Monday, 6 July 2020

Lockdown Dogwalk Conversations

Apologies - laundry features in this post.  Other stuff does happen in my life, I promise...

I'm out walking the dog with my sons.  It's the early afternoon and warm enough for t-shirts but as we walk I notice that my younger son - who likes the formal look - has paired today's shorts with a button-down collar shirt.  It occurs to me that this is a style he has adopted more often than not since Lockdown started, and suddenly the pieces of a rather perplexing jigsaw slot neatly into place.

That look, right there, is the reason why the ironing pile has doubled in size since the boys have been home schooling.  As someone who takes the non-iron label on an M&S school shirt literally, I've been wondering why the workload has increased since the boys have stopped wearing them.

As I look at my smartly-turned-out younger son I make an executive decision; the extra ironing has to stop.

Me: 'Boy #2, I just realised you're wearing a proper shirt every day.'

He starts, looks guilty, immediately anticipating where this is going.  'I like to look smart.'

Me: 'And that's fine.  But could you maybe look smart in a collared polo instead?  It's just, you know...'

'The ironing?'

I nod.

'But polo shirts are not as good.  I'm comfortable like this.'  He looks at my raised eyebrows.  'I'll iron my shirts..'

I'm sure we've had this agreement before.  'Really?'

'Well...'

I decide to capitalise on his sort-of-willingness, and go for a compromise.  'Alright.  If you iron them yourself, that's fine, wear as many shirts as you want.  But from now on, I will only be ironing 2 of your shirts each week.  OK?'

Boy #1, a more typical teen in that seeing him in anything other than t-shirts & shorts is only ever the result of a sartorial three-line whip, nevertheless stops in his tracks and does a dramatic double take. 

'Mum! Do his OWN ironing?  Where's your humanity?'


Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Lockdown Home-schooling - What Have We Learned?

(Before I start, apologies for the ENORMOUS text.  I'm not trying to shout - this post's settings are just screwed up...)

So.  Here we are in Week 14 of Home Learning.  (Well - Wk 12 if you deduct the two week holiday in the middle.  I don't.  Because it didn't really seem like a holiday, what with all the fretting and worrying etc).  What have we learned, parents?

  • Back at the start of this, you may have set up work stations to help everyone get their work done in peace.  Cue hollow laughter.  We've always known it, and Lockdown has confirmed it; the kitchen table is magnetic. It draws in people, pencil cases, clutter, bowls of fruit, old receipts, unread books and laptops like some kind of domestic Death Star.  To top this off, the chairs around it will be festooned with charging cables, earphone cords, dog leads, cardigans and sweatshirts like the cobwebs in the cave of Shelob the spider in The Lord of Rings, and all of them - ALL of them - are directly in the dog's path when the doorbell rings and he goes from snoring noisily in the corner to a one hundred mile an hour dash though the house. And as he races, barking crazily, towards the front door to defend his territory from the evil postman, you and your kids will have to throw yourselves across the whole set of wire spaghetti to stop your precious electronics crashing to the floor like a sea captain and her crew trying to protect their charts in a heavy squall.

  • And whilst we're on the subject of the kitchen table (that you and your children sit at all day, every day, Every. Ruddy. Day.  FOR EVER.), sooner or later books will be lost, pens mislaid, cups of tea and glasses of water knocked over and you - YOU - will have to a) clear it up and b) not lose your shit about this because c) this whole situation is ridiculous and frankly, not your childrens' fault and d) if you don't it's your phone that will get soaked (because your kids' phones are, of course, in their hands).

  • Speaking of your phone, it goes missing, about twenty times a day... 

  •  ... and it's always exactly where you left it, in the first place you looked but couldn't find it, as if some malicious house elf has been messing with your mind.

  • You can never find though, until you ask one of your kids to call it for you and it reveals itself nestled in the leaf-litter on the kitchen table, tucked safely between a Domino's pizza flyer and the text book one of your children last opened on Lockdown Week 2 and which - despite repeated requests it be put away - has somehow mysteriously made it's way from table to counter and back again every day for the last 12 weeks 

  • Breathe.  Deeply.

  • Furthermore, and I can't believe this will come as a surprise to most parents, children can be impressively sneaky when it comes to online learning.  (MY children, at any rate).  They will wait until your attention is directed elsewhere and then toggle across from whatever they are supposed to be looking at online to something way more entertaining.  And should you dare ask questions about what exactly they've been working on, or ask to see the work they need to submit, you may be treated to an Oscar-winning performance of hurt and disappointed indignation that you could ever doubt their actions.  (This is usually where I point out that they're not fooling me - I was once a child, too).

