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An A-Z of Lockdown (Part 1)

Life has been somewhat peculiar for the last few months. I have swung from thinking 'Yes, we're nailing this!' to 'I'm such a failure as both a parent and a teacher' and now am hovering somewhere between the two, trying to cope with a grumpy teenager (who is absolutely not grumpy and is in no way at all to blame when he and his brother fall out) and a four year old who has developed a fear of being on his own, which makes bedtime and early mornings something of a challenge. With the help of two incredible women in my life - my mum and my mother-in-law - who both stepped in when I hit the bottom to remind me that they think I'm doing a bit more than just OK, I'm feeling a bit more, well if not quite relaxed, then at least able to recognise what I've been telling everyone else, but seemingly not taking in myself - these are extraordinary times and we are all struggling!

So - here is my A-Z of Lockdown Life in the Loten household.

A is for Apocalypse Now. Not, as you might be forgiven for thinking, the current state of affairs in the country, but the scenes in our house when an over-tired, hyperactive four year old takes on the might of a surly, sleep-deprived teenager. The tears. The tantrums. The cries of 'He started it!' All while my husband and I hide behind the kitchen cupboard doors downing caffeine, chocolate or gin, depending on the time! (Even getting this photo resulted in a right hook from the little one, as apparently 'scowl at each other' translates in his head to 'please punch your brother!')


B is for breakdown. I've had several, as have the kids. But that's OK. It's healthy and we've coped. Yesterday, I cuddled the four year old while he cried himself to sleep (won't go to bed, up before 6, not a good combination). This morning, he got up, read 25 CVC words without a problem and then read a book to his Dad. It's swings and roundabouts. Yesterday was a bad day, today looks like it will be better.

C is for Comfort Eating. Neither of our boys are particularly big snackers under normal circumstances, but we have basically turned into a family of Hobbits over the last two months. Breakfast, mid morning tea and biscuits, lunch, afternoon tea and biscuits, dinner, evening snacks with a film. Our spending on food has increased by almost the same amount as our spending on petrol has decreased!

D is for DIY. Neither my husband nor I are very good at this. When we moved into our first house, we asked his parents to come and decorate for us because we are so hopeless at it. Occasionally, as writers, we embellish the facts in our recounting of stories, but in this case there is no need for embellishment. The one and only time we attempted to wallpaper was when our eldest son wanted a Ben 10 bedroom. We bought the wallpaper and a border roll, intending to paint the top and wallpaper the bottom half of his walls. We did our best with the papering, but got so frustrated with it that we ended up putting the paste on the wall instead and then sliding the paper into position, knowing that it didn't matter if the top was uneven because it would be hidden by the border roll. When even that didn't make it stick, we resorted to glueing it on with Pritt Stick! When we moved out, we were able to just peel the paper off (because of course we hadn't removed the original paper!) and repaint it to leave it in a decent condition for the landlord. During Lockdown, my husband has put decals on every single tile in the kitchen to brighten it up, we have started wallpapering the study and have got paint to start painting the kitchen cupboards. The results have been mixed... (see below)

E is for Electric Shock. As I said, our DIY skills are not the best. It seems you have to turn the electricity off before you start trying to paper round a light switch. Bizarrely, the shock came from the radiator. Who knew??

F is for family. I wouldn't say that any of us ever take our families for granted. My husband and I both lost close relatives quite young and the recent loss of my sister has meant that we were holding our loved ones that much closer anyway, but although we've been in touch through Skype and FaceTime, it's not the same as seeing them face to face. I was pinning my hopes on being able to visit my husband's family soon and on going up north to see my family as normal over the summer, but it's looking like even that might not be possible at the moment.

G is for Gin. It's long been my tipple of choice. Now it is our best friend and quite possibly the only thing keeping our children alive. We've discovered many new varieties and I'm lucky that it's my husband who has to do the walk of shame to the bottle bank. Although, judging by the number of bottles he reports being there, it seems it's no longer a walk of shame, but a communal activity and part of most people's daily walk. It has the added advantage of giving us an excuse to revisit the Evil Eye Gin shop when we are allowed to return to York!

H is for Home Schooling. My husband is a Deputy Head, I used to be a Head of Department. You'd think we'd be in our element with this. Not so. I hated Maths at school and despite my A at GCSE, never understood it - I got through the exams on a wing and prayer and a LOT of help from my Mum. I have watched countless Hegarty Maths videos and explained Histograms and trigonometry to the fourteen year old. I still don't understand any of it, but somehow managed to explain them to him anyway! As for the four year old. C-A-T spells Dinosaur? Really? OK, I exaggerate slightly, but W-E-T spells Puddle has been my favourite so far. I now know most of the Numberblocks songs off by heart and 'loved' being woken up by having the 10 times table recited at me!

I is for Intravenous. See A and G for details!

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Jane Langan
Jane Langan
May 14, 2020

Hi Ruth, I can completely relate to this, I spent all the time my children were smaller thinking I was a dreadful mother (I have many similar blog posts to prove it). Both my husband and I have said how lucky we are that the kids weren't younger when this happened, and how hard it must be for people with younger children. I lay money you are doing an amazing job in a really difficult situation. Your Mum and Mother-in-Law are absolutely right. Take care and stay safe x

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