Released On 14th Feb 2021
Caroline P's blog: Lockdown 3
As we settle into Lockdown 3, we’re all feeling a bit blue in my house. My sleep is all over the place, and if something threatens to shift the delicate house of cards routine I’ve built for my household, I spiral into panic, so reliant on its military precision to get through the week. Coincidentally – just after I was thinking about this, I read in an NYT article: “having a routine to survive the days doesn’t mean mothers are OK”. I’m happy to put my hand up – I’m mostly ok, but not all the time.
And the kids are finding it tough. The 12 year old, having transitioned (“not with a bang but a whimper”) from primary to secondary school has lost the daily anchor of a tight group of primary school friends that she’s grown up with, and is navigating an entirely new friendship circle. Having contracted COVID over the Christmas holidays, and put a friend into quarantine when she was (unknowingly) contagious, she is nervous of meeting old friends or new outdoors. And home school is so different this time. It was a breeze in Year 6 – she’d done her 11+, made her secondary school decision, and with SATs cancelled, there really wasn’t any pressure. Now, she has a full day’s timetable from 8.30am to 4.00pm, with some subjects new to her, and, this time, all alone from her bedroom. So despite class Google meets, and FaceTiming friends and cousins, she’s been feeling isolated, a bit depressed, and doesn’t understand or know what to do with these feelings. She’s started crying more, and gets frustrated that she can’t pinpoint her feelings to any one thing. It’s not something we can fix, there’s no sticking plaster that we can apply, so we watch and we listen and encourage her to talk to us; and we hope that this doesn’t manifest in anything more long-term.
And the 8 year old, who goes at life like a steam train, and can make friends in an instant, has started to retreat into himself, plugging himself into audiobooks and creating highly complicated Lego worlds from the sanctuary of his bedroom for hours; he doesn’t want to facetime friends, doesn’t want to go on a daily walk. The Lego building is supremely helpful for letting us get our work done, but we worry about what his isolation is doing to his social and emotional development – he’s finding it harder to regulate so mild frustration quickly escalates into slammed doors and shouting; a wrong answer in maths will reduce him to tears.
There is no easy solution, and the things that usually punctuate the mundane – a belly laugh with a friend who knows you inside out; a hug from Grandma; a birthday celebration to look forward to – these are things that we are all missing to our very core, and making the children feel isolated and sad.
So last weekend, my husband and I decided we needed to do more to purposefully bring joy into the house. We needed to create a sense of occasion, and a sense of fun. This is something we’ve been doing off and on through the lockdowns - but it was time to be more systematic about it. So it was an elaborate hotel-style afternoon tea at the table on Saturday afternoon, complete with white tablecloth, floral arrangements, and pretty crockery; on Sunday, an outdoor cinema screen erected in the kitchen for a hot dog and movie night – and watched as both events surprised them into happy smiles. And, funnily enough, those little pick-me-ups seem to have carried them through the week a little bit and the house has felt a little bit lighter.
As I write, we’re about to head into Chinese New Year so we’ll be welcoming the Year of the Ox with aplomb – firecrackers, red packets and all. Gung Hei Fat Choy everyone, and I hope the Year of the Ox brings you all health and happiness (and an end to lockdown).
Caroline works in communications for an investment manager and lives in London with her husband, 11 year old daughter, 7 year old son and - until COVID-19 - an au pair who kept the wheels of the house turning.