Lockdown – Week Nine

Last week we received confirmation that my teenager will not be required to go back to school until at least September. My younger daughter is also unlikely to go back, because she is not in one of the listed years that may return in June.

I’m flitting between huge relief that we don’t have to make a decision about whether to send them in, sympathy for those that do (and for those who have no choice), and frustration and disappointment on behalf of my kids who are facing weeks and weeks more of the same.

They are coping brilliantly, but they miss their grandparents so much it hurts. They miss their friends, their teachers, the classroom environment, and they even miss all the kids that they would normally moan about. In other words, they miss normality, just like we all do.

Instead they have me. In fact, with the amount I’ve been eating they actually have me in double amounts. Well, physically anyway. Mentally I am functioning on significantly less cylinders than pre-lockdown times, but thankfully I only have to remember a handful of phrases these days, which tend to be variations of:

‘You may not be able to smell anything but I can. Get in the shower’
‘You’re not hungry, you’re bored’
‘It’s 7am, I’m not discussing pudding’
‘See if you can do it yourself’

And that’s just to my husband.

As for the kids, I’ve been encouraging them to keep a lockdown diary, hoping it would be a good distraction and also help with their writing skills. I told them all about the diary I kept as a teenager and hoped they would feel inspired. They did. They felt inspired to ask me whether I wrote it on a scroll, with a quill, and wanted to know whether it was now sepia coloured, since it had been written in the olden days.

After I’d reminded them who provided all the snacks around here, they agreed to listen while I told them of my visions of them as adults, reading the diary to their own children, describing all the difficulties and the poignant moments of these historic times. So they gave in and agreed to write one.

A few days later, I checked back in with them. So far, my teenager had written two things. Her name, and the lyrics to her favourite song. She had apparently been planning to write more, but was too tired from all the walks I made her go on, so it’s actually my fault. My ten-year-old however had written a considerable amount. Nothing about the times we’re living in of course, but plenty about how mean and unfair Mummy is for confiscating her slime, because it was obviously an ACCIDENT that she smacked her sister in the face. Although she also made the point that it was mainly down to her sister for putting her face there in the first place.

Based on this outcome, I thought we would go for Plan B instead. We would make a time capsule, filling it with things that would illustrate the life we’re living right now. I had already decided I was putting in a bottle of gin, my therapist’s number and a can of root-concealing hairspray.

The girls quite liked this idea and proceeded to make a list of what they felt should go in. First up was loo roll. I assumed this was a reference to all the panic-buying at the beginning of lockdown, but it turns out it was because my eldest had been caught short at two minutes to eight last Thursday, and had been forced to show her support for the NHS by clapping heartily from the toilet seat. Even when one hand became unavailable for obvious reasons, she insisted on slapping her thigh with the other one so that the neighbours could be sure she was joining in.

They also suggested putting in some dog poo, because of the time last week when Mummy accidentally trod in some and then walked it through the entire house before realising that the smell wasn’t Daddy after all.

Eventually we settled on at least some sensible things like newspaper clippings and photographs and it was complete. We ceremoniously buried the time capsule and went indoors, talking excitedly about when we thought someone might uncover it.

Precisely thirty minutes later we had our answer when our Labrador puppy came bumbling in looking very pleased with himself, with one paw stuck in the toilet roll and a newspaper in his mouth. We never did find the gin.

Bring on Bedtime!

Lockdown – Weeks Six and Seven

I must admit I’ve found the last couple of weeks a bit of a challenge. People I love have lost people they love. Half the country seems to think that 600+ daily deaths is now a cause for celebration and freedom from lockdown. My kids are having more ‘low’ moments than ever, and I’m trying to find more and more new ways in which to lift their spirits.

I watch them every day, looking at kids from different families playing together, and feeling angry that they have to follow the rules while others don’t. They are bright kids, they understand why we are doing this, but it’s hard on them to see other people doing the opposite, right under their noses. And of course these experiences are nothing compared to what many are facing right now. So we take it day by day, and minute by minute if we have to.

We have been back to ‘school’ for the last fortnight, where I have been reminded that year five is the year they learn about sex education. Having already been through this once with my older daughter, I didn’t forsee any problems. What I didn’t bank on was the power of sisters.

Years ago, I had carefully explained all the facts to my daughter, and questions were asked and answered without embarrassment. While I was busy congratulating myself on a job well done, it turns out she was busy imparting a watered down and only partially correct version of the birds and the bees to her seven year old sister, scaring the living daylights out of her. I should have known when I heard them playing in the bath together at the time. One of them had named her doll ‘Vagina’ and the other one was casually wondering whether or not Vagina would like any cake.

