As a continuation of the work we produced supporting Mental Health Awareness Week, we have decided to publish a weekly blog dedicated to wellness. We’ve asked a few of our staff, volunteers and organisations we work closely with to write a journal post and diary a day in lockdown. These blogs will provide a snapshot of the everyday lives, experiences and wellbeing of our people.
Although we are still in the throes of the coronavirus pandemic, I often fast forward in my mind to the future and wonder what I will say to my children when they are grown up and ask me what was life like under lockdown.
For me, lockdown emerged during my time on maternity leave with my second child Kai and my five year old son Zach in year 1 of school. With lockdown enforced, and much of the outside world now out of bounds and off limits, home was now the focal point for enrichment. Like many families and households, enjoyment was derived from simple pleasures; being creative, cooking, baking, learning a new skill or finishing off that DIY project started months ago. Not to mention the weekly virtual quiz that soon became the highlight of your week in which you’d make a concerted effort to be bathed, dressed in clean clothes and suitably groomed for the occasion.
There was also homeschooling. Many evenings were spent downloading school material (there’s so much of the stuff), printing templates and reading through the lesson plan in preparation for homework the next day. I honestly don’t know how teachers manage to cover the curriculum and cram such vast amounts of information into our childrens’ little heads. What I do know now, is that in the future, I vow to never grumble nor tut when my son loses his jumper in the classroom and I ask the teacher to look for it the next day and she forgets to do so.
“Well I’m ever so sorry Madam, I was rather busy today teaching what feels like a herd of children the meaning of a suffix as well as phonics, multiplication, reading, science and PE. How reckless of me to have forgotten to add search for lost jumper to my exhaustive list.”
Of course my son’s teacher is far too polite and professional to utter such a universal truth but I’m now convinced her eyes have been telling me this since term one. Any parent that has spent the past 12 weeks homeschooling their children hopefully have a deeper appreciation for all the hard work and planning teachers consistently put into our children’s education.
When the lockdown began and social media was awash with charming photos of children displaying their rainbow illustrations in front windows, I encouraged Zach to draw one of his own. Zach was enthused by the idea and carefully painted a lovely bright rainbow arch. He then chose to write the motivational words ‘Everybody be Happy’ with a smiley face underneath. Utterly adorable – except that he chose to write the letters in thick gloopy black paint. As the letters and smiley face began to slowly drip down the drawing paper, they formed a sort of scary movie type of font whilst the smiley face began to resemble the tormented figure from Edmund Gustav’s ‘The Scream’. Not quite the image I was hoping for! As the nurturing, supportive and child-led mother that I am, I proudly stuck up Zach’s picture on the back window overlooking the garden; away from public scrutiny.
“But how will people passing by the house see the picture mummy?” Zach asked.
“We’ll do another picture for the front window darling, this picture can be for the birds.”
Of course Zach was not entirely convinced, but the prospect of painting another rainbow and putting off homework for another half hour was a good enough deal.
As a parent of young children, your concern for their wellbeing often precedes your own. How do you discuss with them what Coronavirus and lockdown means and how it will affect their way of living for a while? But children can be remarkably pragmatic and matter of fact. In the midst of lockdown and at its most restrictive, Zach declared:
“I’m going to write out birthday party invitations for everyone I live with, as they will be the only people allowed to come to my party because of coronavirus.”
“Dear mummy,” the invitation read in Zach’s best most neatest handwriting (never this neat when we’re actually doing homework).
“Please come to my birthday party from 11-1pm. Please wear a rainbow t-shirt and bring cake.”
In moments like these children provide a wonderful sense of unintended comedy to the situation.
And what of my youngest child Kai?
Well he was six months when lockdown began. That perfect age for stay and play sessions, library visits, buggy strolls in the park, trips to the swimming pool and spending quality time with grandparents and extended family. With these activities no longer permissible and with homeschooling a focal part of the day, Kai simply had to slot into this new routine. Suffice to say, when Zach’s English lesson required him to learn about the palaeontologist Mary Anning and role play a significant moment in her life, Zach played the part of Mary whilst Kai stood in as the Ichthyosaur fossil Mary discovered on the beach at Lyme Regis. It was a perfect role for him really, a non-moving, non-verbal part that just required him to stay sat on the living room floor. Of course his squeals of delight and excitement were not required for the part but his improvisation was appreciated nonetheless.
So how else have I spent my time entertaining little ones in lockdown? Well, arts and craft activities are always a sure fire hit where children’s imagination can transport them far away from the confines of lockdown. Fun science experiments have also helped to beat the monotony. We have made marshmallow slime, salt dough fossils, frozen eggs, cloud in a jar, lava lamps, our own rain gauge, oobleck, ice cream in a bag and a dozen more to keep little heads and little hands happy. There have been simulated experiences like camping (in the garden, complete with tent and fire pit for cooking a dinner) and ‘trips to the cinema’ involving printing off film tickets for a movie night in the living room complete with popcorn.
Nature and exercise has also been medicinal in lockdown. Walks through the woods and fields and bike rides in the park have allowed us to stretch our limbs and brought fresh air to our lungs. Our ears have been pricked by the chorus of birdsong that seems to resonate louder than before with no background noise of traffic to contend with.
And so back to that future history lesson when I am one day asked about life under lockdown. Well it made us appreciate a way of living that we may have taken for granted. Freedom of movement, friends and family, public services, key workers, having a job, the convenience of shopping, social contact, culture and entertainment, nature, our entire existence perhaps and our way of life.
And were we forever grateful for all it and continued to appreciate these things when life finally returned to normal? Only time will tell, but I very much hope so.