I wake up and all is peaceful. There are two adults downstairs and no drama. So… I write. Obviously, out of sight is out of mind and so I do the mature thing and skip breakfast so as to continue being forgotten. Find a stray piece of chocolate and eat that instead. Why not… They’ll come find me if they need to, right?
Turns out no one needs me until lunch time. I feel like I ought to be offended but in actual fact I am buzzing! Partly down to blog-writing time, partly down to the fact that it’s now so late that I pretty much get to eat cheese for lunch too. Winner!
Later, the Lodger and I take the Eldest for a walk and end up filming her All Age service for the morning. Two ice-skating birds with one stone-cold camera-hand. (That’s alot of hyphens!)
We watch the Lodger’s service from yesterday, during which she experiences first hand how difficult it is to engage kids online.
“THIS IS SO BORING!”
The Boy whines and wiggles on to the floor. From his seat. Right next to her.
“Welcome to our world!”
We manage to do a little bit of worship and then pray together over tea and biscuits. After which, it’s a pretty uneventful day. Which is nice!
Home-school… Take two!
I’m feeling good today. My energy is high and my expectations are oh so low. Which appears to be the right combination.
I have told the kids that we are starting each day with some form of exercise and they have already started without me. I mean this in itself already exceeds expectations!
Today, we discover the delights of Exercise with Paw Patrol on YouTube. Not only are all three engaged, but it also comes with the promise of… wait for it… a downloadable certificate! (Which has now, apparently expired. Oh well… the kids have forgotten but it was motivating at the time!)
While they’re busy sweating with Skye, I read that The Boy is meant to be learning about old toys today. Desperate to find all-involved activities to start and end the day, (mainly so as not to ignore the Youngest for its entirity) I throw some junk on the table with some glue and make a pop-up tuff spot.
They all make something. All of them. Which means I feel far more relaxed about putting Paw Patrol on for the next hour and giving the Eldest some dedicated assistance with her Maths.
After lunch, the tables turn as the Youngest takes a nap, The Eldest plays with toys and I am able to give my whole attention to helping The Boy access some of his school-set activities too. The Eldest is, of course, way behind on her quota for the day, but I figure… we really don’t need to finish at 3pm do we? Eventually she comes looking for snacks, I bribe her with various edibles to do homework, and we have hit our bare minimum by 4.30pm.
Not. Bad. At. All! There’s even time to read a book with the Youngest. If all else fails… it’s nice to have one in the bank!
Meanwhile, Husband has been fighting with technology, banning a live tarot reading on his Church Facebook group and hearing about the percentage of school parents who refuse to even read a book, let alone attempt any of the work with their kids.
I mean it really isn’t a great comparison, but I feel both relieved and sick when he says, “so… you’ve got nothing to worry about.”
So my new resolution is going well! I have a second hand exercise bike in the corner of my “classroom”. Obviously, because of the virus, I let it sit unused for three weeks to be safe. You know, because of the virus. Yeah. Anyway, instead of making a huge unachievable resolution, I worked out the exact effect lockdown was having on my fitness; namely, the walk to and from school. So each day I am trying, at some point, to fit two-to-four lots of 1.6km in – roughly 7 minutes of cycling each time. So when the kids get a break, are or engaged in an activity… I jump on the bike. If I’ve not managed it, 15 minutes isn’t a lot to ask at the end of the day.
Ambitious it is not… but achievable it is. Which is a boost!
Today, for the second day running, we manage the most productive hour of homeschool when the Youngest falls asleep. Unfortunately, that little nap just means she won’t go to bed at seven and, as Husband has meetings, the evening will be utterly lost to approximately 27 stories, 14 lullabies, half an hour of psychotic rocking and an eventual shrug and snuggle in front of the animated version of Stick Man.
I know, I know, these days are precious. But I do and half value my evenings too! Homeschool has tipped the balance.
Today is our Bubble Day; the three hours a week I promised to set aside for Bubble Mum and her Bubblettes. They will come at 3pm for crafts, songs and tea- just like the Worship Community she misses so much. I admit, this morning, I am having second thoughts. We haven’t seen them or anyone else in so long I’m now wondering if it is even worth it. It’s all within the rules and everything, but suddenly doesn’t feel right, now that all three kids are off school but hers are still going in. I mean, is three hours a week really worth the risk of contagion?
