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Looking back and looking forward

By: MAIRE CORBETT

Tuesday 22 December 2020

As we approach the end of another year, we traditionally tend to take stock of the year that has passed and look forward to the new year in anticipation. We reflect on what we want to change perhaps and what we want to continue into the new year to come. 

But if this year has taught us anything it’s that many of the things we consider vital, are not in fact vital. Planning is important, but being open to change, being adaptable is more important.

This time last year my colleague Kathleen and I would have discussed the posts we would include in the Scéalta blog for 2020. We spoke about the guest bloggers we would ask to contribute, how we would promote our fantastic conference in March and capture the excitement of the awards. The term COVID-19 did not enter our thoughts at all, how could it! But take a look at the right- hand side of this screen (if you are viewing on a laptop) and you will see the tag COVID-19 appears THIRTEEN times! 

And those thirteen blogs are mainly posts that show the flexibility, the willingness to adapt, the desire to keep in touch with the children and families that you, our members, demonstrated so much in those weird, surreal days of March, April and May. The stories we heard this year of connection, of the desire to support families and to make your settings even nicer places for children to be were many and varied. In the early days the donations to hospitals and residential care were generous and really displayed the spirit of ‘We are all in this together’. And as we reopened, the sheer hard work and commitment of the owners, manager, educators and ancillary staff to maintain a happy, safe, healthy, familiar place for children and their families was tremendous. If you haven’t looked at the Reopening Stories on our website, take a minute to do so now. And of course, we know that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The vital nature of the services provided to families by all Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare settings all over the country was highlighted to everyone when those settings were closed during lockdown. Parents who were already under pressure trying to adjust to working from home also had to juggle the needs of their children, who were missing friends and the routine of school or creche.

But along with the frustrations of this: the baby needing a feed just as the Zoom call started, the dog barking just as your presentation was due to begin – there was also in many cases a feeling of having more time. Not having a commute meant more family time, a slower tempo that suited many. The frantic pace of life slowed down for those months, which gave opportunities to hear the birds sing, see the buds unfurl, go for walks within our 2km zone and notice the things in our vicinity. Much reduced traffic made these walks even more pleasant.

Unfortunately, also, we know for some people that homes were stressful and this enforced period at home was very pressurised and volatile. The opening up of the country in June gave respite to these families and perhaps access to support services that were harder to reach when the restrictions were at their height. It is really upsetting to think that the safe haven home should be is not the case for all children.

So as the vaccine is coming closer and we hope 2021 will eventually bring a return to some semblance of normality, we look forward to travel again and going for a night out will be less restricted. And we can look forward to hugs! But take a minute to think about what aspects of these months might be things we will try to keep in our lives. And then let go of the rest!

We in Early Childhood Ireland salute all of you who have worked so hard this year. It has been tough to manage the understandable anxiety of colleagues and parents and to maintain services. The requirements are already onerous without a pandemic. Add that to the mix and 2020 really has been a non-stop challenge. The Scéalta team and all in Early Childhood Ireland wish you all a healthy happy Christmas. We hope you get to have fun with your nearest and dearest and will treasure the memories of Christmas past and of those no longer with us this year.

See you in 2021 and we hope it is a more stable year, when the valuable work of our sector is increasingly recognised and appreciated.

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