Last night I found myself back in the park with 2 of my oldest school pals, drinking wine from the bottle and laughing more than I have in a while. Such a sweet moment of nostalgic joy, bought to us by lock down 2020, as pubs and restaurants remain closed. How funny to come full circle and end up back doing the simple things that bought us so much happiness as kids.
The best things about these meet ups is hearing all about how each one of us (still 11-year-old girls at heart) are now doing as adults in charge of our own kids. Especially now, in the midst of a pandemic and the world is a strange place to navigate.
The consensus is that iPads have been a life saver, as has wine and we’ve all very much had enough of this craziness now. Getting down to business with other mums is reassuring. Lock down has been a tough time for parents, and it is good to start talking about it.
As many of you know, we ended up moving out of London and back to the West Country to my Dad’s house in Cirencester. I would say that Cirencester was one of the worst places to be on lock down with kids because the population is of an older generation, meaning they had very little time for the walking, talking germs that were my children! Half way through lock down, when things got really intense and weird, my 6 year old boy turned to me and said “Mummy, I think you need to go to a special school that teaches you how to stop shouting at people.”
He did have a point. I lost count how many times during those long months that someone hurled some abuse at me for taking up pavement space with my kids. Or the time when a dog walker tripped up my son but would not lend a hand to help him up when crushed under his bike because she was shielding. Every time we went to the supermarket my boys would take it upon themselves to be as disgusting and rowdy as possible, writhing around on the floor, licking things, licking each other and generally terrorising the aging population of this sleepy Cotswold town. I have no control over them under normal circumstances, but when things really matter and judgement levels are high, they obviously take it to new and creative levels. Running in 2 different directions, not following any arrows, picking things up and rubbing their faces in it, getting up close and personal with EVERYONE, sneezing loudly, coughing up bits of snack, the list goes on. On a good day I would just have to laugh as I navigated the arrows and 2m distances, whilst carrying a squirming 3 year old under my arm. But on a bad day when yet another person judged me for daring to bring my kids out into a public space, I was left in angry tears of disbelief as to how we had got to this point.
They are, however, just normal little boys with boundless energy and infinite love to share. Since travelling they have developed their social skills, are able to strike up a conversation with anyone, start 6 different schools in one year and wrap everyone around their little fingers by being utterly charming. This sudden and dramatic change in atmosphere where everyone became full of fear was confusing and sad for my boys. They endeavoured to engage with people and make them laugh, only to be shot dirty looks at and told to “keep back” or “get out.”
As a parent this was incredibly hard to witness, especially as I believe in letting our kids express themselves, make their own decisions and figure the world out for themselves. How do you explain what is happening without scaring the hell out of children, making them neurotic and OCD for the rest of their lives? I resorted to telling them that the world had gone mad and that they just had to ride it out until things went back to normal.
Then came to decision to send them back to school. To be honest, I was pretty adamant that I didn’t want my children to be in socially distanced class rooms or ‘bubbles.’ After keeping them safe and sane throughout lock down I didn’t want to wreck their heads by sending them into an environment where ‘germs’ were bad and getting close to other children might result in someone dying. If you really think about it, it is psychological abuse and very worrying.
But after over 3 months of trying to run our business whilst entertaining 2 crazy beautiful nutters, I gave in and sent them to a school down the road to my Dad’s house. They are in their ‘bubbles’ but the teachers at the school all seem to be doing everything they can to keep things as normal as possible. I must focus on the positive and my kids absolutely love this school. They get more attention due to smaller classes, they get to play and learn after 3 long months of just us and when I collect them their hands don’t feel like they’ve been down a toilet or up someone’s nose all day due to regular sanitising.
I realised throughout this experience that I cannot protect or shield my children from reality, but I can give them the skills to discern that reality for themselves. During lockdown, whenever the news came on the radio my boys quickly learnt to scour the kitchen counter and turn it off. We took long walks and spent a lot of quality time with each other. I taught them how their minds control their bodies and how to be aware of where their attention goes and how it makes them feel. I won’t be here forever reminding them that they are infinite consciousness, having a human experience inside bodies and minds capable of anything. But right now I can show them that they are in control of their own lives and that they can choose to experience that life in any way they like.