I have to be honest, I am now writing this up 9 days later and haven’t the foggiest idea what we did. I won’t bore you with an attempt to remember… so let’s move on!
Oh, today I actually went to Church! (Via Zoom, of course, as the buildings are still closed). Husband had a very rare day off rota, so he did the “Faith at Home” bags with the kids and I sat in on the service. I don’t remember much about it at all to be honest- (except that they have thankfully stopped trying to sing!)- but it was just nice to join in. Husband really seemed to enjoy his time with the kids too, and they got an awful lot more out of the prepared resources than I usually do. (He says I’m too much of a teacher to cope with other people’s material. Which is probably a fair assessment at this stage!)
Today we walk along the canal with a friend and on into town. Toddler is incredibly sad about this and I feel bad. She’s grumpy and not in the mood to walk herself, but gets very frustrated in the pram too. I have the usual Mum-struggle between giving in and going home or persevering with the walk because I know the fresh air is good for both of us; (not to mention the conversation with a friend and the fact I do actually have an appointment in town that we need to get to!)
Finally, Toddler gives up the fight and goes to sleep in the pram; so my friend suggests we walk the longer route, as the path is ‘fine, except for the slight incline at the end.‘
It’s not. It is completely cobbled with huge, fat, old-fashioned cobbles, which wake up the Toddler and set off her sadness once again. (Which just goes to show, you can never trust the well-meaning opinion of anybody past the pram stage!) Lest we forget…
In the evening, Husband breaks some big family news. Somehow, in the midst of a global pandemic, a youth work volunteer from Germany has managed to fly over and find a host family to live with for three months. Unfortunately, however, those three months are up and she now needs somewhere new to live until January. We have a spare room with a brand new unslept in spare bed, kids who are fascinated by all things international and the right amount of extraversion to anticipate many perks in adding to our household bubble during a very isolated year. I am nervous, of course; our previous attempts at hospitality weren’t entirely successful (another story for another time), and the usual weekends-away and holidays-at-home that the volunteers usually disappear for won’t be happening. This young woman will be with us for six weeks or more, including the whole of Christmas. It’s a bigger ask than we envisioned for our first foray back into hosting, but where else is she going to go?
I nervously ring my parents and break the news to them. I mean, it’s not like we have any immediate plans for them to visit, but I had really hoped in my heart of hearts that they and my sister would get to stay at least once before we began using the room for anything else. But… five hundred people died of Coronavirus yesterday, after almost a month of businesses being forced to close again. There’s just no way, just no way at all that my family are going to be able to travel from one side of the country to the other before the end of January anyway is there?! That would be bonkers, now, wouldn’t it? Completely and utterly bonkers…
This morning, I left the School Parents WhatsApp Group. And… I think it might be the most empowering thing I’ve ever done?! I mean, I’ll go crawling back eventually, I’m sure, but … until the Eldest loses a jumper (or an eye), I really don’t need that kind of negativity in my life! I hummed and I haa’d about what it might look like and what people might think and then I thought… stuff it. What rules say you have to be in the ruddy thing if you don’t want to be?! The last thing I need right now is a pocket full of parent-copters nit-picking at a school I love and teachers I currently trust to take care of my children. The tiny seeds of doubt being thrown about in there were, quite frankly, upsetting my peace. So I pushed. the. button.
Bow taken. Thank you. I’m here all week.
On the way home from school, I two-metre-bump into Mum Crush, who is looking as busy and fabulous as ever. I ask her how she manages to be so busy with a toddler in tow and she replies, without a hint of Mum-guilt or apology or irony: “TV. Yeah we are at a really good stage now where the TV can hold her attention for a good couple of hours so it’s working really well!”
I mean… I skip home!
Without passing any kind of judgement on that kind of parenting, the confidence and the contentment is why she is Mum Crush. And the openness is why I feel on Cloud Nine this morning! I will never berate myself for neglecting the Tuff Tray again!
Later, we walk the canal with a friend and this time, Toddler loves it. She climbs every wall, counts every duck, talks to every passer-by and tantrums when it’s time to go home. I mean really, you never can tell.
Last night, the Government announced that they will lift lockdown measures for five days over Christmas- from the 23rd to the 27th of December- so that families can gather across three households, and are able to travel across the country to do so.
“Oh, that’s good news for you!” People drop into conversation.
