Life in Denmark has come to a pause as the country, like the rest of the world, tries to stop the spread of the coronavirus. It’s a strange old time. I haven’t always known what to write on here because on the one hand, we’re very lucky. We have our health, we are together as a family of four, our friends and family are all fine and although most things are closed down in Copenhagen, we can still go outside. (Note: we are being careful about this and not venturing far or for long and most days stick to the courtyard.)
But then the other side is that life got stopped in its tracks. I was heading towards my PD3 final Danish exam, enjoying speaking with more Danes and having a bit of freedom after 17 months of looking after Sofia full time. Sofia had settled into her lovely nursery, Lydia was thriving at børnehave, Richie was enjoying his travelling across Scandinavia. We had trips around Denmark planned, friends and family visits booked, a wedding and Easter break in England to look forward to, play dates for the girls. And it all stopped suddenly. Overnight we became pretty much housebound, minus playing in the courtyard (which horrah for!) and some small walks or bike rides, while trying to stay away from people.
Rich and I don’t have much free time. Feeding a 4 and nearly 2 year old at what feels like hourly intervals, clearing up that food, wiping bottoms, changing nappies, playing, baking, reading, singing, tidying some more, all day every day from Monday-Friday while Rich tries to work full time in that same small space – it’s quite full on. And then the weekend comes and I work. But the key is to accept this new normal. It’s not bad, it’s just different. It’s busy but in a different way. And of course it’s all completely necessary.
So two weeks into it, we have found our new normal. Each morning, after Cosmic Kids Yoga, the girls and I pretend we’re at børnehave. I have discovered this is the key to getting Lydia to speak Danish and allowing me to join in with her. She usually has a clear language divide: Danish with friends and at børnehave; English at home, except for some Danish bedtime stories. When I try to speak Danish outside of bedtime or now “børnehave” play, she asks what I’m doing. I reply, “to keep learning and practicing Lydia.” Her most recent response to this was: “Just leave it to me mummy.” !!
So, when we pretend we’re at børnehave, we start with “samletid.” This is what her class does every morning and it translates as together time. They check everyone is there and then put their hands up to suggest a song to sing. After singing three/four songs, they are asked what day, date, month and season it is. I knew nothing of this until Lydia started doing it all in Danish, taking the role of the pædagog. I heard her say words I never knew she’d learnt and sing songs I’ve never heard before. It really is quite strange to now have a 4 year-old so fluent in another language that she has learnt all by herself, in a setting we’re not part of. When Danes hear her talk, they can’t tell she’s English. She’s remarkable. So having this time now, where Lydia tolerates my Danish and we speak together, with Sofia too, is really special. Sofia, at nearly two, can also say quite a few Danish words. It is more automatic for her to say certain phrases in Danish rather than in English, such as “nej”, “mere,” “hej hej” or “farvel.” She even said “mor” in the middle of the night recently. Some people have commented how her sounds are more like Danish than English – she has really picked it up quickly considering she’s not a vuggestue for many hours.
As my official Danish lessons have halted, I’m trying to practice and keep motivated in other ways. I am doing Facetime calls with my Danish volunteer, which is so helpful to remind my brain of how to pronounce words. It is also helping him as he’s quite isolated right now. I’ve found a sweet Danish children’s programme that I watch with the girls for 15 minutes in the afternoon (Kasper og Sofie on DTTV). There’a also “morgensang” on DR1 every morning at 0900, to get the nation to stretch and then sing a Danish song to start the day. My recent work during the weekends involves some translating of Danish news, which I am reading more than ever because of the frequent lockdown measures. So it’s a different kind of language learning that isn’t as intense but keeps my brain slowly ticking over.
I’m getting exercise in the afternoon by running laps of the courtyard while Lydia cycles next to me and Sofia plays in the sandpit. Lydia is now a pro on her bike, as she cycles around the courtyard every day.
We’re eating brilliantly due to Richie’s amazing cooking and our almost daily baking.
Lydia and Sofia are closer than ever and playing so well together – most of the time!
The House Party app means I’m having regular catch ups with my friends.
Rich and I have started watching more Netflix programmes together because we are both in need of switching off at the end of the day!
We also know everyone is in this together. If we were back in England, we wouldn’t be seeing people or my parents. We are in a safe place and we just have to ride it out and embrace the situation it’s put us in.
My thoughts are with all those on the front line, doing an incredible job of looking after the vulnerable. Those who are unwell, or with friends and family in hospital. Those who are on their own for an unknown period of time. And parents who both have to work full-time but also look after children. It’s difficult to know what this will all look like on the other side and when that will be. But this is life for now.