The children broke up from school on Friday and the weekend was quiet but didn’t feel that different. Monday morning came around and I felt prepared, excited even. I had a schedule, ideas, space and time, the only thing that was missing were children that actually wanted to do any of it. This first week has been a week of experimenting, listening, changing expectations and learning. Day 1 left me in tears but slowly we are working as a team to find what works for us. I have found that the days are exhausting, being the only parent to four (Ed is working very long hours so isn’t around other than for bedtime) and trying to be everything and so I promised myself I would get my big camera out every day, so that I can keep something I enjoy going as well as finding a way to document this strange time in our lives.
Day 1 was tough and I think taking a photo of a little face pressed up against a window shows this. I felt trapped and I think my frustrations rubbed off on the kids. They didn’t want to do the p.e videos that the rest of the country are loving, they didn’t want to do any kind of formal learning and other than painting our rainbows for the window, everything felt very hard. There were lots of tears (nearly all mine) and I had to give myself some space to find a way through. We ended the day with a family meeting and coming up with a reward chart together, the kids helping choose the tasks and rewards.
I realised that getting outdoors is really important to my mental health and I need to prioritise it. The day was so much more relaxed and everyone was happier. Our block is busy with foot traffic so we drove to a deserted part of the coast to get some outdoor exercise whilst still strictly social distancing. The sea air calmed all of us, we did maths questions written in chalk on the floor and the bigger boys attempted to teach the younger ones how to hopscotch. I felt so much more positive and there were no tears!
By the time the children go to bed, I am exhausted and desperate to collapse in my bed with a book. The house really needs a clean and a tidy but there is only so much I can manage at the moment. You can see in the background how much washing up I have but in the foreground you can see that we are learning our own way, baking together. We followed along with a live cook with kids session on my laptop and did more practical learning. This summed up our day really as we focused on gardening and baking rather than literacy and numbers. I want to start taking this as an opportunity to teach them the things that school can’t and hope that they are bright enough to catch up on the more academic subjects when schools go back.
I remember spending time digging in the garden as a child, I remember the excitement of finding worms, even though I didn’t want to touch them and there are times in the day that it feels like I am sharing those memories with the children. They took the tuff spot outside and made a bug house with a worm hotel. One child (there is always one) was more than happy to pick up the worms and inspect them and they loved getting muddy and playing outdoors. There have been stressful parts of the day (as there always are) and we have pretty much taken a day off of school work but that is ok, I am ok with that decision.
The final day of the week, it marks one week since the schools shut and it feel like both the longest week ever and strangely one of the most enjoyable. Without distractions and appointments, the endless school runs and swimming lessons, we are learning to just be. I am getting the hang of what structure works best for us and they are looking forward to the their favourite bits of being at home, like the pretend coffee shop we made this afternoon after decorating the cakes we had made this morning (and burnt). They are already asking about things we can do again next week and I am feeling less overwhelmed and more ready to embrace this strange period which feels like both a terrible time and a gift at the same time.
It has been a strange week and I have enjoyed following other people’s journeys on social media but I have also had to step back and realise mine will be different. There are people reading more, writing more, baking more, crafting more. There are people who will be better at this than me but I am the best one for my children and at the end of the week I am confident that they feel secure and loved in this difficult time.