  • I don't blame them, having been known to flip my screen from browsing through holiday porn to that VERY IMPORTANT E-MAIL when I hear them about to enter the room...

  • Last, but most definitely not least, time spent alone outside for odd huff, puff and - possibly - scream is an underrated form of therapy.

Thursday, 11 June 2020

Lockdown Teen Wrangling - or is it Lockdown Parent Management?



Lockdown is pretty crap, there's no doubt about it, but it's certainly giving me the chance to work on some of my parenting skills.  I've always been a 'You've started so you may as well finish' kind of mum, but it's finally dawned on me that perhaps this is an approach I need to keep unspoken since - who would have thought it? - sometimes kids can work that out for themselves.  For example:

Boy:  'I'm so bored.  I think I might go into town.'

'OK.'  (Don't ask him if he's finished his schoolwork.  Don't ask him if he's finished...) 'What are you working on?

Boy:  'Imperialism in India.'

He starts to collect his books and I busy myself with making a cup of tea.  I have been drinking a LOT of tea during Lockdown - such a useful prop...   

After I judge enough time has passed for me not to seem too invested:  'Right.  Imperialism. Is it interesting?'

Boy.  'I don't know.  Maybe?'

Me.  'How much more do you have to do until you finish the bit you were working on?'  (Note use of past tense here: 'were working on'.  Very important.  Don't let him think you have any expectation he's going to finish it right now.  Softly, softly...)

Boy: ' Not sure.  I'll take a look.'  He flips open his book.  'Not much.  Probably ten minutes.'

Me: drinks tea.

Boy: 'I'll go when I've done it.'

I wait until his back is turned before I do a quiet fist pump.  But then, oh then...

'Don't do that, Mum.  It's so not cool. And you were doing so well, too.'

Busted.


Tuesday, 9 June 2020

Things that no longer happen in Lockdown

A more reflective post today.  

Things I have let slide since Lockdown started:

Wearing earrings.  In fact I'm not wearing much jewellery at all.  Why is that?  It's not as if I'm usually blinged up to the max, but right now most days even putting on my engagement ring seems a bit over the top.  Unless I'm off to the supermarket, of course - well, one has to keep up appearances. Note to self, however; it's no big deal if you don't wear rings from one week to the next, you just slide them on when you want.  Earrings, though.  Ouch.  OUCH.

Wearing make-up.  There have been a few evenings recently when I've begun to take off my mascara only to realise that I never put it on in the first place. Not quite there with the keeping up appearances, then.

Doing laundry every day.  I have no idea how this one's working, but somehow there is less laundry to be done.  I don't THINK my sons are re-wearing dirty-clothes - with the exception of the shorts I mentioned in my last post - but somehow there just don't seem to be as much to wash.  Maybe I've gone noseblind?

Congratulating myself on keeping a lid on the amount I spend on supermarket shopping.  As in, I don't congratulate myself any more.  Because it's gone through the roof.  With a husband home full time (he usually travels 4-5 days a week) at home and two teenage boys eating lunch and snacks here rather than in school will do that.  Every time I open the kitchen bin there's yet another empty digestive biscuit wrapper in there.  (And yes, they eat fruit too.  Particularly the fruit that I've bought thinking I will eat that instead of the biscuits.  So when I reach for the fruit and there's none there, guess what's left?  You got it.  Biscuits.  Oh well. Elasticated waists rule).

Planning a trip abroad.  Oh, alright - I AM planning.  Just not expecting to actually be allowed to go.  

Sigh.


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Friday, 5 June 2020

Clothes shopping for teens in Lockdown



Boy #1 has grown - they do that, I'm told.  This is a problem; he's grown so much that none of last year's shorts fit.  Well, I say 'none'; what I actually mean is that only one pair fits - and they are of the quick-dry sports-related variety.  He loves them, obviously.  I detest them, but have been putting up with them because there's no alternative until the two pairs of replacements ordered online reach us.

The new ones arrive, and he tries them on.

Boy #1: 'Oh.'

Me:  'Quite.'  

We watch them slide off his hips and onto the floor.

Me:  'So when you said you wanted that size, what were you basing it on?'

