had 3 different kinds of holidays mixed with workdays. This time I also could not practice polyphase sleep properly due to zoom meetings at work.
- Finding opportunities to be together. While in the first lockdown we were together all the time, now each of us was in his own corner.
- Allowing Anna to get some rest. Basically, the only place where it was possible was our bedroom, so I bought a projector for the bedroom wall.
Some other things which might be a problem for some other family (cooking, cleaning up, or not getting bored), we are too organized to feel them. See my course on home and lifestyle.
Honestly, in such challenging times, controlling the kids’ screen times is pointless. It is very difficult to distinguish legitimate school activities from gaming. Since our televisions are connected to computers, it is also very difficult to separate activities by a specific device.
Instead, I made sure that each of the kids spends some time outdoors with me and with each other. When outdoors the kids practiced scooters and inline skates, while I was walking and absorbing sunlight for vitamin D. We live near a small park, maybe 200m by 200m, and we were not allowed more than 1000m from our home. So that’s the nature we got.
I think all of us gained some weight, but not in extreme…
I think the best way to keep some sort of sanity in an insane situation is lowering expectations. My own productivity was not as high as I would like. Anna was perpetually tired. The kids could not focus properly during half of their lectures, and completed their homework when they should be sleeping.
So what? The main challenges were properly faced, and the tasks or top priority completed in time. Everything else is workable.
Being a COVID parent is a military command
I could not take care of all the needs of my family. So every family member got his own areas of responsibility. My little daughter was responsible for gaming and playing, my eldest was a technical officer responsible for all the equipment, and my middle son was a communication officer coordinating family activities.
Probably my own position was sort of chief of staff, coordinating and motivating the troops. Anna was special ops: she either did nothing or performed deeds of heroism no other family could handle.
All of this was implicit. We never gave official titles to each other. I think that having clear responsibilities made our lives easier…
Do not bottle up the emotions
Our communication is very open, possibly too open. If something bothers us, we say is directly no matter what. While some more respect for each other is something we are working on, this also means that every problem is handled almost immediately. There are no frustrations or suppressed emotions that last for more than a day.
Usually, the solutions are very direct. 90% of the emotional issues are dealt with using acceptance and commitment theory tools, and 90% of other problems are fixed via proper technique or technology. Very few issues require further negotiation, mediation, or external help. For example, after several technological failures (I guess sabotage) we had to recruit Anna’s mother to ensure my middle son is in zoom when he has to be there.
Make everything simple and transparent
Our lives are too short and complex to make them any more complicated. I believe that if we need something we should say so. If someone else needs something, we should try to help. Then explain all the pros and cons as we see them, both when asking for help, and when providing it.
This sounds very simple and easy, but most of us are trained in stoicism. This means we will not speak about our needs unless the situation gets dire. And that makes things worse.
For example, my son has to do his homework. This is not his need, but Anna’s need as he thinks the homework is not important. So I ask him to help his mother by doing the homework, because I need peace at home. He tells me that he needs to watch TV. I explain that this is not a need. What he actually needs is comfort because he did not eat properly. He eats and finishes his homework, then we watch TV. Quietly.
Take care of yourself first
This is somewhat counterintuitive. We are taught to care for others. However, when we take a flight, flight attendants warn us to take care of ourselves first. In fact, it is a very logical suggestion. If we are not well, our participation is very limited and we in turn may need help.
So in case of any adversity, we need to be OK first. This means proper food and sleep and other basic necessities.
It is very helpful when every family member is pretty autonomous and needs help for the bigger project. Once I fixed my own internet connection and diary, I reminded my kids to cook for themselves and to watch the clock for zoom sessions. Then I helped them when the return on my investment was maximal.
I wrote and recorded a lot, but not as much as during the first lockdown. My day was constantly interrupted. I got requests from my main job and had to work from home. Kids were making noise between zoom sessions. Anna was making a lot of fuss preparing dinners. I ate fine, but I could not properly work before 11 pm due to noise, and then I could not properly sleep. While during the first lockdown my solution was polyphasic sleep, here I could not generate a sufficiently stable schedule.
This time I failed to find a proper solution, and basically relied on weekends and flow bursts to finish my more complex tasks. Fortunately, I also had a lot of low focus low energy tasks and I finished most of them successfully. When the lockdown was lifted I slept. A lot. For an entire weekend.
