There’s a corona crisis.
We’re in lockdown. It’s been many days.
There’s an ‘inside day’ atmosphere about – like when the weather app predicts a storm. But, all the time.
Eventhough the sun is shining, we resort to the same kind of entertainment one would when the weather says ‘stay put’. No going to the beach when the wind is still. No quick breakfast out, so the kids can run around (and the adults finally get a chance to talk). No Seattle coffee from Caltex. Instead, we build puzzles, complete lego sets, try to colour in, play board games… My Google searches now include ‘fun inside activities’, ‘cool science projects’ and ‘free games downloads’.
And fort building. The kids are making one in the living room. The spot on the couch, where I planned to watch Netflix tonight, is now the eldest one’s bedroom for the next two nights. It keeps them busy. And busy, entertained kids are moms’ favourite kind.
The 11-year old is the site manager. The two younger brothers are the eager construction workers. The 3-year old carries pillow towers and heavy winter blankets from every bedroom in the house. It’s incredible how he can do that, yet he cannot bring his tiny pile of washing from his room without help. The 7-year old is in charge of getting all the dining room chairs past the couch, to support the roofs.
I bite my lip every time I hear my eldest reprimand and order the younger ones around. I hear myself. All my own words, but in a boy voice. He even gets my tone right. (What a lesson about passing it down.) I politely tell him to talk nicely to his brothers. The younger two quickly chirp back that they don’t mind. They just appreciate being part of his team.
I get called to look at their great fort (every ten minutes). I have to do the full tour. I haven’t leopard crawled like this in ages. I even get an invite to sleep in there tonight and they offer to make me my own room. They’re very disappointed when I decline and I almost consider it. But no, thanks. I barely get a good night’s sleep in my own bed. Even the best padded wooden floor won’t do. They try to make me promise never to break the fort, ever. I say “we’ll see”. I know not to pick a fight now. There are plenty of negotiations about the treats they should have for their midnight feast. I offer some old sweets from a past party pack, half a packet of chips and two stale-ish biscuits.
They’re not impressed, but I explain it’s tough times.
Last night, my mom forwarded a post from a lady in Italy. She was writing “from the future”, as Italy already passed the lockdown phase we’re experiencing now. I realised that I CAN BE THAT to others. Our family has been in isolation for two weeks already, compared to most others who started at the official government announcement four days ago.
I can offer lots of advice.
Well, I don’t always appreciate it when people use ‘experience’ as a reason to lecture or try justify their opinions. (Well, only, of course, when their opinions differ from mine, otherwise I’d call their reasoning ‘proof’.)
So, my advice is only applicable to other moms of roughly my age (which is 29-ish-ish or 49-ish, depending on the mood), with three kids (preferably boys) between the ages of 3 and 11, with a busy household, including pets, a working husband, a long to-do list, more than one job, and plenty of projects. My advice is relevant, only if you share my values, attention to detail, and often a-type personality. You need to be a little pedantic, time-sensitive, and internally obsessed with organising and planning (but only internally, otherwise you’d seem manic). You need to be the type of mom that will walk around the world for her kids – balancing a school bag on her head, while carrying a coffee in the one hand and a favourite toy in the other. ALL around the world. Barefoot. While it’s hot. In sweatpants. But you also need to be the type of mom (and here’s where I lose half my crowd) that is realistic about her kids’ shortcomings and can publicly laugh about that.
If you can picture yourself as that, then picture this…
Here are some general tips, not an all-inclusive list at all, and in no particular order of importance:
This is possibly going to continue for a long time. Don’t plan your outings yet. The house is going to get smaller. The tempers are going to get shorter. The boredom is going to get larger. Practice to breathe in deeply, bite your lip often, and roll your eyes when no-one is looking. This should be easy to master, as most moms should be proficient at this already.
The silver lining is (no jokes) that this is the extra time with the kids moms always wish for. (However, this is not quite the type of extra time wives wish to spend with husbands, if you’re married with kids.) It will feel like a long weekend, then a nice break, then like the school holiday that’s too long. Initially the kids will fight more. But then they start getting along better than ever before. Everyone eventually adapts.
There still won’t be time to read the books you’ve stowed away for ‘one day’. And even if you do have the time, you’d probably find you’ve moved into a different phase of your life and they’re not so interesting anyway.
Don’t start a major project. You don’t want to be the only disappointed one when lockdown is over, because your project isn’t done yet.
You shouldn’t be too hard on yourself. If you shower and get dressed before dinner, it still counts. You’re allowed to call it a holiday some days. With some chores, you can actually get ahead – like freezing leftovers for future lunches. Make peace with the loops – those are dishes and laundry. They never end. You never get ahead. Just deal with it. Watch out for false sense of accomplishment. Soaking and drip-drying dishes cause less work now, but more groans later.
Hide the sweats. Don’t tell anyone where. Don’t be tempted to reveal the location when you’re too busy to get up to fetch some. Your husband might be worse than the kids, so don’t trust him either. Kids don’t snack proportional to their weight, but to their level of boredom. Keep them busy, but never compare yourself with Facebook moms. Great ideas other people post about how they keep their kids entertained for hours, are A) not so interesting to your kids; B)is above your kids’ skill level; C) fake news.
Many things are now ok. It’s ok if the kids sleep in the fort, because it’s not a school night. It’s ok if your kids wear the same clothes many days in a row. It’s ok if you do it too. It’s ok not to wear make-up or a bra. (Don’t make it too obvious to your husband that you’re not wearing a bra.)
Many things are now even better than ok. Your car will stay cleaner for longer than ever before. The kids will get skilled in the art of cleaning up and doing chores. They’ll even reach the point where they can do them without being rewarded. That earns you a pro-parent-badge.
No-one will truly know or appreciate how much you do every day. Your husband will get up from his work-from-home-desk just as you are about to make a cup of coffee or turn a page in a magazine. I don’t have much advice here, other than to teach your eldest how to make a decent cup of coffee.
Some further unrelated observations I’d like to convey: Take the batteries out of the bathroom scale. Drink the cheap coffee first. The snackwicher is your best friend. More open windows result in more dust – choose wisely. When the kids play dress-up, don’t offer make-up or face paint. The mess of baking with the kids will most likely outweigh the fun thereof. Small plates fit the dishwasher better and everyone eats less. You can drink coffee from soup mugs if all the cups are dirty. If you have boys, you won’t feel how sticky the floor in front of the toilet is if you wear shoes to the loo. If you have a smelly dog, don’t leave your best carpet outside to air. The smell of grey water doesn’t wash off your hands. Do not make sandwiches after cleaning grey water tanks. If you tell the kids to come call you when they’re done keeping themselves busy, so you all can start cleaning the house, they’ll leave you alone for a really long time.
And if you get bored, here are some fun things to do: Smell the mat in front of the bath / shower / toilet. Open the dishwasher, but instead of looking inside, notice the filth at the bottom, in the groove of the open door. Run a damp finger over any flat surface above eye level. Smell the bin (between the black bag and the bin). Smell the dog. Smell the back of the kids’ necks.
When you find time to sit down and listen, really listen to your kids play. Remember, this is that extra time you’ve always wished for. Listen to the latest slang they’re using. This is the time to brush up on how to run with your crowd. Learn how to dab. (Google it. It’s impossible to explain here.) You might be a ‘noob’ at all of this now, but it’ll be second nature soon. Take care. You’re on your own from here onwards.
PS: All accounts from the last few days were absolutely true.
You can’t make this stuff up.