My four-year-old, Tara, looked at me in horror.
‘Mummy are you going to die? Do you have the ’ronavirus?’ she asked.
COVID-19 meant Mummy and Daddy were working from home, kindy was closed, swimming lessons were off, and playtime with her pals was off the table.
How confronting for a four-year-old, I thought.
She’d heard us speaking about it, but I wondered how I was going to explain it to her so she understood.
Tucking Tara and her sister, Allegra, two, in that night, we snuggled up in bed.
‘Make up a story, Mummy!’ they begged.
This is it! I thought.
I could frame the pandemic in a way that’d make sense for little ears.
It’d been so difficult to explain to them why we couldn’t go next door to have afternoon tea with our elderly neighbours, who the girls adored and called Gran and Pop.
So, as they listened intently, I spun a tale about a naughty character called Rona who makes kids play hide-and-seek, and chases after people, especially old folks like Gran and Pop!
‘It’s like a game of hide-and-seek; At home I stay all day. I cannot go near friends or Grandad; Or Rona will know the way!’ I rhymed.
As the girls giggled and added bits to the story, Tara’s fears were being put into perspective.
In the end, we decided that Rona would eventually go away, and despite it all, she’d never steal our fun!
That was a good mummy moment, I thought, afterwards.
As a parent, you can wonder if you’ve said the right thing. This time, I had no doubt.
Then, I had an idea.
The story helped ease my kids’ worries. Maybe it could help other children too.
What if we put this into a book? I thought.
With the girls’ help, I’d basically written the story already. And I knew just the kid to illustrate it – Tara!
The next day, my artistic girl started to draw Rona.
‘How fast do you think Gran can run?’ I overheard the girls debating.
Then, Tara drew our neighbour, who is in her 80s, sprinting away from the virus!
‘Does Rona come down the chimney like Santa?’ Tara wanted to know, furiously drawing.
‘What kind of dog does Rona have?’ she also asked, before answering herself.
‘Rona doesn’t have very long legs – she has a little dog,’ she decided.
Tara drew her daddy doing video conference calls in his PJs and me going mad in isolation, curly hair frizzy and wild.
‘Mummy has cray-cray hair!’ the girls giggled.
How many other mums are going cray-cray at home? I thought.
This picture aptly represented us all!
I’d told the girls the story on Sunday night. By Thursday, it was written and illustrated.
Scanning in Tara’s drawings, I used a program on my laptop to put together our book, Rona Stole My Fun!: The Four Year Old vs the Virus.
I self-published it and made it available to buy online.
It’d been on sale for just over 24 hours when I pulled up the website to see how it was selling.
That can’t be right, I thought, gobsmacked.
Our book had already hit number one in its category on Amazon!
‘I’m an im-ustrator,’ Tara proudly says.
Grabbing some groceries at the IGA one day, Allegra spotted her big sister on the front page of the paper.
‘My Tara!’ she smiled, grabbing a copy, only to reveal another copy of the paper underneath.
Picking that up too, she saw the next one had her big sister on it as well, so she tried to take them all!
Allegra’s not the only one impressed with her sister’s work. The reviews were also coming in thick and fast.
This helped to explain to my little girl why our lives are a bit different at the moment, one parent wrote.
Sitting side by side on the couch, the girls read the book out in a sing-song. But the last line is their favourite.
‘Rona tried, but she could not steal our FUN!’
Together, we’ll show that naughty virus who’s boss!
The book is dedicated to Chandra's cousin Stacey Furner, who was a much-loved school principal and kindy teacher at a prestigious Sydney school. Sadly, Stacey passed away in February from cancer, aged just 52. 'There was no one better than her in the world,' Chandra said.