So I had to start from scratch. Apparently a few years ago when my older daughter was learning about this subject, the teacher got them to get any giggling and embarrassment out of the way by shouting out the names of certain body parts as loudly as they could. This is a great idea, but given that our windows have been constantly open with all this lovely weather, I couldn’t face explaining to the neighbours why my child was screaming ‘penis’ repeatedly first thing on Monday morning, so we abandoned it in favour of a slightly more traditional approach.

And I did have to try not to laugh at some of the random and unexpected questions. My ten-year-old wanted to know whether it’s important to go to the loo first. At which point my thirteen-year-old sighed, rolled her eyes and said in a don’t be ridiculous tone ‘Mummy has had two children, she won’t be having any more sex’. The look of horror on her face when I suggested otherwise, was worth its weight in gold.

There swiftly followed a lightbulb moment for her, when she realised there was a possibility that we might have another baby. An idea suggested by her and extinguished by me in two seconds flat. This resulted in a tantrum because apparently she ‘really really wants a brother or sister’. Cue outrage from….her actual sister.

With that hurdle cleared, I manoeuvred my way through the sex education topic fielding questions about shape, size, colour (?), and smell (???). One of them wanted to know whether her boobs would eventually drop off, to be replaced by new ones after the ‘boob fairy’ had visited. This led to a discussion about how much money they could expect to receive should this be the case, and the unfairness if it was directly linked to size. Although they did say that it might be great because Mummy’s could make us all millionaires. Bless her for the exaggeration, but even I had a wishful thinking moment at that point. Who needs the lottery?

But we got there in the end and my youngest is now hopefully aware of enough facts, but not too many. We’ve managed to get over the ‘asking your grandparents over video chat whether they still have sex’ phase. Now all I have to do is get through the current phase where every time she leaves the room, she asks me and Daddy if we’re going to ‘do it’. Then it’s my turn for the don’t be ridiculous tone. Doesn’t she know there’s a lockdown on, and I’m far too busy drinking?

Bring on Bedtime!

Lockdown – Week Five

I looked over at my daughter earlier this week and saw her beaming at me. My heart melted as I wondered what happy thoughts might be going through her mind. Then she said, ‘Mummy, I’ve been looking at your bum. It’s just like your back, only squishier and with a line in it’.

Now pardon the pun, but we all know hindsight is a wonderful thing. With hindsight, I would have just agreed with her. With hindsight, I would never have asked ‘Isn’t everyone’s?’ And with hindsight I could have avoided the twenty-minute monologue which followed, on the subject of ‘The Bums of Everyone I Know Or Have Ever Met’. So you live and learn. But you can’t get away.

And believe me, this week I have been unsuccessfully trying to get away from many things. Mainly my children. Specifically, the name yelled out by my children at approximately thirty second intervals for sixteen hours each day. That name is of course ‘Mummy!’ (full name ‘Mummy, can I have…’ or ‘Mummy, where is my…’)

I shouldn’t complain because I really do love my kids with a passion that burns as bright as a thousand suns. Well, when they’re asleep, anyway. It’s just that when you’ve heard ‘Mummy’ seventy billion times a day, and sixty billion of those are requests for food, you start to fantasise about being somewhere else. Exotic places like the car, or the end of the drive, or the depths of hell. It comes to something when the most exciting thing your husband has said to you in over a month is ‘I’m taking the kids and the dog out for a walk’.

It might not be so bad if the conversations differed occasionally. But they are always the same:

Child: ‘I’m starving’
Me: ‘you haven’t finished the last mouthful of lunch yet’
Child: ‘what can I have?’
Me: ‘a piece of fruit’
Child: ‘what else is there?
Me: *lists ten other healthy things*
Child: ‘chocolate?’
Me: ‘no’
Outraged child: ‘you never let me have anything nice’
Me: ‘you had half a giant Easter egg as a pre-breakfast snack’
Child: ‘but I’m starving’

This is repeated ten times until they moodily go off with the apple that they said they were allergic to, because they know if they keep going with that lie, there will be no more apple crumble in their future.

When it’s not about food, it’s guaranteed to be about something entirely unnecessary. Recently, I heard the cry ‘MUMMY, WHERE ARE THE TOWELS?’ I arrived on the scene to find my youngest standing in front of the airing cupboard, looking directly at about twenty towels. Turns out she wanted a red one.

Sometimes it’s, ‘MUMMY, WHERE IS MY TOP?’ This one’s easy. No matter which top is in question, the answer is always either ‘stuffed into the gap between your desk and your bookcase/ behind your curtains/in the dog’s bed (delete as appropriate).

And every day at some stage, they will shout ‘MUMMY’ right at the time that my patience has not just reached its limit, it’s gone around in a loop and reached it again. They will then be treated to a five minute rant where I will shout a list of all the things I’m trying to get done, what could they possibly want now, and is it too much to ask to get a second’s peace around here?

