Will it be a happy new year? Depends who you are talking to… | Eva Wiseman

Glad tidings look quite different if you’re addressing a parent compared to a Tory MP, or a lockdown pet owner…

This week I have been wishing people a happy new year so regularly and so earnestly that the phrase has chipped off in my mouth and come loose like a bad tooth. I need to put it together again, piece by piece. It requires elaboration, this year more than most, because a happy new year for me may be an entirely awful one for you, and if the pandemic has taught us anything beyond the benefits of opening a window, it is clear and present empathy. So, to clarify:

Happy new year to you if you’re a parent of a primary school-age kid. Yours has been a year lived as if sleeping with one hand in warm water, leaping up desperately at regular intervals convinced you’ve pissed yourself. Being the parent of a young child is stressful at the best of times. At the worst of times it is a struggle akin to trying to cross a motorway in bare feet after too much coffee. The year 2020 saw you teaching them trigraphs while nodding along to a Zoom meeting on mute. Then 2021 saw you watching their classmates’ positive test results flash up on your WhatsApp while nodding along to a Zoom meeting on mute. As you gratefully offered your arm for a vaccine, then another, then another little one for luck, each sharp scratch a little crumb of Valium, your young children were still waiting for their first. Were trotting alongside you, reeling off facts about photosynthesis or how to make purple, every now and then stopping to quietly note the unmasked status of a stranger. Were waking in the middle of the night from surreal nightmares where death arrived on a crowded bus or where they were the monster. It was not a case of whether Covid would visit your house, it was a case of when. Where’s Covid? Is it behind the tree? No! Is it under the rug? No! Is it sweeping through the school canteen like the smell of chips? You’ll find out on Friday. I wish you a new year of vaccinations and small relaxations, and a gradual slowing of your very tapping leg.

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