31 January 2021: Lockdown Day 312

Tomorrow will be 312 days since covid put us in lockdown. It’s been about a year since the world started panicking. 

When it hit South Africa at the beginning of March last year, I rolled my eyes at the rumours that “this thing might be with us for many months”. It seemed ridiculous to even imagine being scared for such a long time. Surely, the sensation would fade and we’d shrug it off soon. But we can shrug all we want. It’s still here and closer-to-home than ever. For the first time, I personally know people that didn’t survive covid.

A year ago, they talked about how we’d have to prepare for the “new normal” and I couldn’t quite get my head around what that would actually entail. Now, I instinctively grab my mask with my car keys. As if it’s normal. I wonder if we’ll ever go back to kissing friends on the lips again. Will continuing to turn the cheek be considered polite forever? Will hugs be appreciated any time soon? Will keeping social distance in queues stay the norm (please)? Will 2021’s diary also be empty by this time next year? How long will we continue to postpone our lives?

With 2020 being such a different year, to put it mildly, I’ve decided to run with the theme of postponing and postpone my 2021 resolutions. 

2020 taught us all about lower expectations. The government’s closing of the beaches over December also gave me ample extra cleaning, sorting, and thinking time. During this extra time, I realised that I’ve been setting myself up for failure for the last 30 years, by expecting my habits to magically change at midnight on 31 December.

So, this year, attending to my new year’s resolutions will start only from 1 February. It coincides with my middle one finally returning to school (two down, one more to go), which makes tomorrow way more of a celebration than 1 January could ever be. It also allowed me to enjoy January as a trial month. 

I wanted to list 21 points, to suite the year 2021, but instead decided to list 29, to suit my age. And I’m making them public, to prevent me from backtracking or denying any of these soon hereafter.

1)  My internal no-voice should be louder when it involves offering favours to friends (and strangers) that weren’t even asked for – if it means stealing time away from my family.

2)  My external yes-voice should be more enthusiastic when my kids ask me to play.

3)  I should stop putting my youngest child to bed too late for that extra story.

4)  I should stop pretending to listen when my middle child explains his video games, and actually learn the jargon, so we can have a two-way conversation about what he’s currently so interested in.

5)  I should stop (so often) using teaching moments as ways to prepare my eldest child for adulthood, and just sometimes let him enjoy being 12 for now. I’m also going to pretend to tolerate his taste in music.

6)  I’m going to hug my husband more often.

7)  I’m (sometimes) going to swim with my kids, even when the water is cold. The other times, I’m going to try and enjoy sitting with them without feeling that I could’ve used this time better by doing admin or chores.

8)  “Treasures” from my little one should go on display, so he can feel that I cherish them, instead of in the bin when he’s not looking. And even the boring art should go on the fridge, so the kids are rewarded for effort, instead of filing it where no-one can see.

9)  I’m going to threaten less and praise more during sibling rivalry.

10)  Checking my phone should be left for when my kids can’t see what I’m doing.

11)  I’m going to allow myself to allow the children to be bored. The improvisation and creativity they’ll learn from this are more valuable than most activities I can ever entertain them with.

12)  Also, instead of teaching my kids to be productive, and enforcing that habit every opportunity I get, I’m going to coach them on how to be comfortable with sometimes doing “nothing”.

13)  I’m admitting that the time and effort baking cookies, plus the resulted mess, plus the record time in which we devour the batch, will never be worth it. I should eat less cookies.

14)  Complementing the point above, I might never weigh what I did before kids (or even a little thereafter). And that is ok. (I can work on some toning, though, but my goals will be more realistic.)

15)  When the occasion requires it, I need to dress my age, and not like the student I identify with inside.

16)  Self-grooming, like painting my toe nails, should be attending to when it is due, not overdue.

17)  Occasionally allowing a little extra screen time shouldn’t guilt trip me. Sometimes the means to enjoy a little peace is justified.

18)  Convincing myself how much fun it might be should trump reminding myself how tired I am when being invited to social events.

19)  Less relying on weekends to recoup and rest. More seizing these opportunities to explore and build memories.

20)  I need to go to bed earlier – consecutively.

21)  Same as how people’s happiness on social media is just a tiny glimpse into their real world, so might some’s venting their pessimism just be what they feel comfortable admitting from behind the safety of their screens. I’m not going to get annoyed by the to-me-absurd offensiveness and defensiveness of on-line strangers.

22)  I should simplify quality time with my kids. No need for intricate teaching-games. Watching clouds and looking for bugs in the grass will also do. And will probably be enjoyed more by us all.

23)  I’m going to drink the smoothies I make, instead of putting them in the fridge on the way to the compost bin.

24)  I’m going to keep the freezer clean. No more freezing leftovers.

25)  I’m going to use all the stored toiletries (and the good bath salts) this year.

26)  I’m going to stop joking about being 29 (again) and remember that some people might not share my sense of humour and might believe that I’m age-sensitive. (Plus, no way I can pull it off at the age of 34 anymore.)

27)  I should never shop at Woolies when I’m hungry.

28)  I (again) pledge to drink less coffee and more water. And also wine with my friends, even when I don’t like their wine.

29)  Time away from my family should always be spent wisely. Not necessarily on ticking off to-do lists, but maybe more on light, good-for-the-soul conversations with friends – even if it is a weekday.

I foresee 2021 being a good year. Maybe not great (as it started very 2020-like), but good nonetheless. If not, we’ll close the book again in 11 months’ time and just appreciate it as a year of teaching us about unrealistic expectations and to-be-continued resolutions.