The Highs and Lows of Lockdown
What week are we on now? Lucky thirteen, I think, since the unthinkable happened and the UK shut down to slow the spread of Coronavirus. During a zoom chat this week a friend asked us all what our best and worst times have been. I was already planning a blog on that topic, but that chat crystalized my thoughts. No matter how and when this period ends, it might be interesting to remember how I felt in the thick of it. So here are my best and worst bits of Springtime lockdown. There’s one more good than bad, in an attempt to stay honest but positive!
The kindness. Communities truly came together to take care of each other in a way that many people previously would probably have said they didn’t have time for. I joined in and have been helping where I can by running errands for an elderly neighbour, my parents and various others at odd times. I benefited from this too when my brother became very ill with Covid-19 and needed medicine and shopping. A good friend referred me to a local volunteer group in his area, that he didn’t know about (he was too sick to go outside and see the posters). Some kind soul brought him the medicine and food he needed to get him through the worst of it, and so my role was confined to laying awake worrying about him and talking him through his panic on the phone. I’ll be forever grateful to the lovely woman who cared for him that day.
The slowness. We suddenly had eons of extra time. No school runs, no activities, no traffic, no rushing. I can honestly say the slower pace of life, particularly in the mornings, has been a bonus, and one that I know not everyone has experienced. No part of me misses getting the three of us presentable and out of the house by 8.20am five days a week.
The games. I bought my son a pack of UNO cards shortly before lockdown began and it’s honestly been the best £5.99 I’ve ever spent. We have spent HOURS playing both UNO and ‘Football UNO’ which is a version he invented using those overpriced monstrosities, Match Atax cards. Even the four-year-old is beginning to understand it, especially the ‘cheeky cards’ (ie the ones that make your opponent pick up extra ones) and I honestly think she’s learnt more about numbers and colours from this than the dubious ‘teaching’ I’ve attempted. I also enjoy the silly game ‘Headbandz’ especially the utterly random questions from the youngest: ‘Am I a pen? Am I a rabbit? Am I a poo? HAHAHAHA!’ Other games that will be permanently associated with Lockdown are ‘Chicken or Hero’ (me throwing a ball at them as they run up and down the garden), Treasure Hunts for random items in the house and the originally-named The Ball Game, which involves me flinging a ball at them as they bounce on the trampoline screaming and trying to avoid it.
Realising what’s important. A bit of a melancholy one, this, but lockdown confirmed the people, places and activities that are truly important to me. When the first ‘lockdown easing’ measures happened and we were allowed to meet one person for a socially distant walk, I was all over the rule change and within a week had enjoyed three separate walks with some of the people most dear to me. I already knew who they were but that instinct to connect was confirmed by the desperation I felt to see them again after so long and the enormously therapeutic effect of having a chat and a laugh, even from two metres away.
New boundaries. Life is a permanent lesson but a big one I’ve learnt from being stuck in the house 24/7 with the two people I gave birth to is that there’s no harm in putting myself on an equal footing sometimes. For most parents, it’s all too easy to slip into resentment at the fact that you’re seemingly only ever five – maybe ten – minutes away from the next demand to play, provide a snack or wipe a bum. But the intensity of lockdown forced me to make time and space for myself even amid the madness. The children have seen a side to me that they probably didn’t really know before. Now that we’re together all the time, sometimes I just have to close the door and say ‘this is my time to work/ exercise/ meditate/ study.’ Although my instinct is to feel guilty about that, I’ve actually learned that it doesn’t do them any harm to not come first ALL the time.
Public urination. My kids are JUST ABOUT young enough to get away with ‘tree wees’ so this isn’t as embarrassing as it could be but for some reason they have both pretty much stopped using the toilets we have available at home in preference to waiting all day until we’re on our daily walk miles from any facilities to decide they can hear the call of nature. The older one does at least make an effort to be discreet but I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve found myself bent double making a cradle from my arms, legs splayed as wide as I can to avoid the unwelcome sprinkle on my sandals, to enable my four-year-old daughter to relieve herself in broad daylight.
The loneliness. I’m not the worst off in this regard due to the two aforementioned cheerful, noisy, rambunctious lockdown buddies, but I do miss adult company. Although it’s now possible to actually see other people as long as it’s outdoors, I hate the feeling that something as simple as a hug or a comforting touch is now either impossible or loaded with guilt that you might be passing on a lethal disease. It goes against every human instinct to comfort and connect.
The judgement. At the beginning of lockdown in particular, there was a real tendency for people to be very judgemental about why others might be leaving their house, or taking their kids to the shops, or sitting in someone’s garden. Although there was plenty of kindness about, there was also a fair amount of nosiness and judgement. There was a kind of moral hierarchy with Covid-ward nurses at the top and the bored, feckless folk ‘breaking lockdown’ at the bottom. (And Dominic Cummings seemed determined to win the prize for the latter.) Speaking for myself, hearing all this speculation only increased my sense of despair at what the world had come to. The best thing about lockdown restrictions beginning to ease is the end of that feeling that I’m being spied on by people determined to ‘stay home and stay safe’ better than anyone else in their street.
The tiredness. OH THE TIRED. I almost feel that I shouldn’t complain, because I’m not on the frontline and, as I described above, I’m enjoying not rushing about in the way we used to. But there’s something about the relentlessness of being stuck at home – particularly with little kids, I guess – that’s mentally and emotionally exhausting. I need fresh air and exercise in particular to stay sane, and on the days when the youngest doesn’t want to walk far, or insists on the buggy she’s really too big for (which also means she won’t get the exercise she needs and therefore sleep properly that night) I can feel my blood pressure soaring and my patience draining away. I haven’t and I wouldn’t but there are times I just want to shut the door and walk out on my own. Single parents are bossing it during this lockdown. They’ve made (and cleared up) every meal, weathered every tantrum, delivered every home-school lesson, kissed every cut knee, listened to every complaint and worry, baked every cake, DJ’d every disco, for thirteen weeks and counting. And that’s without the work we actually get paid for. It’s tough and there’s no end in sight. But we’ve got this.