“We live in unprecedented times”. It’s been said so much, the phrase has lost its meaning. Lockdown brings its challenges, but it has also brought various blessings.
Our family is made up of me, my husband, who is a teacher, and our two boys aged 5 and 7. I am currently training to be a Clinical Psychologist after having completed my PhD which examined stress, psychosis and cannabinoids. We are trying to get by in our two bedroom flat which has a small balcony.
In our house, we are coming from a unique position in the lockdown parenting journey. As I write this, sitting on my balcony, we are having an unusually warm and sunny spring day. In our area, it is not clear that lockdown is happening. It is a hive of activity. Normally, I might be outraged at this, but I live a stone’s throw from the new NHS Nightingale which has valiantly been put together in a few short weeks. The monotony of lockdown is broken up by waving at police officers, running to see mounted police, the comings and goings of various NHS staff, army personnel, and my personal favourite, chatting with the security guards who open and close the gated access to the ExCeL centre; they even joined in when we sang ‘happy birthday’ to my neighbour from the balcony.
Another aspect to our situation is that I have recently had three surgeries, six rounds of chemotherapy, and 23 fractions of radiotherapy. I have been told to be very strict about the social distancing guidance.
Until recently, we did not go out at all as I was anxiously awaiting my third surgery. I did not want to risk contracting Covid-19 and delaying my surgery. As it was, very nearly didn’t go ahead as my hospital cancelled all operations, luckily a collaboration with a private hospital meant I was lucky to have got my surgery. Many other patients were not so lucky and have faced agonising delays and cancellations.
Friends and acquaintances have been shocked by our ability to stay inside; at the time of my writing, we had stayed inside for 35 days and did not leave the house at all.
Their shock is due to my boys’ activity levels. I wonder if the lock-down might be different with more placid children. A typical week for my eldest consists of four hours of gymnastics, one and a half hours of swimming, two hours of football and an hour of Karate. I’m no tiger Mum; they just love sports and have boundless energy. Normally on the weekend, if we have not left the house by 11am, they are bouncing off the walls, but today, it’s a leisurely 2.20pm and we are enjoying basking in the sunshine, using our own devices, but very much together in the small balcony.
We are helped greatly by our school that has utilised educational technology, keeping them occupied during the school day. Our Karate club that does lessons three times a week, and local charity West Silvertown Foundation who host zoom quizzes and activities. We have also discovered that our boys are indeed capable of sitting for 4 hours and playing a board game: Monopoly which my husband lost, and I became bankrupt shortly after. I even persuaded my normally art averse kids, to paint a rainbow with me for the balcony window.
I can’t help but feel grateful at our situation. We are inside, we are together and, we are safe. I can’t say the same for the gallant workers who are keeping our country running. I am a psychologist, and even my colleagues are donning the scarce PPE to do their job, a colleague in Ireland has even been redeployed as a COVID tester. Who would have ever thought that Psychologists would need the same equipment as our medical colleagues?
This isolation has also shown me how many wonderful people we have in our community. From my neighbour across the dock who gave me half of her pack of precious toilet roll that she managed to track down, to the neighbour in our building who sent down cake when he was celebrating his boyfriend’s birthday. Almost daily I have someone texting telling me they are going shopping, and do I need anything.
I have to go to the hospital next week and I’ve had several medical friends offering to bring me a mask to wear (one even offered to cycle from Barnes-which is 13 miles away!) I have also just seen a man set up a lemonade stand to give to NHS workers on their way to the Nightingale.
Kindness and joy is all around us during this scary and sad time.
All in all I think we have been quite lucky in this isolation, the boys have been very resilient, a bit of bickering, but nothing that has had me pulling my (very short) hair out! However, I have noticed that the boys sometimes look out the window and talk about how naughty people are for going outside. Clearly the message of ‘stay home, protect the NHS, save lives’ has really gotten through to them. I’m not sure how? I don’t think I’ve exposed them much to this advice.
My eldest son has red raw hands from washing them which started before we started to isolate. I worry about the effect this isolation is having on them. How will the very real risk of contagion currently, affect them years down the line? Will they continue to feel like washing their hands keeps them safe, even when the risk of this virus is gone? Will it become problematic? Will they be frightened to go outside once we can safely go outside? Is there something I should be doing to prevent these things I’m worrying about?
I asked my kids how they felt the other day. My eldest’s response?
““Me? I’m fine! I’m inside, I’m safe. I’m washing my hands, I’m safe. I’m with my family, I’m happy!””
Header imag by Eli Lune from Pexels