Boy #1: 'The trousers I have upstairs.  You know, the only trousers that are long enough.'

Me:  'The ones with the elastic adjuster in the waistline?'

He nods.

We send them back.

Three pairs of new shorts in a smaller size arrive 5 days later.  I have grown heartily sick of his wash & wear shorts in the meantime, in the main because he refuses to hand them over for the wash part.  Even though the weather has now changed and he could be wearing trousers instead, still the shorts make a daily appearance.

At my insistence Boy #1 tries the new shorts on soon after they arrive (if it was left to him they would stay in the bag for the next week).  Much to both our relief, they more or less fit (although he's still able to slide them down off his hips without undoing them, I note.  Obviously, for a teen-aged boy that's a bonus, but I make a mental note to suggest he wears a belt.  I am a mum, after all).  

Me: 'Why don't you change into one of the new pairs now, and put your old ones in the wash?'

Boy #1:  'No.'

I'm taken aback.  'No?  Why on earth not?  They're disgusting!'

'Because I want to go for a run later, and if I put a new pair on now then two pairs of shorts will need to be washed, when I only really need to sort one. '

I'm speechless (and not because the incidences of him doing his own washing are less regular than I might like).  He has managed to come up with just about the ONLY reason I would let him get away with continuing to wear his quite frankly filthy shorts.

He knows it, too:  'Yeah, Mum.  Boom. Mic drop.'

We leave it there.  I know when I'm beaten.




Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Lockdown Stretches



We do a stretch every school day at 10.00am, my sons and I.  We put aside whatever we're working on, get up from the kitchen table, and spend five minutes jumping around.  The dog tries to join in, we all bumble around in an effort to escape him (shorts weather offers no protection from his too-sharp claws), and we finish by properly Shaking It Out.  It lifts our spirits, wakes us up. It helps.  Then we make ourselves a cup of tea, sit down, and get back to whatever we were working on before.

When I started The 10.00am Stretch (yes, more capitals.  Get over it) back in the dark days of the third week of March, we were new to homeschooling.  We were also new, like everyone else, to Lockdown, and the whole complex combination of awfulness, relief, dread and - dare I say it - spasmodic sense of peacefulness that comprise it.  We - or I - hadn't yet realised how much it was going to mess with our heads.  The constant low-level fear of what might happen next seemed likely to be a temporary condition.

Well, it's now Lockdown - or a version of it - Week 11.  I wish I could say that the cocktail of feelings I described above has changed significantly but it hasn't, not really.  Of course, boredom has been thrown into the mix, along with frustration and despair at how badly the response to Covid19 has been managed in the UK, and a guarded sense of acceptance that other than by wearing a mask whilst shopping, I can make very little difference to that.  And obviously there's yet more fear.  Not for me personally, but for my children; what will this mean for them, long term?  For my parents; will they have to stay in isolation forever?  For the world at large; for those still unable to venture out due to health conditions and who consequently can't support themselves and their families, and finally yes, I'm going to say it, the horror of being a distant witness to the unrest - and the causes of it - in the US and elsewhere. 

But, we have to keep on keeping on.  Time and tide wait for no man and all that, so we need to push through this the best we can and hope it all comes out alright in the end.

For me and my boys, keeping on means jumping around the kitchen for The 10.00am Stretch, even when we (or, increasingly, I) don't particularly feel like it.  Because, even if the dog's claws are sharp, and my shoulder hurts, and we're feeling a bit meh, we're doing it together and it makes us feel better.  

It helps.


Monday, 1 June 2020

Lockdown Laundry. Or, I'm Spartacus.


Husband and I are on our way to a socially-distanced drink with good friends when he glances down and tuts.

'My shorts are a bit mucky.  I need to get them washed.'

I blink.  This is too good.  'Get them washed?'

Husband realises his mistake and tries to backtrack.  'I only meant-'

'Get them washed?  You make it sound as if you're planning to send them out to the laundry.'

'I didn't-'

I'm laughing and so is he. 'That's very grand.  Are we people who send our washing out now?  To a laundry?  You do know that the laundry is standing next to you.  I'm the laundry.'

He's apologetic.  'Yes.  I know.  Sorry.   God, I'm not going to live this one down, am I?'

'I don't know what you mean...'

When we reach our friends, I am proud to say that I manage to keep the above conversation to myself for all of fifteen minutes.


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