This weekend marked the point in which social distancing (or voluntary isolation) began to feel very, very real. And it is funny, because ordinarily, the week running up to this can be a Clergy Spouse nightmare! I remember my past two blogs about Holy Week- namely, Wholly Weak and the Beaster Holidays, (clues are in the titles!)- and I know I should really, really count my blessings. There is an awful lot to be thankful for, having all of these services and events cancelled! However… I am also a follower of Jesus, within these service communities, and, despite my more cynical self, I really did miss my Church family this weekend. Don’t get me wrong, there was a lot going on online; but gathering- physically and geographically- with other believers and celebrating the key events at the very heart of our faith is so special, and so important… and so sorely missed.
Which is a good point to arrive at, I suppose?! Let none of us leave this place unchanged, huh?
In the morning we helped Husband film another All Age service- another fun social media experiment for the here and now. Fearing a far-too-comical-for-the-situation-faux-pas, I sat the kids out for the story and brought them back in for the commentary. Which all worked well, until Husband attempted to end the whole thing with a reflective moment “at the cross”. He held a cross to the screen, head down, while I took the noisy ones out of the room. Unbeknown to either of us, however, the eldest child then hovered behind said cross for a full five minutes, chewing bread with her mouth open and staring gormlessly down the camera!
I mean, I know, it shouldn’t be funny. But it was VERY funny. And I’m inclined to think God is cool with that, in its innocence, even on Good Friday…
Ok. Saturday played out like a 4D model of my up and down faith, parenting, anxiety and marriage- in a nutshell- and I’ve been debating how much of it to share with you. This is as real as it gets, folks. So, here goes:
On Saturday morning I realise that Andrew Lloyd Webber has released Jesus Christ Superstar on YouTube for this weekend only. I tell Husband that I don’t feel comfortable watching it with the kids until I’ve seen it first. Good Mummy. Time gets on and somewhere, at some point in the day, I change my mind. Out of nowhere. (Or out of someone else’s – childless- review on Facebook. As you do.) Bad Mummy. I ask Husband, “it’s a musical, how bad can it be?!” (As you’ve gathered, we are theatre people, an arts family; it is both our triumph and our downfall!) So, pizza night comes and we settle down to watch it. As a family. And it is… NOT FOR CHILDREN. At all. (Nor, I might add, people who love The Bible and follow Jesus as their risen Lord and Saviour and you know, kinda base their lives on that version of events?!) Anyway. Easy mistake? Sure…. The mess up is how long it takes us to turn it off. We keep waiting for it to get better. It doesn’t. Finally, eventually, after far too long, we turn it off. The following few hours then play out an all-too-familiar scenario in our household:
Husband shrugs off the incident and forgets about it within five minutes. He doesn’t think the kids were even watching it, really, has zero concerns about their mental scarring, image of Jesus and emotional wellbeing. “They’re fine- get over it.”
Wife attempts an overcomplicated explanation about the authority of the Bible on the character of Jesus and the creative purposes of art; cries; is sent upstairs out of the way by Husband, where she cries some more, laments her parental ineptitude and prays fervently for the eternal Spiritual welfare of her entire family. Standard.
Husband puts the kids to bed while wife begs God for an opportunity to wipe clean the memories of the evening. God delivers. The older kids won’t sleep, so we jump at the chance let them stay up. We are taking part in a campfire vigil at 8pm, where we will be joining others in the Church to remember Jesus’ first appearance to His disciples on Easter Sunday. We light a fire in the back garden, make hot chocolate, read the Bible and celebrate the resurrection. Half way through the service, the Boy gets bored, so I take him into the front garden to look at the stars, (he’s been desperate to do this since his sister bragged about it yesterday!) While lying cuddled up on the grass outside, we see not one but TWO shooting stars!
It is a very special, very memorable evening. We put them to bed happy; Husband hugs me, says he loves me, reassures me that I am indeed the best mother for our particular offspring, and is absolutely sure that we have put an end to that episode. Because he did 5 hours ago.
I don’t sleep at all, all night. Despite the change in atmosphere, despite clear forgiveness, despite every assurance in the Bible not to detract a single hour from your life by worrying… my mind will not let me rest.
Sometimes, most times, it seems the hardest person to forgive is yourself.
Even on Easter Sunday.
Today, however, is not about me.
Today we pray for help delivering the most joyful experience of the first Easter we can manage to communicate online. (Worth pointing out- we are all tone deaf and the use of music is never an option!) Husband wants us all to burst out of a box. Despite the fact that I think this is a lame idea which will undoubtedly go wrong, I also point out that we only have one box. Yep. This one:
NOT the message we are going for!
Still, God delivers, in unexpected ways…
The plan is to act out the story with drama. As the plan involves small children, however, that doesn’t happen. One disappears off screen with no explanation, while another strips off all of her clothes! I spend most of the time filming the bush in the corner of the garden, explaining to live viewers that I can’t turn the camera around as there is a naked child on the loose! Eventually, Husband- who is supposed to be playing Jesus- catches said child and manages to hold her still long enough to finish the performance- but can’t be on screen. “Look!” I improvise with the eldest, “Jesus has risen, He’s just standing… over there… out of view!”
Not as planned, but it did bring joy all the same!
