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An A-Z of Lockdown (Part 3)

Q is for Questions. These are little challenges my children like to set for me. They border from the sublime and easy to answer (can I have my 150th snack of the day?) to the ridiculous and impossible to understand why they think I might know the answer (Do you know what the size limit was for each Navy after the Washington Naval Agreement?) I am used to my children believing I am the fount of all knowledge (not true, but it's sweet they think that!) but the level of questions they are throwing at me at the moment is ridiculous!

R is for Repeating Myself. With a fourteen year old who is surgically attached to his headphones, a four year old who has selective hearing and a husband who is permanently glued to work emails, I have got into the habit of just saying everything fifteen times at increasing volume until somebody looks up and acknowledges me. This could prove problematic when normal life resumes if I don't break the habit before then - I'm not sure this is how normal people function!

S is for Singing. Disney have produced two family singalongs and the four year old and I have joined in with gusto. We have also discovered the joy of the Disney playlist on Alexa. Although apparently Arthur's rendition of 'When You're Older' (from Frozen 2) complete with terrified scream sounds more like he is being murdered than an actual song. The fourteen year old has also threatened to move out if he is forced to listen to 'You're Welcome' (Moana) one more time. I have also discovered that there is little creepier than listening to your husband unconsciously singing 'Shiny' (also from Moana) to himself. Such is the obsession with singing Disney songs that we have all - at one time or another - found ourselves responding with a burst of, 'What can I say except "you're welcome"' in response to being complained at about something!

T is for Tea. We are a family of tea drinkers at the best of times, nowadays I would say that we are bordering on the obsessive. Our teas have now been decanted into jars and labelled. We have tea made in a pot - often the very posh and expensive loose leaf one from Fortnum and Mason. At our regular tea breaks throughout the day, the question has moved from 'Would you like a cup of tea?' to 'Which tea would you like?' Even the little one now asks for tea with his biscuit, although he is a traditionalist and tends to stick to 'normal' tea. For now.

U is for Understanding. When the four year old is tantrumming or the fourteen year old is being grumpy, it's very easy to just dismiss their behaviour as being because of their age and deal with it in the usual way, by telling them off etc. However, sometimes, we have to just take a step back and realise that whilst sometimes this is the case, often at the moment, there is more to it. The older one can at least recognise and articulate when this is the case, but with the little one, it quite often comes out as temper tantrums and an inability to cope with being told no, or not getting what he wants first time. Had he been like this prior to the lockdown, I might have been less sympathetic, but this kind of behaviour is very out of character and therefore is often remedied with a cuddle rather than a telling off. Truth be told, the same could be said about the big one as well - lots of cuddles have been needed there as well.

V is for VE Day. We don't normally do anything to celebrate VE Day at home - along with Remembrance Day and the anniversary of D-Day, it's a day that I find quite hard, as they remind me of my Dad. Consequently, we usually go out for the day if there are celebrations happening - usually to the National Trust! Obviously this year that wasn't possible, so instead we had a party at home instead. Many in our town had socially distanced street parties, but our road doesn't have front gardens, so we opted for playing Absolute Radio's 1940s station all day and having a home baked afternoon tea in the back garden. As anticipated, a fair few tears were shed - more so this year because it was the kind of day where I would normally have rung my sister to see how big an afternoon tea she had created! (I think this year ours would have rivalled hers - my husband made enough sandwiches to feed an army - we were still eating them 2 days later - and I can't bake in small quantities!) However, we did have a lovely day and even in the lead up to the Bank Holiday, we spent time as a family decorating bunting and building a Lego Spitfire for our window display. My husband and I even created our own little tribute to my Dad and his maternal grandfather as part of the display.