But it’s not.
See, we have already- in the last twenty four hours!- agreed to have someone live with us until January.
I have already promised our Single Parent Social Bubble that they can come to our house for dinner on Christmas Day.
And you can’t just drop vulnerable people the moment you get a better offer.
Jesus wouldn’t like it!
Besides which, Husband has several services that week, a steady flow of funerals coming in and, despite his best efforts, Covid widows keep trying to shake his hand!
And so eventually, my mother and I agree and decide… It’s not worth the risk.
We can not in full conscience allow our families to travel here, knowing how many people we are going to come into contact with, whether we socially distance or not.
It makes no sense, but I still resent the government for putting that decision in our carefully-washed hands.
And while I don’t resent those we have chosen to ‘Bubble’ with, or Jesus, or the lifestyle He has called us to, or Husband’s job, or the things it entails… the weight of that responsibility weighs heavily today. And I sob. I sob so hard that my head aches and my stomach heaves. Up until now, this form of ‘giving’ has been somewhat mutually beneficial. Today, however, it feels sacrificial. Today I am thankful, but I am also counting the cost.
And it hurts.
In the meantime, of course, Husband deals with angry parishioners who can’t understand why there needs to be deep cleaning between services; demanding to know why they can’t go to Church more than once a day over Christmas! (I admit… I might resent those people just a tad…)
By today, I have gotten my head around the Christmas issue and started to block out that it was ever an option.
I’ve also ordered a new TV. Because nobody’s perfect!
I remember last minute that I am on the rota to do online prayers and find the Bible verse pretty darn raw (in a first-world-problems kind of way):
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’Matthew 25: 35-40
Which is a good enough reminder to get up and get on with it, really!
In the afternoon, we meet our Bubble family in the park. It’s great to get the fresh air and Toddler seems to enjoy playing with the other two a lot more when she doesn’t need to share her own toys! Everyone seems happy, we are the only ones in the park and the gate is locked. Toddler is near me, lost in imagination and perfectly safe. So I check my phone. Just briefly, just for a minute. Father-in-Law has a query about something we are having delivered for his birthday and so I quickly check the details…
I look up to see Bubble Mum panicking. A child is on the floor, refusing to wear shoes and BM is marching towards her phone, insisting she needs to call someone for help. I go over, talk her down as slowly and calmly as I can, and soon realise that it’s my fault. I took my eye off the present. She’s trying to call someone else because she saw that I was on my phone and freaked out. I grossly misunderstood the situation, and now I have a tantruming toddler at my feet and an adult having an anxiety attack in front of me. Ignoring the toddler and her perfectly normal toddler behaviour, I try to convince BM that she is perfectly capable of handling the situation. It takes a while, but eventually she puts away her phone and we reach an understanding; during which time, of course, the three year old has put her own shoes back on and ran off to play!
We stay at the park a little while longer, before I walk her home and ascertain that she hasn’t actually been to a park since March. I really need to do more research and come into this a lot more prepared! Today, it seems that the balance between equipping this fellow Mum to believe in herself without enabling her dependence on me is a harder one to strike than I thought. How do we stay clear of the Rescuer-Victim dynamic that so many readers have warned me about before? (Answers on a postcard!)
It’s fair to say I’m pretty emotionally exhausted at the end of this week. (Not to mention actual exhaustion from one stupid-late night making chocolate truffles for Christmas gifts…)
But … Husband and I spend the day resting, setting up the new TV and moving the old one up to the spare room. Moving furniture about and getting it ready for our lodger:
Do you know, I actually start to feel excited. It is really nice to imagine somebody making use of this space after having it empty for so long.
This week, my Bible-in-a-Year has involved chunks of a really difficult Old Testament text called Numbers; and the life, death and resurrection of Jesus in Luke. Reading these two books in such close succession is mind-blowing; from the untouchable, unapproachable, die-if-you-get-too-close Glory of God in the former; to the incarnate, God in Flesh, dying for the sins of the world events of the latter. I mean, it was good news before, but to read it like this is to appreciate just how GOOD this news was and is for those who fully understood it.
Reading it like this, I am deeply excited about celebrating the first Christmas.
Reading it like this, all is well with my Soul.
Reading it like this, anything we can give, however big or small, will never be enough.
My God, I have so far to go.
Thanks for reading! Peace be with you.