Doesn’t life have a funny way of knocking you on your arse just when you feel like you’re finally getting somewhere?
Sawyer had been in his new school for a little over 6 months when the first lockdown hit. Just when he started to feel comfortable with his new routine, new classrooms, smells, sounds, and new students and teachers, the news hit that his school would close for the foreseeable future, and there was no telling when he would be able to return. Lloyd and I were incredibly fortunate that the nature of our jobs meant we were able to pack up our offices, move the contents to our home, and continue working. Not having the worry of suddenly losing income – as was the case for many – was something we were grateful for, but as many parents will know, working from home whilst simultaneously caring for your children… was an absolute nightmare. Throw in lack of normal routine, Covid-anxiety, home-schooling and an autistic child, and BAM! You’ve got yourself a recipe for disaster.
But then the weirdest thing happened. Sawyer coped better than any of us.
It was 6.50am on a Monday morning and I was stood by our printer, cursing into my coffee, willing the stupid thing to print the stupid school work. I had a to-do list as long as my arm and I’d woken up early to make sure I had enough time to get the class sheets printed before I started work. The printer finally spat out half an an attempt at the pages in question, and I impatiently grabbed it and walked through to the kitchen. I laid out A4 pages in the order I wanted Piper to tackle them, and stepped back to admire my incredible Mum Skills. ‘1-0 to me’ I thought smugly, as Lloyd walked in behind me and announced that he’d actually printed everything out the night before. Did I cry? Yes. Yes I did.
An hour later and another coffee deep, I was sat in my armchair with my laptop balanced on one knee, and Sawyer sandwiched between my sizeable arse and the side of the chair. He clutched at his own laptop and so began another day of work/life/lockdown balance, which basically meant going back and forth between my work and Sawyer’s work, like an awful game of tennis. And that really is saying something because two things I despise deeply are perspiring, and any sport that involves a ball. Sawyer looked at me as I held my head in my free hand and tried to wipe the tiredness from my face. And as he looked away again he told me very matter-of-factly, that it must be difficult having to work and teach children, and that I should really take a break. Looking back now, it really was that simple. But of course it didn’t feel that way at the time because we were in the thick of it, and stressed! Lloyd was stressed because he’s not good at being cooped up, Piper missed her friends and family, and generally being entertained. And then there was Sawyer. For him, life suddenly made more sense. At home, the unexpected rarely happens. Our house always smells the same, the sounds are familiar, and he had his belongings all around him, accessible at all times, with no opportunity to forget or lose something. At some point during the summer, Thomas the Tank Engine made a reappearance, which is usually a coping mechanism for underlying anxiety, but he dealt with that anxiety smoothly. Like a true pro. And when his school reopened, he slid coolly back into his old routine, leaving two stressed parents and an anxious sister at home.
Fast forward 6 months and it was Christmas. The children had been back in school since September, and working from home had of course been much easier for it. Lloyd and I even snuck in a pub lunch or two while they were at school! The uncertain times during lockdown had given my ambitions a nudge, and I’d made a couple of scary but exciting decisions: I’d changed jobs and was about to start studying part time for an MSc. Things were looking up! But just after Christmas the news broke that the schools would remain closed, and just like that, we were back to where we’d started.
But then the weirdest thing happened. Sawyer didn’t cope at all.
I’m not sure what it was that made the lockdown of January 2021 more difficult for Sawyer, but I imagine it was a mixture of things, and to be honest I think it was harder for most of us. The feeling that lockdown would never end pressed down hard on us all, and combined with the shorter days and darker weather, everyone just seemed downcast. Frankly, we were fed the fuck up, weren’t we? With Lloyd and I both in careers at the University, work didn’t slow down at all. If anything there were times when it was busier than ever. Piper muddled through with her school work, with us feeling like the worst parents on the planet, and Sawyer had meltdown after meltdown where he was unable to cope with video lessons, and struggled to accept an at-home timetable. Most of the start of this year is a complete blur from the stress of it all, but thankfully the schools were not closed for as long as the first time, and both our children were able to return to school slightly early, once we felt it was safe enough to do so.
Now suddenly it’s May and just like that, talk of ‘Freedom Day’ saturates the news. This bank holiday weekend more cars than I’ve seen for a long time sat in long lines of traffic, queued like ants all the way up and down our motorways, desperate to return to some sort of normality. Friends of ours are delighted that the UK is starting to open up, eager to have more places for family days out once again. Cafes and restaurants are suddenly filling up, and images of teeming seaside towns make front page news. A feeling has washed over me in the past couple of weeks that I can’t shake. During Covid times, when my family wasn’t posing for pictures over restaurant food or on holiday it didn’t matter because nobody else was doing it either. It occurs to me now that the UK opening up is actually shutting down one of the few things our family did benefit from due to Covid.
For a while there, we were an average family, doing the same things as everyone else. So now, while the rest of the country is excited to return to their former lives, to me it feels like normality is slowly slipping away.
This post is dedicated to everyone who has been negatively impacted by Covid19, and especially to those who have lost time, or loved ones. Thank you to our amazing NHS. Finally a big thank you to teachers, TAs and anyone who works with children… you are amazing!