In the afternoon, after the obligatory egg hunt, I manage to grab an hour to myself and watch a YouTube service produced by, what I like to call “my sending Church.” In Vicar-speak, that’s the Church who put you forward for ordination. In my case, it’s my first ever Church family; the Church where I first found Jesus; where I spent my first Easter as a Christian; and where I was taught and invested in during my first few years as a follower. As such, it remains to be a very special and significant place- and group of people- to me, and I never, ever expected to be able to worship with them on Easter Sunday ever again! But… there you go. Despite the death and impending poverty, this Covid Lockdown does have some very surprising perks! Suddenly, the internet is a wonderful thing.
Woohoo! Husband has the next three days off!
The temptation with at-home holidays is definitely to use him for childcare whilst I clean the house, finish projects and basically just escape. In a determined effort not to do this, we make some fake passports and an aeroplane and decide to go travelling instead!
First stop, chosen by the kids, is Italy. We find flight simulators and virtual tours online; eat pizza, pasta and gelato; make flags, learn some traditional dance, play football, paint, draw, watch Pinocchio – heck, we even make a gondola in the living room out of a sledge!
At the end of the day, the kids cry that they “don’t want to go home!”
And do you know what? Neither do I!
In the morning we make postcards for the grandparents while Husband sleeps off Holy Week, and then pack our bags for India! There is such a scurry around the house for passports and swim gear and crocs that I almost feel like this is real! And the kids definitely believe it.
We have our passports stamped and fly over India; make roti bread for lunch (it fails, so we quickly fry up some packaged tortillas and the kids are none the wiser!) We then watch an Indian animal safari on YouTube, and walk up to the “woods” at the top of our street (who knew they were there?!) I skip ahead and hide some animals to find, and the kids play along with relish:
We come back to cook curry, play cricket, dress up and dance around the dinner table to a Bollywood Wedding playlist! This is all in all one of those evenings where I genuinely feel like I’ve never done anything quite as fun as dance in the kitchen with my kids while no one else is watching!
We eventually settle down to watch the Jungle Book and go to bed knowing that we are very, very blessed- with both an internet connection, and kids with such generous imaginations!
As per yesterday, we write our postcards in the morning while the Vicar grabs some rest (he’s let me rest earlier, you see!) The kids ask, again, “please can we stay in India, I really don’t want to go home!” Which is just too cute.
I remind them, however, that we’re not going home- durrrr!- today is all about Australia… And the weather is very, very kind for it! The sun is out, so we manage a few YouTube videos, have a BBQ, and play in the paddling pool… a much more relaxed kind of day, culminating in the Rescuers Down Under (What else?!). We do have a go at a bit of Aboriginal art…
And I DO spend the rest of the evening ogling vacancies in the Diocese of Australia…
Tentatively pray for a real adventure…
What a dangerous prayer to pray!
We begin the day with a 7am video call to my beautiful BFF in Sydney! She gets the kids to check her chair for spiders and tells them all about her school, whilst I also get to learn about laser hair removal and talk about grown up things! It’s a win/win kind of morning.
We follow it up with a slow day writing postcards and walking to the post box, (during which I do wonder if the government factor in the real-time length of a “ten minute walk” with small children, into our allotted one hour’s exercise?!)
By Friday I am feeling the full on come-down effects of Husband being back at work, (and drowning under a sea of emails); the house being filthy and neglected, (because we chose to have fun during the week instead); and the realities of trying to home educate with a toddler on the loose.
I tell the kids they can play all day while I clean; they don’t want to. “We miss Mummy school!” They beg. And like a sucker, I fall for it. I quickly plan some stuff and sit down to help them. It strikes me that my almost-five-year old is devouring learning like a dog; he’s going to be so far advanced by September, so, so ready for school, compared to his not-turned-four-yet companions. On the other-hand, however, I am also painfully aware that my six-year-old is not doing anywhere near the level of reading and writing that my younger, only-child niece is doing! Let alone any of the kids in her class with older siblings. One-to-one attention and independent learning just isn’t achievable at present. I find myself wondering, just how big are the gaps going to be when the kids get back to school? How far on or off the line are my own kids going to fall? How do we not get overwhelmed by this?!
“Mummy, Little is weeing on the table.”
“What? What table?! Where is she?!”
Yep. She’s standing on the garden table, legs spread, peeing buckets and smiling at me. There are no chairs around it. I have NO IDEA how she got up there.
Crikey. I think, truth be told, we’re all a little bit scared of her?!
Better fix that fast… If, for no other reason, than my house, (which we should have moved out of yesterday), is starting to smell like a rabbit hutch…
Post clean-up the scholars have disappeared; but any attempt to clean while they play is met with incident- usually involving some secret stash of Sudacream. Eventually I give up, until the evening, by which point the energy is just gone. I sneak upstairs with the hoover and a handful of Swizzler sweets I found at the back of a cupboard. As you do. Unfortunately, however, I break my front tooth cap on a chalky lolly while pigging out and will now have the front-chipped evidence of my greed and sugar-dependency at the front of my face until I can get to a dentist!
At the end of this week:
One month down. Three more weeks of lockdown officially added, but the expectation of any more to come…
A happy, blessed, frustrating, stinky, topsy, turvy, upsy downy, life to keep on navigating!
We will do it, we will get through it, thanks for sticking around!