31 May 2020: Lockdown Day 66

It feels like the day before my birthday.

Way back when birthdays were still something to get excited about…

Tomorrow is Monday and we’re being set free. Well, almost. After 11 weeks of staying within the boundaries of our property, we’ll be grateful, even if the leash is short. Level 3 will be less like prison and more like house arrest – with an ankle monitor.

With this new found freedom, I foresee some awkward social encounters. My husband has been going to the office for only two weeks now. I have been to the minimarket down the road only once (and had a few doctor visits last week), so we’re still newbies at this. I’ll have to hone my people reading skills. If we meet in town, do we hug or do we remote high-five? Now that we’ll be allowed to act and think for ourselves again, who is in the avoid-infection-at-all-cost camp and who herds with the contract-the-virus-and-get-it-over-and-done-with crowd? Who’s sitting on the fence? Will be difficult to tell behind those masks.

As much as we appreciate being allowed out to almost all shops now, actually, we just want to go to the beach. Please. And I’ll trade the next few years’ school holidays, if the schools can just open for all the grades. Pretty please.

It’s testing being a mom-teacher. For three kids. In three different grades. (Which testing-of-patience is just amongst other things.) We’re catching up on some school work, because I was “off sick” with a vibration in my head most of this week. The kids know better than to moan about it being weekend. We’ve established quite early in lockdown that days of the week don’t count anymore. If screen time is now allowed during the week, school work is allowed over weekends.

Mission of the day is to get the middle one to make his “s”, “9” and “7” the right way around. He is sharpening his pencil, again. He has reduced three new pencils to thumb size ones since lockdown. I confiscate the sharpener. He pokes holes in the already tiny eraser with his flame sharp pencil-sword. I confiscate the eraser. The little one grabs it and erases everything he has done thus far. The middle one scolds him before I could and grabs his eraser back. The little one cries, because his brother is grabbing and that it’s “unfair”. I scold the little one for using the forbidden word, scold the middle one for scolding his brother, break the eraser in half, and give each one a piece. The little one is upset, because the eraser is now too small. The middle one jumps up to fetch his cat. The older one scolds him for never giving the cat a break. The little one chirps a nonsensical comment, which contains the word “poop”. The middle child is upset, because I’m not telling the little one off for saying “poop” – and asks if he can play tv-games now.

(This is not even because we’re trying to have school on a weekend day. This is a typical school day for us, every day.)

I fetch the wooden spoon. It lives on top of the extractor fan. It’s the largest one in the house, on which I drew a sad face with a permanent marker. Although it never (ok, very, very seldom) gets used, it still serves its intimidation purpose. Not today. I’m not on top of my game. They’re calling my bluff. This is what happens when you let slip for even just one day. I warn to not give them a star today. The little one immediately sits up straight. The middle one returns to the table with his cat on his lap. The eldest one isn’t as easily threatened anymore. Plus, he arrived upset. He completed his work for the week, but has to take one for the team. I pretend not to notice the obvious signals of disapproval. (But he now doesn’t dare say it’s unfair.) I politely ask him if it’s his tummy rumbling when I can’t ignore the groans any longer. He seizes the opportunity and gets up to make a sandwich.

The other two are also starving. I want to point out that we just had breakfast, but just sigh loudly instead.

The eldest one, against his nature, offers to make sandwiches for everyone, just to get out of school work. The little one wants to work with the glue. I give him pieces of paper to stick down. The middle child’s work needs to be rubbed out, because he’s done half the letters the wrong way around, and some on the wrong line. I turn my back to put the cat outside. The little one spreads glue all over his brother’s pencils. I move their chairs further apart and stipulate imaginary border lines, which shall not be crossed. The middle one needs the eraser, which is in his brother’s territory. This means he can’t erase his work and he “quits”. He dramatically gets up to go to the loo. He fetches his cat from outside on the way there. The little one is suddenly dying of thirst and gets up to fetch water. The eldest is still making sandwiches.

I go fetch the middle one from the loo, from where he is ignoring my calls. The toilet is filled all the way to the top with toilet paper. I start a lecture on the allowed number of squares per poo. The middle one denies that he is at fault. I call the little one. He casually explains that he rolled down two rolls to get to the binoculars inside. I hold my breath, close one eye, and start removing the paper from the toilet. The middle one starts quizzing me from the doorway. I need to guess which letter of the alphabet will win in a battle. No matter how creative I am, none of my answers are correct. He is just way out of the box. The little one catches on. He pipes up with more battleground questions. I have to guess who will win – a potato or a centipede. And a spoon or two socks. And our retired, half blind cat or two bowls of Weetbix. I get most of the toilet paper out, flush the loo, the water rises to the top.

I sigh loudly.

I rush everyone back to the school table. The sandwiches are there, but the eldest is gone. Of course, he suddenly realised his hair needs washing. We switch over to reading. The middle one spells out every word beautifully, but not at all what’s written on the page. He is blatantly guessing. The little one echoes him. I tell him to just go play on my phone, so I can pay attention to the middle one’s reading. The middle one almost falls off his chair at the unfairness of it all. The vibration in my head turns into a small thunderstorm. 

I call it a day.

I had the vibration checked out last Friday, when I considered that it might be a blood pressure issue. I got booked for an MRI immediately and spent hours at the hospital. Ends up being nothing as sinister as the neurologist suspected, but it was an eye opener. (The vibration is still there, but I’ve made peace with it – that it’s just nerves. And probably the members of the household working on them. Except my husband, of course. He’d never work on my nerves. He is awesome. See, Etienne – told you I’ll write something about you today. Wink-wink.)

Moved from the confinement of my home (for the first time in over two months) to the confinement of the MRI machine, gave me so much to think about. Mostly whether they could see up my hospital gown, if I shaved properly, if anyone would notice the hairs on my big toes, how long before I’d go insane listening to the deafening beeps…

During those hours, I wondered about the fears of the many people who were in there before me, expecting bad news. And what I would do in such a case… (Not that I was scared of my vibration turning into an emotional explosion, but I played out all the movie-like scenarios of imaginary people to pass the time.) I also did loads of mental checks – are my admin and filing in order, are all my bills paid, are my cupboards neat and tidy. I realised that none of those things would matter if one suddenly hears the time is short.

None of the material things we work so hard for and spend so much time on, would matter.

If my time is suddenly cut short, I would want to sell everything I worked so hard at accumulating for my children – and travel the world with my family. I would stop their schooling and just be with them. I would make daily videos of our time together. I would be fun mum.

And, as much as I thought that lockdown is totally curing that pre-lockdown guilt feeling of not spending enough time with my kids, I actually haven’t had enough of this yet. I’m going to treasure our forced time together, maybe sometimes bite my lip to help with the endurance, but wear my ankle monitor proudly – before our time is cut short.