It’s Corona-Lockdown Day 1.
It starts with beautiful, crisp autumn weather. Mother Nature is saying thank-you. Pleasure. Think I deserve that thank-you. Our family has been in isolation for over a week already. You’d imagine lots of board games and lego laughter with the kids, but believe me – it’s not all fun and games.
The last few days’ national countdown to lockdown reminded me a little of new years. I’ve set my mind to some resolutions (as from today). The usual – to drink more water, to not lengthen my to-do list unnecessarily, to consume less chocolate (this would be an easy one, as the stash will run out soon), to be more patient, to be more fun, to feel like 29. I’ll reassess and realign my goals on Lockdown-Day-21, like one would do by February – when it’s fair to forego the resolutions without much social judgement.
I’m off my game today. Was kept up well past midnight by my eldest son. And husband (not in the fun way). Was woken early by my youngest.
Yesterday’s all-day-screen-time-exception somehow resulted in my eldest pulling an allnighter, playing tv-games. He needed the social interaction with his friends – albeit online. So, fun-mom didn’t say anything and endured his preteen chatter (learned many new cool words) and piercing squeals (these will be easier on the ear when his voice breaks, I’m sure) until he finally got tired (or the batteries died, don’t know which).
My husband also enjoyed some overdue social interaction last night. His twin friends had their birthday and they arranged a virtual braai. Blue coolerbox and all. Seriously. All logged in somewhere and group video called for hours – each lighting their fire and having a few birthday drinks in isolation, in the freezing cold. My kind of braai. My husband was having a great time and I was in the comfort of my own home (and favourite clothes), without any expectation to prepare or serve or interact. At one point, I tried to listen to what they’re chitchatting about, but I couldn’t attach an actual topic or theme to the conversation. It just sounded like comments on comments, on comments. Normal man stuff.
Content in knowing that I’m not missing out on anything, I decided to grab this rare opportunity and watch some television. Something other than Peppa Pig, Youtube fails, or sports. My mom mentioned a reality show where lots of people share a house, with the last man standing winning a cash prize. Sounds like the type of light entertainment 29-year-old me can appreciate and a topic I can currently relate to. But DSTV wouldn’t allow me access to Catchup. Our decoder apparently got loadshedding damage. Should’ve sorted that out before the lockdown.
So, I went to bed early. Went to sleep late. The worst way of spending time in bed (if you’re on your own).
And today I’m tired – making it increasingly difficult to stick to my being-more-patient resolution.
Also making it increasingly difficult to be a cooperative patient so early in the morning. I unpacked the Peppa Pig doctor set my youngest got for Christmas three days ago. (Peppa Pig is huge in our house at the moment. Moms of young kids will understand.) I mistakenly set a very elaborative, theatrical example of a doctor’s visit. It blew his mind. We’ve since all had turns, on repeat, to be the ‘president’ (it’s too cute to correct him), while he is the doctor.
I decide that it ends today. I pick up the plastic syringe, thermometer and evil little knee hammer. Both my left and right knees are bruised. (When the jerk is not high enough, you get it again.) He spots me packing up. I inevitably end up on the doctor’s bed again. I’ve always longed for more time with my kids. This is it. This is my chance to play with them until they get bored of me. But three-year olds don’t get bored. I sit through four examinations – all before my first cup of coffee. With the last checkup, I forget to say “dup-dup” when he listens to my heart. He is very upset that my heart is not beating. I grab this opportunity to explain that I need to go to the ICU and should leave the room immediately.
My husband finally emerges from the bedroom. No, allow me to rephrase. My husband finally wakes up from the dead. I didn’t quite recognise his footsteps down the hallway. It was more a shuffle than a walk. He complains about a headache. Emotional debate – do I give a you-deserve-it-chuckle or play good-wife-here’s-an-aspirin? I opt for the chuckle. I do the first part internally and then let only the last part out aloud. Then I also remind him that it’s a work day. It’s important to stay in routine. (Does isolation make me jealous? And does jealousy really makes one nasty?)
My husband and eldest almost simultaneously ask what’s for breakfast. I point to the schedule. Breakfast time is over. They are tired, grumpy, and don’t think I’m funny. I chuckle at my clever jokes-with-a-sting. Serves them right for keeping me up until this morning. Tonight is Friday night. I am going to binge-watch something, anything, and play dead tomorrow morning.
