Lockdown and Aftermath – Week 23

Sorry there’s been a gap of a few weeks this time. We’ve filled some of the time with a lovely week in Dorset, some of the time preparing for the ‘back to school’ extravaganza, and the rest of the time I have been working flat-out in my non-furloughed role, job title ‘Professional Worrier’. It’s a lifelong, unpaid and stressful job, with erratic hours, but the upside is that it pays in wine, so…silver lining and all that.

After almost six months, it’s finally here. Both my children are at school! I have one at primary and one at secondary, and both schools have been utterly fantastic in the lead-up to the first day back. I can’t begin to imagine the difficulties and the work that’s gone into organising the new systems, but they’ve managed it. Even with the last-minute u-turn about face masks. They have communicated everything very clearly and done their utmost to set the kids’ minds at rest. Videos have been sent to us, detailing new routes into and out of school for different year groups, and giving us all the information we need about staggered start and finish times, how they will eat their lunch now, and of course all the new rules relating to hygiene.

Both my girls were excited and nervous in equal measure about going back. They couldn’t wait to see their friends, and do some proper learning. The kind where the teacher doesn’t get defensive about not remembering algebra and mutter under her breath about how nobody needs it anyway. The kind where the room doesn’t have to be vacated for 15 minutes every time the dog does a particularly vicious fart. And the kind where you can have a lunch break without being constantly shushed by the teacher in a furious whisper, because the teacher’s husband is on work call number 593 of the day.

They were therefore very excited to get back to a version of normality and interact with others. I say a version of normality, because of course nothing is ‘normal’ as was. Their fears were all centred around the new rules. What if I go the wrong way down the corridor? What if I forget, and hug my friend in the playground by mistake? What if I touch a door handle and then accidentally touch my face without using gel first? These are questions that no parent thought they would ever have to answer. Of course that’s all very strange and a little sad that these are the realities we are currently faced with. But before I got too carried away with the pathos of it all, I did have to remind myself that answering unexpected or awkward questions is par for the course when you have kids. Some of the classics I’ve had to deal with over the years are:

‘What does the Queen call her vagina? She’s quite posh so she probably calls it her front bottom.’

‘Do you think life would be difficult if Voldemort was an MP?’

‘You know Nana’s parents? Were they Celts or Romans?’

‘If our house is hit by an asteroid and we have to move in with Nana and Popop, will we have to move schools?’

‘Can the man who came to school last week to give us that talk, come to tea? I gave him our address’

‘Can we get a pet pig?’

The list goes on. We therefore got through the back to school questions quite easily, and the preparations continued. I ordered all the school uniform online, because they weren’t allowed to try it on in the shop. I was lucky that everything I ordered fitted, and I was spared the job of having to return things. Given that we’d already had to meet the standard annual seventy billion pound cost of new shoes, new coats, new uniforms etc. I think return postage may have pushed us into remortgaging territory.

One final job remained, which was to get the kids used to wearing the masks. So off we went for an afternoon of window shopping, where the following normally happens. The girls will:

1) Ask to buy almost everything in sight.

2) Lightly sulk when told no.

3) Offer to tidy, clean and redecorate the house in exchange for money to pay for said item.

4) Moderately sulk when told fat chance, given that they can’t even keep their own rooms tidy, and if I were to walk into either bedroom right now, I guarantee there would be at least three items that constitute biohazardous waste, as well as a pile of screwed up clothes.

5) Have a lightbulb moment and ‘add it to their birthday list’. The fact that their birthday might be in 360 days time means nothing, given that the second the clock strikes midnight after one birthday ends, they have already planned next year’s celebration and verbally invited twenty five of their friends to a party you had no idea was happening.

But before we could attempt any of that, the masks had to go on. After fighting with the straps for a minute or two, they were on, and within three seconds, my youngest was dramatically clutching her throat, gasping for breath and telling the world that her oxygen levels were depleting fast.

After very gently pointing out to her that thousands of key workers all over the world manage to wear them for hours on end and still have enough air in their lungs to get their jobs done, she realised that she was probably going to survive after all, and within minutes was chatting animatedly about horse posters.

I realised then that they’re both going to be alright, and they’re going to adapt fast. And I waved them off yesterday and this morning with a happy heart. Partly because they were going off to the place and the people they’ve been desperately missing for what feels like an eternity. But also because I was going to have some time to myself for the first time in nearly six months. FINALLY!

And the first thing I did with that incredible gift of free time, was to wander around the house wondering what to do, and what they were doing, and look forward to end of school time. There’s just no pleasing some people!

Bring on Bedtime!

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