Home, not alone: Re-entry

The return to the classroom was meant to be a return to normal. But then it wasn't. Ruairi O'Duil tells of the bumpy ride of re-entry, getting back on course, and the lessons for all of us.

Well, that was a hard re-entry. 

One of the (many) movies I watched during lockdown was First Man, the story of Neil Armstrong’s journey to the Moon and back. I remember thinking, watching it, that they literally landed on the moon in a tin can. It reminded me of trips in my mother’s rust bucket cars in the 70s. But instead of seeing Irish country road potholes through the holes in the floor, they had to risk being cooked alive by the friction flames of re-entry. 

This week, I knew how they felt. 

The last few weeks have been a glide path to re-entering the real world.

Tuesday the 9th of June hung like the pearlescent azure jewel on the horizon, and it’s luminance blurred all the hard won agreements and conventions. Schooling commitment slackened. Parent and child both losing the willingness to persist in the face of the up-rushing finishing line.  

‘I’m finished.’ 

‘You can’t be, you’ve only been at it for an hour and a half.’

‘I am.’ 

‘Okay. You’ll be in class next week. Everything will be sorted out then.’

Ha. Diving for the line too soon. Rookie mistake. 

Tuesday the 9th wasn’t the finishing line. It was a just the outer reaches of the atmosphere.  

A smooth initial approach. The Dancer was up, uniformed and hair combed, breakfasted, lunch made and bag packed, and hopping from foot to foot in eagerness.

All by 7:50am.  

It takes seven minutes to get to our school and we’re now not allowed to arrive before 8.55. 

Can’t wait to be back, baby. 

Wednesday, the ride started to get bumpy. 

By Thursday, we were crashing and burning. Flames were licking the inside of the cockpit.  

It was almost terminal meltdown. 

The realisation dawned on The Dancer that everything wasn’t going to be just the same as it was before. And that wasn’t fair. 

It was almost too much to bear. 

It took an awful lot of holding and hugging and a really deep Reflexology session. 

It took talking and talking about ‘feelings’. Which isn’t a comfortable room for him to visit.   It took understanding that the world actually is insane at the moment and we can’t judge anxiety by the old world standards anymore. The old world is gone and we’re re-entering a brave new one.

This world is spinning off its axis now and being disturbed by all the uncertainty and turbulence is, in fact, a healthy response.

Being anxious right now is, in fact, a healthy sign.  

The lesson for us all is, as always, perspective.  

Sure, it’s okay to feel anxious, to try to control and to order and to protect and to hold on to the idea of how things should be.

But also we need to remember that we have spent the last months ‘compacting’ ourselves into little defensive hunkerings. By making ourselves smaller for such a sustained period, we have blinkered our ability to see things another way.  

Getting thrust back into the outside world, with a class full of other kids all trying to make sense of, and channel, and outlet their own anxieties was incendiary.  

Little wonder he melted. 

We helped him to lift his perspective. To maybe see that everyone is struggling to make sense of the new world. That the order and patterns aren’t always obvious if you look at them one way but can become clearer from a different perspective and it’s okay to just trust that they are there til time or understanding or growth or whatever reveals them to him. 

He, like the rest of us, will have to climb out of our bunkers, take responsibility for our needs and make a plan to rebuild our lives with our new learnings. 

But, for now, we’re still in the upper atmosphere but at least now it appears we’re in a space shuttle.  

One of the early ones, where they had to worry about the tiles flying off the nose cone as it heated up. 

But at least now we have wings.  

And if we stretch them a bit we might not crash. 


About Ruairi O'Duil

Ruairi O’Duil is a Melbourne reflexologist and father who has been offering his insights into family life during the pandemic. He’s just achieved his own re-entry, resuming his work at Reflexology Melbourne.