I give up and do a second breakfast round. My eldest doesn’t like the cereal. I’m on the verge of giving the poor-kids-in-Africa speech (can be replaced with corona-food-scarcity soon), but some battles can’t be won. He is eleven. That’s the new thirteen. I don’t negotiate. I remove the bowl, put it in the microwave, and tell him it’s there when he’s hungry later. He snorts and goes to fetch his bowl from the microwave. Where do they learn to snort like that?
My husband sits down with a cup of coffee and too many rusks. I don’t again mention how we’re going to run out of rusks soon. After putting his mug in the sink, he unpacks the dishwasher. There was no mention of a thank-you for publically proclaiming his size and strength in yesterday’s post. I can assume he didn’t read it. So, this unasked for unpacking of the dishwasher isn’t a result of social pressure. He’s been conditioned. I’m proud.
Then he asks me where the grater goes. I make big hand gestures while I silently count on my fingers – how long we’ve been living in this house together. He doesn’t get it and asks again. I snort.
With everyone being tired, school starts two hours later than it should. No-one is motivated. The middle one reminds me that it’s Sunday and that we shouldn’t be having school today. I don’t answer him. (Whipped for my indirect white lie about it being Saturday yesterday.) I remember to be more fun. I decide to teach them how to play chopsticks on the piano instead. Am not even going to try describe the result.
I plan a quick clean. One of those types, where it looks clean, but you know it isn’t really. I fetch the vacuum cleaner to suck up a pile of dust I’ve swept to a corner. I bend my big toe as far down as it goes and drag it through the pile to check if there’s anything valuable down there. I’m careful to not let the dust touch the bottom of my foot. I get a cramp and step down anyway. I spot two small pieces of lego. They’re really tiny. One has only four dots and is a quarter of the thickness of a usual lego block. I weigh up the effort to pick them up and to return them to the lego box, which is under another huge crate, under the stairs, behind a push bike – and the possible cost of two such small blocks. Considering the cost of a lego set, they’re probably worth R39,99. I pick them up. I’m glad I did. I also find an earring. Not a valuable one – I buy these in bulk and would never have missed this one, but it’s not the point. If my kids were present, I would’ve used this as a teaching moment about always making the effort to do the right thing.
I’m now on a roll. I find a thin, blue disposable cloth in the sink. These disposables will now have to be stretched a little further, until they actually tear apart and rightfully deserve to be thrown away. I vigorously shake out yesterday’s soggy Rice Crispies. I start wiping the kitchen cupboard handles. I notice the doors are also dusty. I work my way to the doors, the skirtings, into all the corners of the floor. I always explain to my cleaner that one cannot leave these minor tasks too long. The dust becomes sticky with age and is then more difficult to remove. Time to practice what I preach.
I (literally) stand back to admire my hard work. It’s worse than it was before. The cupboard doors now all have water streaks. I use my shirt to rub away the most obvious ones.
The blue cloth is now a rag. I wipe the dining room table, sweeping what looks like an entire bread’s crumbs into one hand. My hand is too small to hold it all. I gently lower my hand and let the crumbs rain to the floor. I’ll run over the floor with the vacuum cleaner. The little one has eyes behind his head. He immediately jumps up and screams for his dad. Mom spilled dirt on the floor. Tattletaler. Shouldn’t they have a stronger bond with the one that feeds them?
I struggle with the washing machine again. Is it paused or started when the light flickers? My gut says paused. I press the pause / start button again. No water runs in. I press it again. Again. I switch the machine off and on. Repeat the process. I open the door and slam it shut – harder than what’s possibly necessary. That works. (Does isolation make me aggressive?)
I look at all the disposable containers and empty jars we’ve accumulated over the last week. They all need to be cleaned. Some are growing things inside. I’d usually expect my cleaner to wash them. And to tear off the labels from the jars. Those were the old days. The old me. This is new-and-improved-me. 29-year-old-me don’t keep old containers. I throw them all away. (Is isolation turning me into a less-is-more-person?)
I am too tired to find my rhythm with the household chores today.
I bake another round of mug cakes with the kids. This time they come out perfect. It really is only 90 seconds in the microwave. We eat them on the deck in the sun and I leave the mugs outside. We walk through the garden to pick flowers for the house. I let the kids choose. Most are half dead. Some are full of ants, but we don’t care. We throw plastic golf balls on the trampoline and jump with them until they all escape through the springs and end up in the pit of water with the dead frogs underneath. We find it very funny. Today I’m fun, 29-year old mum.
Day 1 of resolutions – check.