The start of the week but not as we know it.
I’m not missing the craziness of Monday morning: lost PE kits, hidden pack-up boxes and a scramble to find books, homework and all the other hallmarks of the school run.
Instead I get into bed with the kids, breathing in their sleepy scent and they’re wrapping their soft limbs around me. I’m thinking how cuddles are all we need right now.
After an eerily peaceful breakfast (no simultaneous hair brushing / toast eating / getting dressed), I decide to start the day productively and get rid of some rotting and crusty decking from outside our kitchen door that’s been bugging me for ages.
I spy a solitary worm underneath. It wriggles in the sunlight as if it hasn’t seen daylight since 1988; I could see flashes of newborn-pink skin flecked in between the earthy soil.
Immediately, I get my phone out and type “can worms catch covid-19” into Google, forgetting the question mark and ruminating whether this makes a difference to the quality of the search result.
My attention idly turns to watch the birds on the feeder – there’s quite literally a pecking order that I find soothing to watch – and it snaps something inside.
Hold oooonnnnn! WTF am I googling this for? It’s day 1. My brain is as scrambled as the eggs I just had for breakfast.
I simply can’t focus. I feel like a character in a movie. I don’t know who I am right now and I definitely don’t need to know whether worms can catch Covid-19.
The trusted ADHD ability to hyper-focus left the building a couple of weeks ago.
Ah, I think, let’s get on with Joe Wicks. A workout is needed! The focus will come back. These are weird times.
K Joe, let’s go. THANK YOU FOR THIS MASSIVE GIFT we say excitedly, all in our workout gear and with the sun streaming in through the window.
“He’s broken the Internet!” Tony exclaims, as we struggle alongside 850k other people to be transported into Joe’s living room studio. Ah, such a sweet and enthusiastic guy. The kids fall in love immediately. I think we all do. “What a hero!” we shout as we begin.
5 minutes in and Flora’s given up the bunny jumps to stand on her head, Jemima’s excitedly taking selfies of her and Joe (on the tv) for Instagram, and I’m sweating and puffing like mad and wondering why he chose that particularly pale and plush carpet instead of something more durable, given he has tiny kids in his house.
Tony retreats to another room to work leaving us to bounce around the new classroom.
“Mum, you might want to sit this one out, it’s mountain climbers” says Jemima, knowledgeably.
I try and prove her wrong, but she’s annoyingly right. I do some extra star jumps; just as some bored looking teens walk past the window and see me mid star jump. I wave at them, and they look away awkwardly.
Workout done. Feel great for a minute or 2. Hope this brings my focus back, open my laptop to do some some work whilst the kids check out their online classroom and take over my whiteboard.
“We’re really hungry” Jemima says. It’s 9.32. “Can we have snack-time?.”
Life on lockdown. In my dreamiest mind-movie of this period, I’m going to create so much, and read and write and sketch and get really into gardening. The house will be nice. We’ll soak up stories and art together lying on a rug in the garden (because y’know, a heatwave is imminent and inevitable). I might even learn a new language: Portuguese? Italian maybe!
And this will finally be the time I get the kids lapping up high-qual arthouse literature and films.
Then boom. The stark realisation of fantasy v reality hit home the second I downloaded HouseParty.
You can’t hear the impact of covid-19 from here and the streets are eerily quiet but inside, in houses all around, is the unstoppable surround sound of kids shrieking each other’s names into multiple devices. They don’t even seem to have conversations.
“Lily, add Jess!” is said with more urgency than the stockpilers talking about how many bog rolls they got in Sainsbo’s. “Where’s Amelie? Get Bethany?!”. “Mum, who’s on house party? I NEED to play Roblox with Lola and your phone’s run out of battery. Nightmare”.
Quite. Then it dawns on me.
We’re supposed to be isolating but quite literally everyone is in da house, all of the time.
This 24/7 multi-way chat thing, it’s like heroin for kids and readily available, unlike loo roll.
I try and explain the role of dopamine in addiction. Eye rolls.
Um, let’s get your school work done this morning then you can play this afternoon, shall we?
More eye rolls. At least the teachers are being ace and recording fun videos. I reminded myself of the rules around colon and semi-colon usage whilst the kids loved watching Mr B teaching English from his living room.
I take a trip to the super-market. The weird times hit home again as I see the look in a man’s eye who’s piling baked beans into his trolley. 18 cans of them. “Do you have lots of kids, then?” I ask all passive-aggressive-on-purpose. He thunders off and I decide not to tell him that they’re all the low-sugar kind as I take a pack of “normal” tins that he didn’t spy during his smash ‘n’ grab.
When I get home – fully stocked with snacks and treats – the kids have progressed their HouseParty chats to using Zoom at the same time WHILST doing their homework. This dialogue is a never-ending cocophony of shrieking and requires every device we have to be charged, including my phone as an essential extra.
I wonder if the internet will cope and inside I feel like I’ve just done five turns in a row on the Walzer’s.
Oh well, I think, it might stop me refreshing the news and I can still “work” on my laptop.
I sit down and Flora’s button nose pokes round the door. She doesn’t show her face but whispers confidently:
“Mum, it’s 11.45. Lunchtime!” and again I rise. My troop requires feeding.
I breathe deeply in the grown-up’s living room, inhaling the sunlight on the navy blue walls, walking away from my “normal” laptop life and into this new, uncharted role.
It’s going to be OK I say silently to myself. And it is.
The highs: Clapping for the incredible NHS workers who take huge personal risks and don’t get paid enough. Grateful for school making an extraordinary effort to keep a dialogue going with the kids. Our vegetable seeds arriving in the post. Three warm and sunny days where I snatch time to read and write and sunbathe. No uniform, just PJs or gym gear. The vast quantities of bright pink borscht I made, bringing cheer to the table. Cooking up the rainbow on the daily.
The lows. The reality of the situation sinking in. The news and especially the live blogging of the heart-breaking stats. The noise levels in the house. Watching the impact of this paradigm shift of modern life. Realising I haven’t seen Rowan, our garden robin for a few weeks. Ongoing anxiety peaks and troughs.