FROM the moment your first child arrives into the world, well-meaning souls will tell you how important it is to get them into a routine.

They should nap at the same time every day, preferably somewhere quiet and dark. Not too quiet though, because then they’ll only ever be able to sleep in absolute silence. And not too dark, because one day you’ll be somewhere without blackout blinds and then you’ll be in for a whole heap of trouble.

Then there’s the activities that are marketed as essential for raising a well-rounded child. Baby yoga. Bounce and rhyme. Those music classes where the poor wee sod dribbles over a maraca while being forced to endure the classical music that is apparently fertiliser for their milk-addled brains.

Most new parents nod along politely to this advice for the first few months and then the penny drops. You realise it’s all nonsense. Feed, sleep, change, repeat. Nothing else matters. We all work it out in the end.

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Then before you know it, they’re in their first school uniform, looking tidier than they ever have before and ever will again.

It’s a time full of emotion, tearful goodbyes and I-can’t-believe-my-baby-is-so-grown-ups. You brood for a good minute and a half and then the clouds part and you savour the sweet taste of freedom.

School is wonderful. Teachers are wonderful. Free childcare is wonderful.

This virus has a lot to answer for. Now the children are home – AT THE SAME TIME WE’RE HOME – and we’ve got to entertain them. We’ve got to fill their bottomless bellies and – Lord help us all – “home-school” them.

We’re in the middle of a pandemic. McDonald’s is shut. Pasta is being sold on the black market. We’re grateful for our once-daily trips outdoors for government-approved exercise. If this situation wasn’t so terrifying it would probably be funny.

Amidst this life-altering chaos, parents are feeling the pressure of trying to maintain a routine.

But nothing is as it was before. None of this is normal. We may all be complying with a whole new set of stringent rules, but that should also mean that some of the usual rules don’t apply.

That doesn’t stop social media over-achievers trying to impose them upon us. If I’ve got to read one more piece of advice telling me that I’ll feel better about this catastrophic event if only I get dressed in the morning and head for my designated work space, I might lose what’s left of my mind.

When it comes to home-schooling my six-year-old, I started with good intentions. I even wrote out a wee schedule.

It lasted a few hours and then I gave up. I’ve never stuck to a schedule in my life, I don’t know why I thought it would be possible when we’re living in what feels like a sci-fi disaster movie.

I can’t recreate school at home. I’ve not got the stamina or the patience and there’s no delivery slots available either, so I’ve not got any wine to help me through.

I can only try my best to make the next few months as fun as possible for her and emerge with my sanity in-tact.

So, the schedule is in the bin. I’ve given up trying to log-in to Google Classroom and I won’t be downloading any of the pricey learning apps her school recommended. I’m sticking to activities that she enjoys and – crucially – don’t make me want to bash in my own skull with a rolling pin. That rules out eye-spy, anything involving Hatchimals and the entire Mr Men series.

The key to home-schooling, I’ve learned, is to pretend that anything we do is part of our very own curriculum for excellence.

You’re hungry, AGAIN? Here, count out these raisins. That’s maths done for the day.

Fancy doing some kids yoga? I’ll sit on the couch and scroll Twitter for the latest death statistics and we’ll call it PE. You want to tell me the same joke you’ve told me every day for the last week? Great drama lesson!

On and on it goes. She picks up a dead worm from the ground and we call it science. We build a castle out of a cardboard box and that’s history AND construction ticked off the list.

I give her stickers for everything and it is looking likely that she’ll be named Star of the Week.

So far, we’ve got through half a litre of PVA glue and the house is looking only marginally less dishevelled than I am.

My daughter is clearly learning some new things from me though, because she’s taken to shouting “oh, BALLS!” when she gets paint on the tablecloth. I’ve been eating cheese for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

On social media, I see parents who are doing far “better” than I am. No doubt there will be some kids returning to school having learned a new language or two. To be honest, I’m just praying my kid doesn’t learn too many new swear words.

But we’re all coping, aren’t we? Sort of? We’re doing the best we can, whatever that looks like. Maybe next week I’ll get dressed. I’ll let my daughter choose my outfit and give her a sticker for her efforts.