W is for Wake Up Call. We have no need for alarm clocks in this house as long as we have an Arthur. The Gro clock has been temporarily abandoned, as there are only so many arguments I can have with him in one day. On the occasional day where he sleeps in until 7am, you can guarantee I will have been awake since before 5am. The Arthur brand alarm clock has multiple ways of waking you up, but the favourites at the moment are shoving wooden fruit in your face and insisting you eat breakfast, shouting up the stairs that it needs a poo and you have to come and wipe its bottom, or kissing you like Sleeping Beauty, but if you don't instantly open your eyes, forcing your eyelids open and asking if you want to build a snowman like Anna does to Elsa.

X is for Xaern. Apparently this means 'to enjoy something so much you begin to hate how much you enjoy it.' For me, this is Disney. When the fourteen year old was little I was not a fan and we rarely watched any of the films, as he wasn't bothered about them either. However, during the Lockdown we invested in Disney + membership as they had the Marvel films and we wanted to watch them. However, as a way of helping the little one to cope with a more structured day than he's used to at pre-school, I started watching a Disney film with him every afternoon. We have a little bowl of sweets and snuggle up under the blanket (at least in theory - on bad days, it's something more akin to a wrestling match as I fight to keep him on the sofa!) for some chill out time before dinner. Over the course of the last few weeks we have watched all the new(ish) films - Moana, The Princess and The Frog, Brave, Tangled, Pocahontas, Mulan, Coco, Frozen, Frozen 2 (not on Disney + yet!), Mary Poppins Returns, Ralph Breaks The Internet etc etc etc, as well as some of the Live Action remakes. When we ran out of them, I started introducing him to the classic Disney films and in doing so, discovered the problem I have with them. Although they are female led stories, the princesses in Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella are so insipid and silly that they irritate me immensely. I've had to explain that: girls don't need rescuing - they are quite capable of rescuing themselves; it's impolite to kiss someone when they are asleep (especially if you've never met them before) and that it's normal for a mother to defend her child when it is being attacked. This is before we even got onto some of the racist undertones in Dumbo, the idea that we no longer have animals in circuses and the whole 'if you've been told that someone with magical powers is trying to kill you, don't go near any strangers!' thing. However, in Moana, Merida and Tiana I have finally found princesses who I can relate to. As a result I am a complete Disney convert. I don't like it, but I have to admit that the newer films are pretty good!

Y is for Yammering. The noise. The incessant noise. During the week, I'm used to having the house to myself. It's quiet and peaceful as I write with Classic FM playing softly in the background. One of the things I have found most difficult about this enforced period of being at home is the loss of that environment. I have gone from being quite solitary to having three loud people around me 24/7. When my husband gets up, the first thing he does is put either the TV or the radio on (talk radio, not music) and it is the last thing that goes off when he goes to bed. The four year old could not speak quietly if his life depended on it and when you throw his 'singing' into the mix as well, it becomes a positive cacophony of noise. Over dinner, when the fourteen year old emerges from his bedroom, blinking at the daylight, a row inevitably erupts within thirty seconds of him being downstairs. Each tries to outshout the other, while my husband gets louder still and the radio continues to blare out the Government's daily virus update behind me. Those are the moments where I want to go and sit in the car alone. This is the main reason I can't get any proper writing done at the moment - it's very difficult to transport yourself into the world of your story when the noise level of people clamouring for your attention is almost deafening.

Z is for Zowerswopped. Grumpy or ill-natured - can be traced back to Old English roots. I thought this was an appropriate way to end the Loten family's A-Z of Lockdown. Not because it describes us, but because it doesn't. (Also because it comes from old English and therefore would appeal to the four year old's obsession with everything Anglo-Saxon!) Despite all the difficulties we are facing at the moment and despite the many moments of stress, on the whole, I would say that we are coping admirably well as a family. We talk to each other when we are struggling, the fourteen year old stops being grumpy long enough to thank us for stepping in when the four year old gets too much for him, my husband finds time to give me a kiss when I'm at the end of my tether with the boys, the four year old regularly tells us how much he loves us and I am (sometimes) the calm in the middle of the tempest when everyone else's tempers get frayed. We are pulling together not falling apart and our little unit will emerge stronger from this experience.

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