For the last 3 months my husband and I have been in lockdown with our 5 teenage children. Actually, that’s a lie, our eldest turned 20 on the first day of lockdown. To celebrate we started our series of Frets Kitchen Concerts on Facebook. I was a fb virgin, but I seem to have taken to it with a fervour usually reserved for food in these lockdown times…..our kitchen is perpetually filled with freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, pizza and pancakes….the children eschew all home schooling apart from home ec and PE. The first Kitchen Concert wasn’t only to celebrate the eldest’s 20th Birthday, it was also to ease the disappointment that we weren’t at the Strathaven Hotel performing the inaugural gig with the Makaton Choir supporting The Bluebells. This was the first of many cancelled gigs and events, and as for everyone , it became normality….not quite everyone in our house hold adapted quite so easily. For weeks our middle daughter, Matilda, 16 years old, a teenager with an extra chromosome, scanned the calendar for missed events and counted the days in what she should have been doing – it’s Friday, can I go to the swimming pool inflatable? It’s Monday, is it gymnastics? She knew the answer, but what did/does it really mean to her? Who knows. She calls it the stupid Corona virus, an apt description. But like the rest of us, she has adapted. Her isolation would be overwhelming if not for the fact she is the middle of 5 siblings.
So, 12, 13, 14 weeks in? How do you feel about lockdown? Here’s what it’s been like for us so far, the reality of 7 people spending all this time stuck together. One of our main silver linings is that we moved house a couple of months prior to lockdown and have much more space. Phew….if the 3 younger kids, remember they’re all teens, so not that young, had still been sharing a room, it would have been fretful to say the least. The twins emerged from the womb bickering and it has been an ongoing daily love- hate battle ever since. Things that Matilda ignored in childhood now create full scale emotional meltdowns in her teenage angst years….so listening to her siblings quarrel each and every bedtime is something that she doesn’t miss….take into account the amount of time these lockdown kids spend in their rooms and she would have been rocketing off the teen tantrum dial. She doesn’t understand their arguing and raised voices push her over some invisible edge. Having her own little safe haven where she can perfect tiktok dances to her heart’s content, write songs and face time her own pals, has been a very welcome refuge.
What is lockdown? Social distancing? What did those words even mean to us before all this began? Whenever we emerge out of this, blinking into our brave, new world, desperate to hug our oldest friends…how will we and our world be changed? We can only hope for the better.
Guilty as I feel about admitting this, I like lockdown….maybe too much. And I was really nervous about it. Lots pf people crave the idea of endless days to be filled with pottering. But it fills me with panic and dread….I recall a dim and distant past when that’s how I spent most of my time, but then I had kids and life became….busy. I sddenly found it really hard not to be busy while simultaneously insisting that everyone else be busy too.
I entered lockdown very trepidatiously, as I’m sure most of us did. It’s taken me 20 years with my own family to realise that I struggle with holidays. Not the actual go on holiday and lie on the beach/go for walks/ drink mojitos part of it, but the part when we’re at home, school is off and all routine is out the window. The, here we are, it’s just us! part of the holiday. I’ve begun to realise that while everyone else needs to relax, come down after a busy year, I’m all too often slightly frantic about a perceived lack of activity and a total lack of structure. Hmmmm, so panic set in until I realised I was going to be flat out working from home, phew.
Home school in the sunshine
What then for home schooling? And so, as I’m sure we all know, the juggle began. Douglas and I did shifts of schooling (for about 2 days I attempted maths but it was so demoralising for all concerned, considering I failed my o’grade and have passed these genes around somewhat liberally.)The curriculum swiftly became a bit more creative. The first week was quite lovely, Douglas did music with them in the morning and I did English in the afternoon, in between plently of home ec and PE, otherwise known as making highly calorific/fried snacks every half hour and jumping on the trampoline. My fear of being at home with my family had quickly transformed into thinking we could transmogrify into some hybrid of the Waltons and Little House on the Prairie. By week 2, I was losing my mind. The elder teens were sleeping till 4 and doing none of the helpful things I’d attempted to instigate. The eldest didn’t see the need to help with her sister’s schooling while her dad and I worked. Number 2, a trainee chef, saw no need to help with family meals and I listened to myself, bribe, berate, moan, nag, shout and slam once too often over the next 6 weeks. Now? My expectations have lowered and things are calmer. The eldest isn’t on houseparty quite so often, there’s not quite so many empty cans of neon coloured alcohol under her bed. Number 2 still spends most of his day in bed but then its cycling or fishing,(or so he tells us….) so at least an activity. No one has learned an instrument. Pictures lean against walls un hung. We are not a board game playing family. There have been no great revelations. We have had our ups and downs, but everyone’s mental health has remained fairly buoyant throughout. There have even been some lovely time times.
Everyone is cycling more. Douglas and I walk every evening and have lunch in the garden with an assortment of kids most days. Flora has started playing piano of her own volition and Matilda is a TikTok queen. She and I have also dipped our toes in the online world. Actually, we dived head first into the land of Facebook live and found we quite like it. Matilda’s appearances on Facebook with Frets Kitchen Concerts and fb live with Home-start singing and signing sessions and our Tiny Gigs performance for mental health charity Tiny Minds , have provided a structure to our week. She chooses the songs, learns the lyrics, rehearses and loves the performance aspect. We’ve had to learn new ways to fill our time and while it’s not the same as being at clubs and meeting others, it’s not all bad. We’ve had to find ways to keep active with gymnastics, football, swimming and drama all cancelled for the foreseeable future. The girls do online dance sessions that I’m not allowed to join and look at me sadly when I ask them to join me with my YouTube yoga. No one walks with us without full on bribing or tears (me and them). But I’m learning to let this go. They just want to be left alone to get on with it, but I need them to need me. What does this say about them? What does it say about me? No answers on a postcard please.