It’s been over a hundred days.
Opposite of the saying “too little, too late”, our corona lockdown was “too much, too soon” – and now everyone seems to be “over it”.
We’ve passed Day 100, earned the badge and the pat on the back for being compliant citizens, and now everyone is desperate to experience some form of “normal” life again.
Ironically, with the rapid increase in covid cases, we stand at the start of what should actually be hard lockdown, but (at least mentally) our isolation has ended.
I am also slowly emerging from my cocoon. Maybe not as gracefully, but definitely with a butterfly effect. There are so many extra daily self-checks. Is it colder outside today or do I have a fever? Do I have my phone, car keys AND mask? Can I manage to run in for just bread and milk this time, and would holding my breath at the cash register be worth it? Did I remember to put on a bra?
Makeup feels heavy, groomed hair feels tight, shoes feel small. I had someone at my house the other day whose eyes kept wandering to the bed socks I was still wearing by late afternoon. I wanted to explain that they’re very suitable for today’s weather, but then didn’t even bother. That’s my big lockdown lesson-to-self: life’s about more. My family is healthy. My footwear doesn’t matter. (And if you ever feel judged into a corner, you can just cough loudly.)
My eldest son returned to school this week. The other two still enjoy June holidays. Don’t think they need a holiday after being home for more than three months already, but I sure do deserve it. That means one out of my three children is experiencing some sense of normality. At this point 33% feels like a pass mark.
Well, not quite normality as we remember it. My son’s disappointment almost spilled from his eyes when he returned home after his first school day. No verbal picture painting could prepare him for not being allowed to get close to the friends he last saw at the start of the year. His ears were mask-bruised and his hands were sanitizer-dried. His backpack was too heavy (they have to keep all their books at hand due to no sharing allowed). His mood was also too heavy (it’s “unfair” that some of his friends are continuing with home schooling). I had no choice but to lighten the situation with a long hug and extra screen time. So much for our school-is-starting-resolutions. Seems like the tv is staying on for the rest of 2020.
I also didn’t quite grasp the effect of having school mornings again.
I overplanned, set three alarms, and double checked my phone in the middle of the night to ensure it didn’t magically power off. It took two cups of coffee and twice as long as usual to fill the lunch box. His blazer mysteriously shrunk overnight and stains appeared on his tie when he was about to get into the car. I had to eat four crunchies to silence the butterflies in my stomach when my husband finally left to drop him off.
So many new things ahead. My youngest son turned four. He outgrew the toddler phase too fast. He also outgrew the “why phase” and we’ve entered the “because I don’t like to” phase. I’ll miss his angle wings.
He now knows the answers to all questions. He also disagrees with all my answers to his questions. His previous innocent curiosity made way for a new smugness at my reactions to his actions.
An example of a recent event:
We just parked at home. I really have to run to the loo. It’s already a matter of possibly not running, but rather hopping there cross-legged. He wants to undo the carseat himself. I ignore the protest and just unclick it. He clicks it back in – insisting that he is big. I know this power struggle might take a while. I’m choosing my battle. I make a dramatic excuse for forgetting that he is now four and beg him to just hurry. He wants to know why. I tell him I need to wee. Now.
His facial expression literally turns from annoyance (about my lack of respect for his “new age number” and ability to do everything himself) to amusement (about my uncomfortable situation and the obvious control he suddenly experiences).
He quickly unbuckles (I’m impressed for a second), swings one leg over the seat, spends a moment admiring the handle he just discovered on the ceiling above the door frame, hangs from it with both hands, looks me dead in the eye and tells me to just go on the grass. He shows no intention of getting out.
I talk slowly. I explain that I cannot go on the grass. I really want to go on the loo. I am in a hurry. He will stay in the car, if he doesn’t get out immediately. I will not come when he calls. I need to go. Now.
He talks back slowly, forming every word perfectly. (I should remember modelling speech like this.) He is stuck on the first part of what I said. He wants to know WHY I cannot go on the grass. Seriously? Where did my parenting fail? He should’ve picked this up by now – he rarely lets me go to the loo alone. I offer the quickest possible anatomy lesson and include some science basics, like the difficulty to direct liquid at an angle without a pipe or spout.
He wants to know why I am a mom and not a boy then. (I obviously lied to myself about the why-ing phase being over.) I tell him, now a little less patiently, it’s because my parents just made me this way – I couldn’t choose. He reflects. He is upset about not having had a choice at birth either. I remind him to hurry. He wanted to choose. I ask him if he wants to go back in time and choose to be a girl. He is appalled by the insult. I made my point. He is satisfied and willing to get out of the car now. All this talk about the matter escalated my problem. I leave him at the car and run. He is shocked and yells: “But I got out in a hurry like you asked!”
During lockdown, my eldest son taught me new recipes via his TikTok interests. My middle son taught me everything about Minecraft via his constant quizzing. My youngest son taught me to breathe deeply, sit down, and take time to answer with patience.
Lockdown also offered me time to sort out the house (again). I got rid of the junk. I temporarily stored away all the lidless plastic containers, in case their lids appear again (together with the single socks). I threw away puzzles with missing pieces, cars without wheels, broken pencils, hideous artwork. Some of the “accidentally trashed” artwork got retrieved by the kids and I had to promise to treasure it forever to proof my innocence and appreciation.
I passed on the clothes I’ll still fit in later, the art supplies my boys will still fall in love with, the old bedding we’ll still use one day for camping. I finally finished the memory boxes for my kids, finally figured out the gadgets I bought the years before, finally unsubscribed from the spam mails that frustrate me every morning.
I’ve cleaned, sorted, filed, repaired, and decluttered. I reward myself with the delusion that now, once everything is in its place, it’ll be easy to keep it this way. I fall for it every time. The reality is that this process will have to be repeated (sooner than what I’m comfortable with). Life is all about repeats. And living causes chaos, not the number of things you own or the number of members in the household. It’s living. It’s having a household. And lockdown taught me to appreciate that.
Lockdown also taught me to appreciate having no loadshedding on the schedule, more than having a busy social schedule. Lockdown taught me to appreciate having healthy children, more than tidy children. It taught me to appreciate getting up before everyone else, because it’s not the torture I previously experienced it to be – it’s the best shot at alone time. Lockdown taught me to start appreciating packing school lunch boxes and driving around for hours between extra murals, more than wishing life could be calmer.
I appreciate my preference for good coffee over good wine. (Some people were in quite a panic back then.) I appreciate not being a smoker. (Some people still panic.) I appreciate generally preferring online shopping anyway. I appreciate the privilege of being able to social distance in comfort. I appreciate looking forward to play dates, beach days, and hugging friends. (For some people lockdown doesn’t impact on any of these.) And I appreciate my cleaner (for obvious reasons).
So, with businesses open and kids returning to school, it pretty much feels like lockdown “ended”. Although the health protocols and social distancing and financial burdens will most likely escalate, it feels like, emotionally, we’re “over it”. We came out stronger and wiser – with butterfly wings.
It’s a brave new world.