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WFH, a child’s play? May be not from an actual 4-year old child’s point of view! The context is a virus-forced lockdown in my daughter’s home in Chennai and my son-in-law’s WFH for a major bank. The 4-year old (my granddaughter) aka the Child is trying to make sense of it all. I am too! But more than that, I am also keenly observing how the Child is making sense of the situation.

It is not as if the Child is totally new to dad’s WFH from time to time. But this time around it seems different – an every-day affair. Earlier it was mostly evening conference calls, dad walking around with ear phones and doing other chores while apparently participating in the discussions! Now, he is in shorts and T-shirt every day from morning till night, either on the phone or staring at the laptop. And he hardly stirs from the sofa in the living room except for meals and breaks. What’s going on, the Child wants to know. Trying to answer, one gets stumped explaining “virus” to the Child. Adults in the house tell her that these are like harmful insects (“poochees” in Tamil) and that is why nobody is going out of the building and dad is also not going to office. The Child thought about the insects she knew like ants, cockroaches etc. – all very visible and not appearing so threatening. Anyway, she has taken the adults’ word for it. That is the sole explanation she has got from adults anyway!

The next thing that has puzzled the Child is why dad is always working from one particular sofa in the living room. This was a bit difficult to explain to her. You see, the home like most others, is not really designed for extended WFH. There is really no provision of space or furniture quite suitable for office work. Also, the WiFi signal is good only in select places in the house. So, it is best to select a good spot for comfort and connectivity and stay put – in this case the living room sofa! The Child, having had the run of the place all this time now finds that the living room has become a restricted area. All because of some fixation of dad for a particular sofa, the Child believes.

The Child also finds dad’s “office work” a bit puzzling. Sometimes he is open to her interrupting him and even welcoming the interruptions! At other times, he would look at the clock, become very serious and get on the phone, packing the Child away to another room. And there is so much talking as part of dad’s work, the Child observes! Talk, Talk, Talk and not much Do, Do, Do it appeared! She tells me even her LKG classroom was so much more activity and fun…

There were some less puzzling and more enjoyable aspects also for the Child. The frequent hand washing is fun – she has become quite thorough at it often doing it for more than the recommended 20 seconds! She loves the fact that the house is full of people to play with – bonanza of having all grandparents together at the same time.

Some of the Child’s questions are not easy to answer, no doubt. Even “simple” ones like when would she start on her new UKG class or what is the plan for her fifth birthday coming up a couple of months. I continue to be fascinated – by the Child’s questions and her curiosity. I try to read her mind as well to see how she figures things out – how accurately is anybody’s guess!

For adults, heightened uncertainty seems to bring in disproportionate anxiety and stress. Adults know that this is futile and yet cannot help it, it seems. The Child, in contrast, seems to accept making sense to whatever extent possible and not worry too much about the rest. Is it just innocence or faith in adults or God or Nature? Who can say for sure?

ShivK