Eva Hilberg By: Eva Hilberg
Post-Doctoral Fellow
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06 Jul 2020 : First day back

It's the first day back at daycare, it's 10 am, and it already feels like it's been a long day. Everything is ever so slightly different yet again, which is surprisingly unsettling after all the other (more disruptive) changes that have already taken place. We dropped off an excited child at daycare, at a side door that now has yellow marks spray-painted on the floor to enable distancing. We've got to wear masks and have to hand her over at the door, as we are no longer allowed to enter the building. All this is of course put in place in order to make the whole situation as safe as possible, but (as always) these regulations have effects in reality that are hard to predict when they are only a few lines on a piece of paper. In our daycare group there was a lot of discussion about the availability of hot lunches - there aren't any anymore and parents are of course concerned that children will go hungry this way - and while this debate was raging on Whatsapp I never even thought about the dropping off procedure.

Dropping off a two year old at the gates of a room to which she has not been in months involves a lot of screaming and tears, even when said child was excitedly asking about going back to her group for about a week. Everybody wearing masks probably does not help. In comparison to her previous settling-in period, this time around we will not have any of the mechanisms that previously defused the situation - you cannot sit in the corner of the room for a few minutes until she acclimatises, you cannot go and show her some of the toys that she always enjoyed playing with, you cannot chat with the carer in any meaningful way as you hover on the threshold. These are - of course - relatively minor issues in the grand scheme of things, but they matter nonetheless on the level of an individual child. And there is a larger lesson hidden in these small wrinkles in our new normality. Whenever the state sends out new rules for behaviour, they appear entirely reasonable on paper (and they mostly are), but the reality of their implementation is a challenge with unforeseen dimensions. This does not mean that all these rules should be suspended - in fact, recent numbers from countries which have re-opened quickly clearly show that rules such as these help contain the situation - but it illuminates the scale on which new behavioural technologies operate. The interpersonal scale, to be precise, is both minute and enormous in its effects in everyday life. Maybe this explains the otherwise entirely inexplicable amount of resistance against small-scale measures such as wearing a cloth mask while shopping.

Now, back at the computer, I realise that for the first time in many months I am actually alone - it's much too silent around the house - and despite all my complaining over the past weeks and months I am already looking forward to picking her up again soon.

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