I mull and pray over this while painting with the Youngest, playing a game with the Boy and setting the Eldest up at her station. I’ve challenged her to complete English, Maths and Phonics before lunch so that we can bake and have a bit of downtime before the Bubble arrives in the afternoon. The Youngest toddles off to put some game pieces in the toy oven, while the Boy fills his head with Numberblocks. Both happy and distracted, I sit next to the Eldest and help her with her Maths.
Suddenly lost in her bizarre methods of calculation, (we didn’t do it like this in my day); I hear crying from upstairs. The Youngest, it appears, is no longer at the play kitchen, but has instead managed to go upstairs, move the step from the bathroom to my room, climb up onto my tallest chest of drawers, open my box of essential oils and rub peppermint all over her face, including, by the sounds and smell of it, her eyes.
Without my even noticing she was gone.
BAD MUMMY. BAD, BAD, MUMMY.
Three showers and a man-size scoop of Sudacream later, she tells me, “I am fine.” Her blotchy little face has just about calmed down enough to verify her diagnosis.
For the rest of the school day, she stays on the sofa in front of Peppa Pig, where I can be absolutely sure she won’t move. For this is what we have come to.
Once again, I remind myself to lower my expectations. ALL of them.
Later, we bake and tidy up before the Bubble arrives. It is lovely to see the Bubblettes and our kids are actually really keen and welcoming for once. Bubble Mum looks a little bit like a startled rabbit; her eyes darting about, her hands wringing constantly and a couple of electronic anxiety bracelets whirring away like vibrating phones. She tears up a few times talking about her week and, as she gradually relaxes, looks every inch a person who really, really needed to get out of the house. My worries are at bay. Three hours a week, it seems, is still very much worth it.
It is dark when we finish eating, and so I offer to walk her home with the two older children, who seem to think that walking in the dark is the most exciting adventure they have had in a long time. And to be fair, it probably is.
Husband and I agree that went a lot better than we had expected, (see low expectations are the key!) and we celebrate with another Hallmark classic.
Husband looks absolutely exhausted today and so does The Boy. In our usual case of role reversal, one has had the other up constantly since 5.30am and I didn’t even wake to notice.
“Why didn’t you wake me up, we could have tag teamed?”
“What’s the point? I heard him first, so I would only be awake anyway and then we’d both be tired?”
“But you look shattered and I feel guilty! Now you have to work all day- on Zoom?!”
“Yeah and you have to work with these three all day- TIRED and whining. You need all the sleep you can get!”
Fair play. Though I still feel bad. All those sexist memes that do the rounds about exhausted Mums and lazy Dads? Not always true. It takes ALOT to wake me up. And he’s a hero.
I take the note about the tired and whiney Boy and start the day playing games. As educational as we can find:
I attempt to motivate him with some number cards and the like but he throws them on the floor. Mention his teacher’s video and he blows raspberries. Ask him to write a sentence and he rolls around. It just isn’t happening today and I have another child to attend to. Numberblocks it is!
The Eldest manages all of her core subjects with me sitting beside her, colouring in with the Youngest. I move to get drinks, snacks, the potty, etc… she disappears. Instantly. This is the reality of motivating a seven year old. It gets to half past two and she has completed everything, (by which I mean Maths, English and Phonics- the rest isn’t happening.) I tell them it’s the end of the school day, so long as they find something to do that isn’t screen-based. Both girls runs upstairs to play dolls and… the Boy writes a letter to his best friend. I take a sneaky photo of it and send it to his teacher. See, we did do something today!
Later, I am on a video call to my parents explaining how calm I feel about things. “I have lowered my expectations… The Eldest is my priority as she has already missed half of Year 1 and now risks missing as much of Year 2. The Boy is only in Reception. He is very bright and he will catch up- especially if the rest of his class are as behind as Husband says they are. If we can keep submitting Maths, English and Phonics for Year 2 everyday, and Husband can engage the Boy properly on a Friday- we can spend the rest of the week doing things that keep all of us healthy and happy and interacting with each other. I mean, that’s what’s important, right? Facebook says so. I am at peace.”
I am. I really am. I believe it. All is good.
“School just called me,” Husband says as he enters the room to burst my bubble. “The Boy’s name has been flagged up as one of the kids who isn’t engaging with any core curriculum stuff.”
“He’s not in trouble, they know he’s bright and that he’s just struggling emotionally. It was more of a call to see if they could help?”
“I’ve sent them stuff! The Maths work this week is to recognize the number eleven for goodness’ sake. I sent them a video of him counting to eleven... in German!“
“I think that’s the point. He’s doing lots of activities… but none of it is really evidence of the stuff on the curriculum that he’s been asked to do.”
It’s fine. It’s fine right? It’s fine.
