Mum Blog: Living the lockdown with my teenage daughter!
When I look back to Christmas, our thoughts and plans for the future, it feels like we are living in some weird dystopian novel. Increasingly worried about the environment, I had started following Extinction Rebellion’s activities in the news and signed up for a local tree planting initiative. Most of the time spent with my daughter was in driving practice, ferrying her to her local job at a pub or a friends’ party. Week nights she was shuttered away in her bedroom studying.
By late January, it was clear the virus could become a pandemic. An avid follower of national news: radio 4 usually switched on in the car and kitchen, Sunday papers bought each week. Also my job working in a communications role for a membership association for day nurseries, meant I was focused every day on the implications for business.
Things are about to change…
The office telephone was now ringing continually as members sought advice on how to deal with their staff, children and parents travelling to or returning from Europe at half term. It had now entered my daughter’s consciousness that the coronavirus might just pose a threat to her recently booked trip to Europe – the budget flight to Milan has already been booked and paid for. As a mother I defaulted into instant reassurance. “I’m sure it will be all over in Italy by June!” I replied when questioned. How wrong could I be!
My daughter started to take the coronavirus seriously when she started with a temperature. We kept her off school for several days – just in case she had caught COVID-19. We listened carefully for the dry cough that is a recognized symptom of the virus and provided tea, throat sweets and reassurance that this was merely a typical English winter flu virus.
The week running up to lockdown was chaotic. While I juggled trying to work from home, communicating with my team by WhatsApp and staying positive, my daughter heard her upcoming school trip to Paris is cancelled and attended a final assembly at school. Tears and hugs with friends and teachers followed – despite Government advice on social distancing, as she realized her school days are over and she will not be taking exams! Emotions run high. A planned 18th birthday party for a friend goes ahead and we make the difficult decision to allow her to attend – though with strict warnings about alcohol and hugging!
With my job furloughed one week after lockdown, our comfortable existence was turned upside down. My daughter had to deal with many disappointments from the stream of cancellations. Paris, driving test, A Level exams. Meanwhile a prolonged “holiday” at home stared back at me as I logged disconsolately on to my computer on the first morning – not sure what to do with my day with no emails to check or deadlines to meet!
Time to fill…
But a vacuum has to be filled! As if to somehow compensate furloughed workers and school children we enjoy days of relentless sunshine and spend time relaxing in the garden and taking family walks.
I am a creature of habit. Determined not to fritter away my time, I still set my alarm clock for 7am each weekday. By 8.30am I am at my computer: taking advantage of some of the excellent free online courses available right now and helping my self-employed husband with one of his charity clients. Afternoons are spent gardening, reading and following Boris’s advice on exercise.
My daughter meanwhile stays in bed until mid-morning – though I wake her at 8.30am with a mug of tea, books are read and French videos on YouTube French are watched before she emerges – blinking in the daylight. She spends a lot of time on social media and Zoom and keeps mostly to her bedroom. When it grows hot she emerges to sunbathe like a tulip opening in the spring. But I can’t complain. She has applied to study English Literature at university – so reading D.H. Lawrence, Shakespeare and George Orwell is not time wasted. She runs, cycles and does some yoga too. I can’t begrudge her this time – though I worry about the future for her and for us all……………
My reflections on life in lockdown…
So while I do not want to trivialize the impact of the coronavirus on lives, the lockdown has brought me benefits, one of them being time. Oodles of time available for thinking and re-building relationships and getting to know myself again.
My husband Phil has the ability to switch off from work and family issues, settle down with a book or TV programme and relax. He is better able to live in the moment than me. But I have been re-learning this vital skill – and in doing so, discovering the joy of relaxing in a comfortable chair, with a good book, a homemade cake and a cup of Lady Grey tea!
Spending time with my family has been unexpectedly beneficial. We have talked more, enjoyed more mealtimes together, played cards and scrabble and watched TV programmes together – able to chat and banter without the pressure of frayed tempers, limited time and conflicting priorities.
I have also picked up some long forgotten skills. I set myself a project to sew a fabric facemask, in case a borrowed sewing machine, in case they are made compulsory and have now produced five. Meanwhile she has encouraged me to pick up my French language knowledge – which had laid dormant since my teenage years; watching videos and encouraging me to try some rather stilted French conversation with her.
And now after six weeks at home, I am anxious about the rhythm of my daily life returning to its pre-lockdown beat!
Daughter Blog: Living the lockdown with parents over 50!
The coronavirus first floated into my consciousness in its early stages, as it did for many. I treated it with little concern, ploughing on with my life and thinking back to similar circumstances in the past that had never affected me personally. I had more to worry about anyway: A Levels, school drama – things that have paled into insignificance now.
So to bring things up to date, the corona virus has cancelled or postponed my A levels, my social life and consequently any motivation to leave my bed. Perhaps what I find so strange about this is how young I feel. When I was 7 or 8 I would spend the whole summer holiday like this, wandering about, finding things to do. There was no end goal, I lived in the moment and this is hard to return to.
At eighteen I want to travel, meet friends and gain independence. Yet I have been shuttled back to early childhood. With no siblings to annoy, it’s just me, my parents and the cat. So how am I filling this gaping void?
Time with my parents…
Mornings are mostly spent waking up, so I avoid my parents quite often as this is not when I am at my best. My Mum kindly finds a task for me to do and my parents work, so until lunch we have little interaction. Food has been our saviour for the duration of March and April. A desire to eat it is something we all have in common, and all of this time means that more preparation goes into meals and we can chat over food, however little there is to say. Taking turns to cook meals and trying different recipes that are compatible with flour shortages and a smaller range of veg keep this entertaining and will certainly prepare me for university.
On most days I exercise with my parents, a run with my Mum or a take a bike ride with my Dad. On some days I am not in the mood or we go for a family walk.
Afternoons are leisurely, if the weather is nice we sit out and talk. The afternoon can drag though, so finding small tasks to do with my parents fills the time nicely. We use the sewing machine sporadically or join the legions of banana bread bakers, the more domestic the better.
After dinner we will often watch television together with a cup of tea and pudding. We also spend some time on Zoom with family and friends.
Time with myself…
This is the important one for not going mad. Everyone needs time alone, and even though isolation can be a lonely experience, it can be suffocating to be in close proximity to the same people always.
As a family we converge for food and tasks and diverge for relaxation and work. Yes, I have no work right now but schools are encouraging us to do some, to keep us from regressing into the Netflix-binging slobs the teachers presume we all must be. Most of this work is done in my room, which is a place I go to do things on my own: sleeping, schoolwork and listening to music. Mum has the office and Dad has the lounge.
I do sometimes exercise on my own, although it is reassuring to be with a parent if I am going further afield. I call my friends on Zoom regularly, this often makes me feel much better if I’ve had a frustrating day or feel low.
When I finally emerge from my room to help around the house, I listen to yet more music or podcasts. It is nice to have things to entertain me that are personal, that I have discovered and grown to love on my own. My parents listen to the radio and read the paper which is their version of this.
The age gap between myself and my parents is typically bridged by food, television and our one hour of daily exercise. There are other things that tie us together: the strange adaptation taking place to this new regime, an empty calendar and an uncertain future. Although it’s nice to forget the future for a minute, enjoy being safe and healthy as a family and relax together in front of a detective series with no pressing need to do anything.