We may have only been in lockdown for just over three months but for us parents, it has felt like an eternity. As restrictions start to ease many of us are starting to reflect on how things have changed, and what lessons have been learned. As a working parent of two primary school children, it has certainly been an education for everyone in the household.
I’m So Over Minecraft
Before lockdown, I could at least muster some enthusiasm when the iPad was thrust into my face with the words “Look at what I did on Minecraft Mummy,” even if I had no clue what it was that I was supposed to be looking at. But with my children spending significantly more time on their screens than I would like, the Minecraft obsession has reached new heights. The four year old has been bewitched by her brother’s enthusiasm and will navigate around the pixelated world with ease, all whilst screaming at my seven year old that she “is not a noob!” They spend hours discussing terms that mean nothing to me, such as nether portals and creepers, and even though they now play together, they still have an overwhelming need to share their exploits with me. I just can’t pretend to be interested anymore. I really don’t give a damn if the latest update is super cool.
This isn’t helped by the fact that along with playing Minecraft, they have both become obsessed with watching YouTube videos of other people playing Minecraft. I now totally understand the term “influencer” since these loud and brash presenters with their ridiculously white teeth and completely unsubtle methods for making money (“don’t forget to click like and subscribe and visit my website to buy my stuff so I don’t have to get a real job”) have influenced the way my daughter speaks so that she LITERALLY uses LITERALLY in every sentence. LITERALLY.
I Would Make A Terrible Teacher
I have had a few people comment in the past that I would make a great teacher. I’m not really sure what gave them that impression but after trying to teach my daughter to blend it’s clear I’m not cut out for the job.
Me: OK, let’s look at this word and sound it out. C A T. Now you try, what are the letters?
Her: C A T.
Me: Great, now let’s see what it says. Listen to me sound out the words and tell me what the word is. C A T. C A T. CCCCC AAAA TTTT.
Her: Um, snake?
Me: What? Er, no. C A T. CCCAAAA T. C A T. C AAATTTT.
Her: Ooooo cake!
Me: Seriously? No. C A T. CCCAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA TTTTTT.
Her: Oh, it’s hat!
Me: Ok well that’s enough phonics today. How about some Minecraft.
Running Isn’t That Effective At Staving Off Weight Gain
Before lockdown I found it fairly easy to maintain my weight. It helped that I ran four times a week and generally didn’t pig out on a regularly basis. However, like many parents stuck at home with children to entertain, I have been doing a LOT of baking. Together with the kids we have made fruit cake, lemon drizzle cake, flapjack, chocolate sponge (several times), vanilla sponge (several times), scones (fruit, cheese, and plain), sticky toffee pudding, lemon meringue pie, and I even attempted to make Tunnock’s Tea Cakes (they tasted delicious but were a bit flat).
I didn’t think any of this was a problem. Afterall, I was now doing Joe Wicks PE and had increased my running to almost daily (it was my escape from the kids) and even taken up cycling (again, to escape the kids). However, I had, like many women in my situation, also taken to wearing my leggings, day in, day out. They are seriously comfortable and when you’re on a video conference it really doesn’t matter what you are wearing on the bottom half. So it was a bit of a shock when I eventually tried to put my jeans back on. Turns out you can’t outrun a bad diet.
The Days Are Long, But My Time Is Short
We split the home learning and working week in this house so I do half and my husband does half. On the days when he’s working he takes himself upstairs and I try and get the kids to work through their tasks and keep them from throttling each other, whilst still trying to maintain some limits on screen time. These days are so long. Every minute needs to be filled. Failure to do so may result in whines of “I’m bored, what can I do” or an attempt to turn the sofa into a climbing frame. What’s more, it can take hours for a reluctant seven year old to write a paragraph for their English worksheet, even if you try and bribe them to get it done faster. Days blur into each other with nothing of note that is different to mark one out from the next. There are no trips out to look forward to, no catch up with friends. Just daily walks, daily crafts, and daily attempts at home learning. Time moves slowly in lockdown.
And yet, time also seems to move quickly. All of those projects that I thought I would complete during this time remain untouched or incomplete. The decorating we thought we would do has been ignored. The material for the curtains I thought I’d make still lies bundled in the original packaging it was delivered in. The pile of books I was going to read has barely shrunk. If I’m not working then I’m parenting so my husband can work. There simply isn’t time for anything else.
Feminism Still Has A Way To Go
Women’s rights have come a long way since the suffragettes, but lockdown has showed me that subtle forms of sexism remains. My husband and I have been forced to split the working week and home schooling fairly evenly, thanks to my job that has strict set hours. But that certainly isn’t the case in the households of many of my friends. It seems clear to me that much of the home learning has been left to the women, with research confirming this. Even with our fairly even split, I still find myself bearing much of the mental load, such as sorting out the grocery shopping, cooking dinner, printing the worksheets for the week’s lessons, and liaising with the school over our children’s return.
Since the schools have started reopening, I’ve been struck by how many people have questioned my decision to return the children to school, compared to my husband. Almost everyone assumes it’s a decision that I have made myself, in order to benefit myself, and not a decision that was made by the both of us to benefit our family as a whole. Women might have equal rights in law, but attitudes, particularly to mothers, still lag behind.
My Kids Have Their Own Special Brand Of Creativity
Social media has been awash with beautiful creative projects that have been produced by children across the country during lockdown. Children have adorned their windows with rainbows, painted pretty pebbles that have been used to create a sort of memorial to all that has occurred, left chalk drawings on streets to make people smile, and created posters thanking the work of the NHS staff.
But not my children. My children have refused to have anything to do with rainbows. The chalk I gave them to decorate the pavement outside our house was mushed up and added to dirty rainwater collected in a bucket that was then spread all over my lawn. Fimo clay was used to create Minecraft style TNT, and my eldest thought it would be hilarious to add a specific appendage to my youngest’s model of “Forky” from Toy Story. Our “art classes” largely result in drawings from my eldest of doom bringing monsters whilst my youngest proudly presents me with pictures she drew of me with the largest belly possible.
I Need To Work Harder On My Children’s Social Skills & Manners
They’re not feral. They remember to say please and thank you when poked and generally manage to avoid being rude to other people. But social distancing has brought new challenges. My children got the idea of keeping away from other people fairly early on. Better than some adults in fact. But they are yet to grasp onto that British trait of being discreet. Instead, anyone we meet on the paths in the woods near our house is met with yells of “QUICK! THERE ARE PEOPLE COMING. MOVE OUT OF THE WAY! WE MUST NOT TOUCH THEM BECAUSE OF THE GERMS.”
I should probably add, this isn’t said in fear. They don’t know the full details of the virus and just understand that their germs could make elderly people very poorly. So it’s not fear that drives them to perform the modern equivalent of a leper unclean bell ring. They’re just totally oblivious of the need for subtlety.
Kids Can Grow A Ridiculous Amount In Three Months
My eldest child lives in joggers with elastic waist bands whilst my youngest lives in leggings. So when they were finally allowed back in school after three months it was a bit of a shock to discover that NONE of their uniform trousers fit anymore. Including the shorts I purchased new in during the week before lockdown.
I think my children may have been lying to me when they swore blind that they definitely do get three snacks a day at school and therefore should do at home as well.