I am a perfectionist and naturally competitive. My son’s name has been “flagged up”. It doesn’t feel fine!
“I haven’t watched any of the videos with him this week.” I admit. “He doesn’t want to, so I haven’t forced it. The Eldest does, so I’ve focussed on her.”
“Oh yeah, they said she’s flying high in her class.”
Well… at least that’s something.
(Something like evidence of disproportionate parental attention?!)
Yeah… back to that thing about peace…
Husband’s day off! I wake at 5am as the Youngest climbs into our bed and onto my chest. I shift her under my arm and lie awake, listening out for The Boy. As I lie awake I think not only about the phone call, but about some stupid article I got into reading right before bed last night. Lazy journalism at it’s best, the article reported on a man who expressed an opinion on social media about kids sitting in shopping trolleys and got slated for it. The article itself amassed over ten thousand comments; many of which I read, with wild addicted interest, when I should have been going to sleep.
People get angry over the strangest things, huh? I mean one minute it’s mental health first; the next minute it’s any parent who does this small thing is unfit/irresponsible/worthy of eternal hellfire. Truth be told, I only discovered the art of sticking a kid in the main part of a shopping trolley recently when I saw someone else do it. I mean I rarely, if ever, take the kids into a Supermarket, but… when needs must… I thought it was genius. (Until of course, my second or third time of doing it, when the Youngest peed herself through the metal and onto the floor in front of a queue of people! I dare not spray that information over the hygiene police on this thread…)
But here we are. The trolley could tip over, the child could break every bone in their body, their mucky shoes could contaminate everyone else’s apparently clean food in an otherwise clean trolley (not sure about that one)… the list goes on and on.
And I… well, I never even thought of any of those things!
What does that say about me? Am I the lazy, stupid parent they are talking about? The one who doesn’t deserve children?
Gosh. Such a good week and now the anxiety is under my skin and picking my brain. Trivial trolley stuff aside, I berate myself for thinking I’d succeeded this week. The Boy is behind. The Husband is exhausted. I’m not doing my job.
The Boy starts shouting at 6am and I jump up to see to him. Husband gets up too and tries to send me back to bed; we squabble over who needs more sleep and he insists he has his morning routine and doesn’t need my interference. At 6.30 we are both downstairs; him telling me not to get involved in his parenting choices, me begging him to get some sleep because his exhaustion is proof I’m not doing my fair share! Long story short, there are tears, he wishes he never told me about the phone call and I end up going back up to bed, emotionally exhausted, and struggling to get up properly at again at 9! What an absolute waste of time and energy anxiety is.
In the Shower, I pray and try and muster the energy for the day. You know, last night, I noticed my verse for the day was: “and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
I scrolled past it to read those ridiculous comments.
I haven’t given my Bible in a Year half enough time either. I have forgotten the battle of the Spirit, let alone the mind.
Getting out of the shower I notice a van through the open window. Sticking on a towel (thankfully) I poke my head out to see who it might be. Only to scream – actually squeal!- as the head of the infamous window cleaner appears right in front of me!
Yeah. That window cleaner. You know the guy I keep talking to for hours about Jesus?! Because that’s not awkward….
I simultaneously shout ‘sorry!’ and slam the window shut, before quickly getting dressed and going out to apologise. I mean, the poor guy is only doing his job, right?! I stay out long enough to make sure its not awkward and then head back in for homeschool. Husband is on The Boy today and I am slightly relieved to see how difficult he finds it to motivate him. It’s not just me.
However, he perseveres. Well beyond what I have been willing to do, to the point where they produce evidence for every area of the curriculum that day and even end up smiling. To finish, he even involves all of the kids in making a giant model of the Church. Hats off. What a Dad!
After this, the Lodger appears to lead her assembly and I engage the only fool-proff weapon against next week: bribery. The Eldest is given a rare chocolate bar prize for being “the only Superstar to have completed all set work and watched all of her teacher’s videos!”
The Boy’s face has a flinch of disappointment followed by a very mature nod of understanding. He then turns and hugs his sister to say well done! She says she is going to half her chocolate with him, and he says, “Thanks- I will definitely half mine with you next week when I win it.”
“Oh … are you going to watch all of your teacher’s videos and do all of your work next week too?” I ask in a feined kind of half interest.
“Yes. Definitely!” He nods.
Bribery. If it ain’t broke why fix it, hey?
Tomorrow is another day and next week another week.
It wouldn’t be a lockdown if we didn’t have troughs and peaks!
Much love, thanks for reading xx