And that is the point that they will say ‘I just wanted to tell you I love you’. And even though I know damn well they were actually going to ask for crisps, but clocked the note of hysteria in my voice and did a rapid u-turn, I still add this to the list of ‘things to feel guilty about when they’re in bed’.

But every night along with the guilt, there is also hope. The hope that tomorrow I might get it right. I will somehow become a beacon of serenity, setting a brilliant example of how to cope under pressure. They will explain in future media interviews that this was their inspiration to become the only person ever to achieve world peace.

And then I realise the wine bottle is empty.

Bring on Bedtime!

Lockdown – Week Four

According to various sources, you’re not doing lock-down properly if you’re not happily and simultaneously baking bread, learning Spanish, losing two stone and building an annexe for your house out of old yoghurt pots and dental floss. Whilst singing. However, our experience over the last week has been somewhat different.

On Easter Sunday I was enjoying a blissful lie-in, when I woke to the sound of my children arguing over whether I was dead or not. I called out to them and waited for them to rush in, overcome with relief that their mother was still breathing, if not functioning entirely on all cylinders. This was naïve in the extreme. The news of my non-demise was in fact greeted by my teenager smugly hissing ‘In your face!’ to her sister, and her sister replying in outrage that anyone would have thought the same if they’d seen the way I was lying with my mouth open.

Conversations about death never ever go well in our house. The last one I can remember, began with my youngest announcing that she had decided what she was going to wear at Grandad’s funeral. It progressed to me saying ‘that’s lovely darling but try to remember that Grandad isn’t actually dead. In fact, he’s not even ill’. And it ended abruptly with an argument because she refused to accept that nobody wears wellies AND a floor-length party dress to a funeral anyway.

More recently, my eldest piped up at the dinner table with ‘Daddy, guess what? When Mummy gets cremated, I’m going to have her ashes made into jewellery’. Trying not to think about the cheerful tone of voice, I considered this. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s a lovely idea, but I did have to question her choice, given the certain fate of every piece of jewellery she has ever owned. I didn’t much fancy being stuffed into a pocket, then going three times through the washing machine before being laid to rest somewhere in the abyss underneath her bed. Probably next to a screwed-up pair of knickers and a used fork.

Luckily for me, she had an alternative idea. She wants to turn my ashes into a tattoo of the word ‘Love’, where the ‘O’ is a sun because I always sing ‘You are my sunshine’ to her. I was quite touched by this. Although not for long, because judging by the look on my ten-year-old’s face, World War Three was not far around the corner, approaching at speed. She declared that her sister was ‘hogging everything as usual’ and why shouldn’t she have half of me to put somewhere? After all, she had that little china pot she had bought that time we went to Menorca, and it wouldn’t take a second to tip out the paper clips.

So the rest of dinner time was spent reassuring my children that of course they could split me into two piles and no, I don’t mind where on the bedside table I go, and yes it was lovely that they definitely wouldn’t pick their nose out of respect for me.

With the matter finally settled, we were free to enjoy the rest of the week and the beautiful weather, and think about happier things. Such as where’s my wine glass, and when can we ‘Bring on Bedtime’!

Lockdown – Week 3

My daughters are a little scared. Before their very eyes, their once-familiar Mummy is going through a metamorphosis, without even the decency of first entering a cocoon. Although they are now fully accustomed to the lack of bra, every day still brings a new and upsetting adjustment for them.

At the beginning of the week, my youngest told me that she liked my grey eyes. Pushing aside my annoyance that in 10 years she might at least have worked out my eye colour, I patiently replied that my eyes are brown. After much confusion and pointing, it turned out she was talking about the shadows UNDER my eyes. I took the compliment anyway; you can’t be too proud.

As if that weren’t bad enough, yesterday my teenager asked me how I got that scar on my face. Investigations revealed it to be a new wrinkle. I think it probably appeared as a direct result of the eleven hours I spent trying to get them to do their thirty minutes of chores.

And it’s not just my eyes and face. My roots are growing out and the grey is not only back, it’s brought reinforcements. I don’t mind it, but my children seem to view it as a sign of my imminent death and keep asking if I need to sit down.

Don’t be fooled though, they don’t actually mean it. Like all children, they were born with a built-in alarm system, which sounds the second I even THINK about sitting down for five minutes.

This warning is their cue to yell out ‘MUMMY!’ at deafening levels until they get a response. It doesn’t occur to them to come down the stairs and into the same room to speak to me. I therefore spend the next ten minutes or so yelling up the stairs to inform them that I’m not going to keep yelling up the stairs. Their response is to shout ‘Mummy’ again, only louder. It’s basically a game of ‘who will get angry and give in first’ which I win every time.

