Lockdown life becomes a series of routines

“I believe I can see the future

Cooking with kids – PHOTOS: Harry Hodge

'Cause I repeat the same routine

I think I used to have a purpose

Then again, that might have been a dream”

  • Every Day is Exactly the Same, Nine Inch Nails

Another year goes by, another lockdown thanks to Covid-19. 

As an expat living in Vietnam, with a wife and children to boot, getting through these various waves of the pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns come down to adhering to various routines. With my wife My and children Avery, 6.5, and Payton, 5, home with me day in and out, it’s important to give some sense of normality to the children who are, once again, away from their friends and teachers.

For Avery, who’s entering Grade One, her school (where I happen to work) has a four-day-a-week schedule with different teachers administering lessons for different subjects in English and Vietnamese. Of course, what people can do in their homes provides some limits; there won’t be any full-court basketball drills in our two-bedroom apartment. 

Normally those classes are in the morning, and when I’m not doing work of my own for the school, I teach Payton from my collection of textbooks and powerpoints while his sister studies. Kindergarteners have a pretty limited attention span, so Zoom or Google Meet classes aren’t really an option with that age group. Once the morning learning is out of the way, riding bicycles or rollerblading outside (masked) give a chance to get fresh air and leave our apartment.

Lunches are almost all made at home now, where we used to get takeout more often. That said, the lockdown of street markets and dismissal of sidewalk vendors led to today’s somewhat irritating development with empty shelves at a nearby supermarket. Most canned goods were available, but fresh vegetables had all been snapped up.

Our children are used to eating both Vietnamese and Western food, so it’s not too difficult to feed them if you know their likes and dislikes. They used to eat breakfast and lunch at school, but they also used to have a reason to get up early in the morning; I’m the human alarm clock in our household.

Empty supermarket shelves

In the afternoons, I teach the children a lesson together, mostly vocabulary lessons and fun videos to keep them interested. We also fire up workout videos for children, which can be challenging for four of us in our small living room; there have been a few times that we didn’t make it through the video.

In my case, between being on reduced hours at school and taking more care of the children, I do some copywriting on the side, tutoring online at night, and my weekly gig reading news for the Saigon Times website. My wife has various side interests at well, so the drop in our incomes hasn’t been too major. As well, we don’t really go anywhere so our spending is down.

The tedium is the part that I fight to keep from creeping in. If the children get routines that they can come to expect, the return to school will be less jarring, whenever it happens to be.

It’s a drag to not be able to interact with my wife’s family much anymore, our in-laws live on the other side of town so we don’t get to see them. We also used to take trips to places like Bao Loc or Nha Trang every couple of months in the past; that’s been put on hold.

That said, those trips will be more exciting when they can resume. I haven’t been to Canada since 2018, and my parents miss seeing their grandchildren in person, so I look forward to the day we are getting off a plane in Toronto and catching up with family there. In the meantime, keeping our eyes on the prize will get us through this latest lockdown.