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In Queensland, the children are, in the most part, back at school. Much to the relief of those parents who have been attempting to work from home themselves. Maybe it has instilled new respect for the work that teachers do, not just having to be responsible for the few children of their own, but entire classes of children. It is not as though the teachers have been having some kind of “holiday” during this time. Preparing and marking online lessons is a new and arduous experience for them, whilst for parents or grandparents, motivating and supervising the little darlings, as you may have discovered, can be a challenge.

At the time of writing this article, however, several states are not as fortunate as Queensland. They are still not allowed to hand over their little angels to the professionals.

Amongst these are my son and daughter-in-law in Victoria, who for the past few months have been coping with their three primary school-age daughters, two miscreant kittens, and their own demanding jobs.

They are fortunate in that every member of the household has their own computers, iPads, tablets etc. They are well aware that not everyone is so fortunate as to be able to afford all these devices, however, all of their children are IT literate.

I was speaking on the phone to my son, who sounded more than usually weary and he began telling me the latest news. Two triumphs; the 6-year-old was returning to Grade 1. Phew! During her time at home, they had managed to teach her how to read and she was now a confident little reader for her age. She knew her phonics and numbers before starting school and so it was a matter of encouragement and practice. I wondered how she would feel about being the only one of her sisters who had to return to school, but apparently, she could not wait to show off her new-found skills. She also writes me sweet little notes saying that she loves me. She has also been known to leave notes for members of the family that have displeased her saying that she hates them. The Uses of Literacy have not escaped her!

The nine-year-old is what my son terms his “quiet achiever”. She simply collects her allotted work, goes into her bedroom and does not come out until it is all accomplished. She then occupies herself for the rest of the day. A dream.

The eldest girl, 12 years, is not quite so easy. She is a Questioner. Way beyond asking where babies come from, two years ago, she was asking me the difference between a castrato and a countertenor. She was relieved to learn that unlike the former, the latter had retained all his “bits” and that their speaking voice was quite normal. I was also able to reassure her that castratos belonged to history.

Recently she has asked her Father to explain Communism as against Socialism, and said she wanted to read Animal Farm by George Orwell.

My son asked me to email her some kind of study guide to help her with the novel, which I have done. She retired to her room and read the novel and is now following my guide. I have taken the precaution of posting her a copy of Jane Eyre to further keep her occupied.

Ah yes, the miscreant kittens. The kittens are Blue Russians, two brothers from the same litter and have been named Franc and Dmitri in honour of their heritage. As well as the usual expenses that are incurred in taking on pets, desexing etc. Franc and Dmitri have added others.

One evening, the wife of my son placed the flowers that she had received on the mantle-piece in the lounge room. In the middle of the night, she heard a crash and got up from her bed to find the kittens had achieved what she had thought was impossible. They had climbed up on the mantlepiece and knocked the vase on to the floor. The vase was broken into smithereens and the water spilt all over the floor. There was only the sound of heavy breathing from the bedroom so she knew it was up to her to clear up the mess. This she did so there was no danger of cut feet in the morning. The flowers she put in the kitchen sink to be dealt with later and went back to bed.

She was hoping to be met with tea and toast on awakening, it was Mother’s Day, but instead, she was met with lots of questions. The flowers were on the kitchen floor and showed signs of having been given a good chew. Franc and Dmitri again. What kind of flowers were they? Some kind of Asian Lilies which Dr Google informed my son was Toxic to Cats.

Instead of having a lie-in and breakfast-in-bed my poor daughter-in-law spent the morning sat in the car waiting to see the emergency Vet.

After three days in the Vet’s animal hospital and the paying of an enormous bill, the kittens were collected by the relieved family.

Have the kittens learnt any better behaviour? My son seems to doubt it.

First day back at school. Further mischief.