The Eldest has a Zoom birthday party in the morning, which is a strange experience. She is happy enough to see some of her friends but really doesn’t like the concept of seeing them all at once.
“Why are they all staring at me?”
It takes a while to convince her that everyone is looking at the screen, and everyone else, and not just back at her!
Meanwhile, I become aware that one or two of her friends, who also have siblings in The Boy’s class, are still attending school. To my knowledge, their parents are not both key workers and they are certainly not vulnerable. I try not to judge or be annoyed or let it bother me, but it really does.
It seems this is another common struggle that this lockdown has brought with it, compared to the last. The key worker list is bigger, much bigger. The number of employers and parents taking advantage is also bigger. Thus, the number of kids still in school while you struggle with the educational and emotional disruption of your own children, is also bigger. The challenge not to judge others, to worry that their choices are going to prolong this situation even further and keep your own kids out of school for even longer, is also bigger.
‘Wassai’ as we used to say 20 years ago in the North East!
Still. “Judge not lest ye be judged”, right? I’m not sure what to do about our Bubble…
In the afternoon I try and motivate everyone for a walk. They take so long about it that I lose all energy, sneak upstairs for a lie down and fall asleep.
“I thought you were coming for a walk?” Husband wakes me.
“Has everyone got their wellies on yet?”
“Wake me up when they’re on the doorstep.”
We do get out and it is gloriously muddy. The Youngest gets so tired that she starfishes on the floor several times and just stares up at the sky. She should sleep well tonight! On the way home, we see a Vicar friend from across town on a bike ride with his daughter. They stop for a chat and then, as we walk home, Lodger and I look at one another in a sort of wide-eyed wonder.
“Did that really just happen? Did we really just talk to another human being in the flesh?!”
These are strange times indeed.
“Which bit of the service did you want to do again?” Husband reminds me that we are on All Age Online today.
“None of it.”
“Are you serious?”
“I told you yesterday, I don’t want to do it. And of the many things I don’t want to do these days, this is one thing I can actually say no to! I’m not doing it.”
“Oh. Ok. I thought you were joking!”
I wasn’t. The Boy doesn’t want to do it either and we don’t make him. Instead, I sit at the table, off screen, and help the kids do the craft activity, while Husband leads the service with the Eldest. She is excited by the promotion and even reads aloud beautifully without once uttering the word ‘poo.’
Husband is chuffed and we both agree: this could be the way forward.
After lunch, Husband is busy, the Lodger is reading and the kids are happy. I invite them all out for a walk but they aren’t interested. So… I go on my own.
I walk. And walk. And keep walking
It feels… AMAZING!
Freedom. Fresh air. Funny voice notes from my forever friend down-under and the time and space to reply. As close to going for a walk with her as I am ever going to get- in lockdown, on the other side of the world, with 11 hours between us.
The sun is bright and it is melting fast… we have no sledge and so we take a food crate and a baking tray into the woods and hope for the best!
School can wait.
We spend two hours in the woods. The teddies, the Eldest, The Boy and The Youngest all fly down the BMX track on their butts before I’m convinced it’s safe enough to have a go myself! I fly down the smallest ramp on a baking tray and squeal until a bit of wee comes out.
“Mummy this is SO MUCH FUN!” The Boy jumps up and down unable to contain his excitement.
“Best morning EVER,” the Eldest agrees and I resolve to do more of it.
Nevertheless, by afternoon, we are sat at that computer again; the Eldest is typing with her nose, the Boy is tantrumming on the floor and I am so angry my neck hurts.
I can’t do this.
It’s only been ten minutes. They’ve barely had a pluck on any of my other nerves, but somehow… I’m already down to my last one.
I’m shouting something about education being important, but everything inside of me is screaming, “I HATE THIS!”
I’m done. I’m done. I’m done.
This is not worth it. The frustration, the misery, the anger; the atmosphere in our home. The fact that my role here has somehow become ‘the forcer of things that no one wants done.’
That’s not my role. It cannot be any longer. Something’s got to give.
After yesterday’s reflection, I lay my new approach out before the kids. I resolve once more that the ‘bare minimum’ I’m asking from them is Reading, Phonics, English and Maths. These four things must be completed each day in order to keep their brains active.
My new resolution, however, is that my ‘bare minimum’ is not to shout. I will not force them to do anything. I will not allow myself to get angry or frustrated when they mess about. I will walk away.
Our understanding then is as follows: completing these four tasks “unlocks” their technological privileges. Put quite simply, there’ll be no tablet or TV until the set work is complete. Engaging with bonus subjects will recieve bonus rewards, but the ‘bare minimum’ must be achieved to access the norm. I will be here to help, but I will not be forcing anybody to do anything and I will not be fighting with fools! You do it, you get it… you don’t do it, you go without. Simple.
