Phoning It In

One of my kids stood next to someone who sneezed at school this week, so immediately demanded they be quarantined, which I’m pretty sure translates to left for dead.

“She might have had the coronavirus!” Miss16 said indignantly as we headed home.

“Which means you might now,” said Master14, the sincerity of the worried tone of his voice undermined by the fact his eyes didn’t stray from his phone as he caught up with the friends he’d just said goodbye to at the school gate. His voice became more and more strained as he went on. “Which means I might. I think I need to stay home the rest of the week, Dad, just to be safe.”

“But,” I explained, ignoring my son, “more likely not. The World Health Organisation is totally on top of this.” And I really hoped I was telling the truth. “There haven’t been many cases outside of China yet and only a handful in Australia.”

“Eight,” said Miss12.

“Actually nine,” I corrected her. “Another one came back positive today.”

I don’t lie to my kids about this stuff. If we managed to harness my children’s collective anxiety we could run a small field hospital, but I’ve learned there’s no point in trying to keep unpleasant information from them. Especially if they’ll just learn it from another source anyway.

“I just heard the government is looking to use Christmas Island to quarantine people until they know they’re safe to come in,” I went on.

It was at this point I was presented with the first of two surprises on this short drive home.

“One of the kids at school might be going there,” said Miss16 very casually for something I’d have thought trumped the ‘someone coughed near me’ which had started us down this rabbit hole.

Her tone was more in keeping with announcing a friend was holidaying at a beach resort.

Turns out one of the school’s students was trying to visit family in China when this whole thing took off and has now been caught up in the efforts to contain this potential epidemic.

“She didn’t even get to see her family,” said Miss16. “She said they turned them around and told them to go back.”

It occurred to my my kids seemed to know an awful lot of details. One of the teachers had the class Skype the young lady.

“The class Skyped her,” said Miss12. “A teacher set it up.”

Thinking about that as I type this, I can only imagine how grateful the parents of this girl are. It wouldn’t be a very nice situation to be in, and I’m sure being able to see and chat with some familiar faces would have helped.

“Well, I’m sure she’ll be back soon,” I said.

Which was when I received my second surprise.

“It’s spread to eighteen countries outside of China already,” said Master14. “But there’s been nearly two hundred deaths over there. Did you know China has built an entire hospital in a week?”

And I nearly fell out of the car.

“I can’t believe you know all that,” I said.

Understand, we don’t watch news in this house, the subscription we have for the local paper is digital, and the idea my son would research anything other than maybe – and that’s a BIG maybe – basketball theory did not sit easily with my intimate knowledge of the lump of teenage lethargy sitting beside me.

“Of course, I do,” said Master14. He jiggled his phone in my direction. “I keep up with the memes.”

In case you’re wondering about my choice of photos, this is what happens when your son is playing a game and rather than do as you ask and send a nice selfie tells you to just go into his phone and find one 🙂

raising a family on little more than laughs

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