If the three R’s of fundamental education and future-proofing our children are Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic, and the three R’s of guiding basic principles in sustainable actions are Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle, then perhaps the three R’s we have had to embrace during the unexpected events of this year, 2020, might be Rules, Routines and Rituals, the essential practices that have kept us all safe and connected.
This year, our collective need to be resilient and flexible has been put to the test. More so than other years in most of our living memories, this year has revealed our capacity to collaborate and conform; and through this all our common learnings have been unexpected, amplified and life-changing.
For me, 2020 has awarded Australia a gold medal in modelling how best to behave during a national disaster and a global pandemic. We are a nation susceptible to and at risk of extraordinary threats, at home and away; and we have had to reimagine our lives, paying attention to the smallest of details and all of the facts and figures presented to us. We have done this by abiding by the rules that our government has mandated, following reliable and predictable routines that keep us functioning, and developing meaningful rituals and practices that enhance our days and wellbeing.
2020 started off in a blaze of fire, fear and fury – images and stories that deeply impacted the psyche of our rural towns and urban cities – we witnessed day-to-day acts of kindness, of ordinary people emerging as heroes when our country was near paralysed by nature’s angry warning. As we rallied to restore our country from this national natural disaster, we had to gather our strength and resolve and brace ourselves for the increasing threat of a global pandemic that took its grip on our world, wreaking havoc one might only equate to a world war.
Now, as we near the end of this tumultuous year, we seem stronger, braver and bolder. Our children are more adaptable, self-reliant, and more attuned to others around them. Families have had to become more resourceful, more creative and more cohesive. Parents have had to reach out to their children’s schools, their community and to each other for ideas, assurance and support.
We have experienced the force and effectiveness of appropriate rules that are informed by facts and critical information; rules that are constantly changing as new evidence and data emerge. We notice the importance of relying on experts, and of communicating regularly and sharing reasons and strategies openly and clearly; we are kept safe by these rules, and our adherence to the regulations has ushered in excellent results and our ‘lucky country’ reputation remains truly intact.
We have all benefited from the daily routines, knowing where to go, what to do, how to think of others, when to stop. Many of us have had to change our routines to accommodate and reflect the state-wide rules. The routines have provided the external order to our possibly worried and confused selves, offering us the chance to feel calm and contained. The daily routines continue to ensure our children feel safe and thought about. They are helpful and dependable and bring a normality and ordinariness to our days.
And then the little rituals that we embrace lift our spirits, zoom in to what matters, connects us to others and ourselves. These rituals are personal and intimate. They can be anything from the gratitude we feel when taking that first sip of coffee each morning or submerging into a soaking bath at the end of a day, or lighting Shabbat candles on a Friday evening. They are our moments when we can be truly present, engaged and mindful. They punctuate our day and our week with restorative encounters.
I have observed that these three R’s of safety have highlighted the importance of slowing down, of thoughtful interactions, of staying connected in different ways. We have come to know first hand that when we feel we are not alone we are able to process and make sense of the challenges and difficulties; we are able to realign ourselves to a new normal because we are all in this together and we all belong to something greater than ourselves.
If one of our learnings through this year has been to acknowledge one another, to express thanks and to show gratitude as a way of deepening our connection, then, I believe, we have learnt greatly. In the spirit of this learning, I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge our Moriah family – to those of you who keep the wheels turning and who work quietly and tirelessly in the background, as well as our truly remarkable educators, who have shown up every day, with a smile and huge heart to welcome every child; to you our parents and grandparents for your trust and faith in us to attend to each child in the best way we know how; and of course to you, our beautiful children, thank you for reminding us how strong and capable and kind and thoughtful you are. Thank you for allowing us to be witness to your growth and your longing to be better, as you try to live a good and meaningful life in a very uncertain world.
As we farewell this year, I am sure we collectively hope and dream that 2021 will be an easier year, not only because there will be fewer unexpected external forces at play that we cannot control, but because we can unreservedly rely on our new collective growth and stronger, more profound connections.
About the author
Cathy Milwidsky is the Director of Early Learning and Development at Moriah College in Queens Park, NSW