So far, so good!
The Boy, motivated by technology, is keen to get on straight away, whilst the Eldest smells freedom and plays hard until two o’clock. I don’t mind. Her imagination is beautiful and her play so precious- and sibling inclusive– that I refuse to put a stop to it. When she finally comes down to do some work, however, she attempts the usual folly and, as promised, I shrug it off.
“It’s up to you. You can drag this out as long as you like, but until it’s done you won’t get to watch anything or play on the tablet. Your choice. But if you’re just going to sit here and be silly I have other jobs to do.”
That works. She does it.
By 4.30pm, both children have practised their four areas of learning and I have raised neither my voice nor my blood pressure.
In the evening, with escapism still heavily on the cards, The Lodger and I continue our binge-watch of… err… Brigerton.
Yes, I know now. That show with all the sex. Apparently everyone knows this! Until about Episode 5 however, we did not. Thus, I end up chatting loudly about Georgian methods of contraception (?!) with my openly chaste eighteen-year-old Lodger, whilst Simon and Daphne fluff each other’s brains out. Because… well… ahem… that’s not the least bit awkward is it…?!
Another day of schooling success. Four areas wrapped up, zero shouting. At one point I even find myself alone with a cup of tea whilst everyone else is upstairs playing pirates and princesses.
I don’t know what’s happening… but I like it.
I call Bubble Mum to see if she’s still coming for tea but she is going for a walk and thinks that’s enough entertainment for today! Ha. I really need to relax on this one too. Bubble Dad has gone away for a month; she is going to need more support but try as I might I cannot get her to timetable it in. I’m going to have to let her come round when it suits and be prepared to be dropped when it doesn’t.
So there we have it. For someone who likes her ducks in a row… the ducklings are managing their own timetable and Bubble Duck is coming tomorrow instead, without plan or purpose. I am reminded that God told me recently to just be available and it seems that this calling has not changed. (Though it felt a lot simpler when I had nothing to do!)
Anyway. Speaking of ducks…
Despite yesterday’s embarrassment, The Lodger and I are hooked. And so we agree to binge-watch the rest of Brigerton, but fast-forward the sex scenes. Which saves us at least fifteen minutes per episode and amounts to… I dunno…
Which I appreciate is somewhat less appealing but still worth a watch!
Another successful school day.
These four areas are taking the kids two hours at the absolute max. I start to wonder if I ought to stretch it out and put more effort in… and then stop myself.
The atmosphere is lovely again. My mind, body and soul are at peace. The kids are happy. Husband is happy. Lodger is happy. Friggerton scratched my itch for escapism (among other things!) and I can read and pray and think more deeply again.
That is worth it. That is enough. That is more precious than gold.
Later, the Bubbles come for tea and it is very chilled. We don’t over plan or prepare. Everyone does their own thing and it is nice to just be together. The Boy helps me walk them home and we hold hands and chat on the way back. The Eldest is finally old enough to be enthralled by Harry Potter and so, once the others are asleep, we cuddle up together and read three more chapters than we intended to.
Tomorrow is another day. But for now, all is very, very well with my soul.
Oh what a difference a week makes.
Last week we were all shouting in different rooms and I was thoroughly depressed. This week, Husband is making pasta collages with The Boy in the kitchen, the Lodger is playing hide and seek with the Youngest and I am laughing at the computer with the Eldest as we try to imagine the 7cm space man getting into the 4cm space rocket on this week’s measuring worksheet.
The Eldest’s teacher, in a stroke of genius, bases the English work on the Titanic. The Eldest is so engaged we then manage to catch up on three week’s worth of history too. (A lovely surprise as I had pretty much concluded that all I needed to know about the Titanic I learned from Leonardo DiCaprio and thus, so could she…)
This afternoon, Husband is resting, the kids are playing and I am heading out for a chiropractic appointment (finally!), while they make cards and bake a cake. Tomorrow is my birthday, they’re fake taking me to fake New York and I genuinely cannot wait!
(Hence the early blog post. I don’t want to fall behind again but hope to be far too busy this weekend to write!)
Tonight we have the aforementioned Murder Mystery on Zoom with some friends from college. I attempted to write it in such a way as to make the culprit a secret even from myself… which will either prove to be a stroke of genius or an epic fail! Either way, it will be funny and we are very much looking forward to it.
It is so much harder to find joy in the every day during this cold, wet lockdown… but I think we have managed it this week!
I really, genuinely hope you do too.
Much, much love. Thanks for reading.