Once we are finally speaking face-to-face, it turns out that 75% of the time, they want food (the rest of the time it’s the WiFi password). The obvious answer is to get them to do it themselves, but let’s not be too hasty here. Firstly, our versions of ‘snack’ differ considerably. My version involves something with a vitamin or two. Theirs involves me having to hoover up vast amounts of spilt sugar, which I will continue to find in surprising places for a fortnight afterwards.

However, this is still nowhere near as bad as when they attempt to be kind and make me something to eat. I am still recovering from the time they very kindly offered to make me lunch, and I was presented with lemon curd spread on dry Weetabix and hot vegetable stock to drink. I naturally declared it to be delicious, but I think I did too good an acting job, because they now think this is my go-to treat. They will bring Daddy hot chocolate and a Kit Kat, while I brace myself for the crackle of the cereal packet.

So I am greyer in the eyes and hair, more creased in the facial area and deafer by the minute. I’ve got less patience, more rolls of fat from all the stress-eating, and my blood is three parts wine to one part blood cells.

Despite that I am still here, still smiling (a grimace is a sort of smile, right?) and still saying ‘Bring on Bedtime!’

Lockdown – End of Week Two

This has been a slightly difficult week, since the novelty of life in lockdown has worn off. The kids are missing school, their friends and other family, my husband is missing the sound of silence, and I am missing my frontal lobe, since parts of it appear to be ebbing slowly away. 

Still, we have at least had the wonder of video call technology to allow us to stay in touch with dearly missed loved ones. Isn’t it fantastic? Although it takes a while to set up. 

First we have to tidy up, in order to reassure all the grandparents that we’re coping fine and haven’t allowed the house to descend into post-apocalyptic chaos. 

And it has to be the entire house. This is because we have children, therefore it is written into law that they must take it in turns to grab the phone and run off into another room in order to perform their latest dance routine in private. Which is odd because they didn’t seem to mind about privacy when they tried to stand naked on the windowsill the day before and perform it for the neighbours. 

Or they might want to proudly show Nana what was so big it wouldn’t flush down and Mummy said she might have to call an emergency plumber and/or stop feeding everyone for a while. 

Or maybe they will take the phone into the kitchen to show them the cookies we made, where there’s a distinct chance someone might see the stash of empty wine bottles by the bin reflecting my consumption since at least that morning. The choices are endless. 

Once the house is sorted, I then have to go and find the bra that hasn’t seen the light of day since day 3 of lockdown, and resentfully put it back on. One of the joys of being stuck at home with family is that they don’t care what you look like. They don’t judge. 

Admittedly the kids were initially a little frightened by the fact that Mummy’s boobs were suddenly significantly closer to her knees, but once I had reassured them that no, this was not a symptom of Coronavirus, they were fine. It’s just that it would be unfair to inflict this sight on unsuspecting family members that haven’t already become desensitised to the shock. 

Eventually, once body parts if not spirits have been lifted, we are free to make the call. The first 10 minutes are spent telling the hairs right at the very top of my mum in law’s head all about our day. We then move on to loudly interrupting each other whilst we try to explain how to move the camera down, and finally use up the final 10 minutes exchanging heartfelt declarations of love with her left big toe. 

By which time I’m ready to finish the rest of the wine, and definitely ready to say Bring on Bedtime!

Lockdown – Days 7 and 8

As the week has gone on, it’s been harder and harder to get the kids up in the mornings. They are understandably exhausted from their long days of sitting, eating, arguing and avoiding things.

My husband has started to bring the puppy in to say good morning, which wakes them up really quickly and which everybody loves, including the dog. Except for yesterday morning, when my husband was holding him and he turned his body at just the wrong moment. The result was that my youngest daughter yawned sleepily, opened her eyes and found herself staring not at a warm and furry face, but at the business end of a black Labrador. To be fair, what she saw was furry. And probably warm. It’s just that the dangling was a mild surprise, and there were a few less teeth.

Rude awakenings aside, the kids are finding new ways to keep themselves busy. My teenager has created a YouTube channel aimed at helping kids stay healthy during a lock-down. This is of course a wonderful idea, although I do have to take issue with a few things:

1) she is piously telling the world to eat healthily to boost the immune system, even though she took 45 minutes to eat her chicken casserole the night before, because she first had to pick out all the vegetables.

2) she is extolling the virtues of fresh air and exercise, when the closest she’s come to either of those things in a week is standing in the doorway last night clapping all the front-line workers.

3) thanks to autocorrect, she is now instructing everyone in times of heightened anxiety, to ‘breathe in slowly and deadly’.

Still at least it whiled away a few hours for her, and freed me up to help my youngest with her education. We watched a video on the internet on how sequencing works in Maths. It was such a helpful video because by the end of it, we both realised that neither of us will ever understand how sequencing works in Maths and are now free to find something else to do.

So I taught her how to write ‘boobs’ on the calculator. Their minds are like sponges you know.

Bring on Bedtime!