After the first lockdown I knew that we need to do family projects. So I prepared some projects. Unfortunately, we had a lot of work, homework, and remote operations. So during the last day of the lockdown we had one focused day of tinkering and finished all of the coolest projects one way or another. This was very productive but felt like some sort of a lost opportunity.
Also, this time, unlike the first lockdown, the kids did not have the energy to walk the neighbors’ dog, play guitars, or read. We all suffered zoom fatigue. Even with all the tools that we use to help it, sitting eight hours or more every day in front of zoom, or video recording is very tiresome.
This time we did not have to discuss face masks or hygiene, R0 or symptoms. The disease is with us for a while and we learned to live with it. What we constantly repeated was the need to do the duties: the nearly useless zoom sessions and long exhausting homework. Since I am working pretty much all the time and Anna does not get a lot of rest, the kids followed our personal example.
Do your duties first, and relax later…
Even our friend’s kids that spent with ours 25% of the lockdown had to follow our house rules. No exceptions here.
Why usually holidays are a happy distraction and an opportunity to meet friends and distant family, this times they were constantly breaking our routine. Each time the kids started to follow any sort of organized schedule, a holiday would break the schedule.
The lockdown lasted for a month. We had four family birthdays, a Jewish new year and Yom Kippur fasting, Sukkot holidays (like Thanksgiving)… And all of these in total lockdown – just the core family and our friend with her two kids.
This was potentially frustrating… Instead, we tried radical acceptance. The situation is what it is. Nothing here to negotiate or discuss. And a bottle of wine for the grown-ups per holiday. Kids got cakes.
No hope messages
Some families practice hope and reassurance, waiting for vaccines or some other miracle. We did not do that. Instead, we tried to leverage the current situation. Kids worked more on their math skills. I wrote and recorded. Anna fixed things.
A message of hope would mean accepting that the current situation is not workable. But this was not the case. While not ideal, the situation was definitely workable and we could live meaningful lives.
Stress and anger
Being in a lockdown is stressful. Our vagus nerve is not stimulated in a good way. Some anger and frustration build up. The idea is to release them.
We are a warm family, and occasionally we shout. At the same time, we try not to shout at each other. So I was shouting about open doors and unnecessary noises. My wife was shouting about dirty dishes and garbage. The daughter was shouting when she lost in her game. The sons were shouting about having too much homework.
All of this venting was not offensive to any of us, and easy to deal with on a very practical level. Doing something practical we feel that we regain control of the situation and control lowers stress. We did not have even one serious argument.
During the first lockdown, we tried to stay together and allocate zones to various activities. This time we did not have the energy. Instead, each family member got his working spot and activity, and we rotated the spots between the family members.
For example, the living room sofa was used by my son for morning zoom, my daughter for the lunch, and Anna and me for the evening news. Our bed was used by us to sleep, and by our daughter to watch minecraft video guides. The computer area in the boy’s room was used by the boys interchangeably. The other boy often watched TV or played computer in my daughter’s room. And then occasionally we simply went to play with the cat in the music room.
During the first lockdown, I taught my eldest some photography and he went through our productivity course.
This time teaching was much more spontaneous.
I taught my daughter math during her scooter practice.
The eldest was doing some geometry. As a teaching method, he learned by teaching Anna.
The middle boy did not want us to teach him. Instead, we asked Anna’s mother to work with him on his organization skills.
Only once I had to do a short lecture to the entire family explaining the structure of the human heart and cardiovascular system.
Anna was sending daily to-do lists and we made sure that all the activities are done by each family member. The punishment for not doing the homework was severe: downgrading the mobile to an old iPhone 5 for an entire evening.
We were not trapped at home. What trapped us this time was Zoom. By the end of the month, the kids did not even want to go outdoors …
Israel is a resilient country. We are used to having a minor war approximately every fourth year. My family has all the tools and information for survival in any situation. And yet, it was hard.
Not because of the lockdown, depression or boredom. It was hard due to constant digital abuse by our jobs, schools, and media.
I definitely hope to have some digital detox time soon. Forests or beaches are lovely this time of the year, and COVID19 safe.