One of my earliest childhood memories is of the time my mother went to see the Pope in the Phoenix Park, and I stayed home with my dad. My dad, not a seasoned cook, heated up tinned Campbells meatballs for lunch. He split the can between us, pouring the delicious juicy gravy-covered meatballs into two bowls, and we devoured them. For years afterwards, I thought of Campbells meatballs as the food of kings, my very favourite meal of all time – and it’s still one of my fondest childhood memories.
Many years later, in a different century and a different county and a different house, with no Pope involved this time, another minor domestic dilemma arose. The electricity went one cold winter evening and as the kids and I sat in the pitch darkness, with only candles to light the way, I used the last bit of power on my phone to message my husband (in London for work) to ask for the electrician’s number and to order a takeaway. I was quietly stressing about how to stop us freezing and how to save the freezer contents, but the kids were ecstatic, and still have the fondest memories of the candlelit takeaway.
At the start of lockdown, I remember thinking about that, and about the things we do when we’re out of our normal routine. I remember thinking I wanted to make it a good experience for the kids, in spite of the obviously not-good situation. And they are desperately missing their friends and desperate to get back to school, but when I asked them if there’s anything they like about lockdown, they all had something. Not having to get up so early, not having to get dressed before homeschool, getting a lot more screen-time. Not wearing a school uniform, not eating boring packed lunches (and “not listening to parents moaning about making school lunches” they could have added). Doing school work in the garden on sunny days, having afternoons free to play, staying up late (so, so late). Getting random half days and days off, because the power has gone to their mother’s head. More lie-ins. More baking. More cake. More takeaways. More treats. Boredom, yes, but also, a slower pace they don’t hate.
And I feel it too. I wish for this to be over, but I’m conscious too that there are things I want to appreciate now while they’re happening. Before they’re gone for good.
When I’m bemoaning making school lunches again, I want to know that I appreciated not making school lunches. (I do. I take a moment every night to actively, consciously enjoy not making lunches.) When we’re back to doing homework, I want to know that we appreciated the free afternoons. When we’re setting the alarm for a much earlier time every morning, I want to know that I appreciated the later, slower starts. And hard though homeschool is, tough though it is to work at the same time, I already know I’ll miss having company for lunch when I’m back to a quick sandwich at the counter on my own.
I hope the kids will remember the tennis they played, the football, the screen time, the cycling, the baking, the Minecraft, the eating, the later bedtimes, the lazy mornings, the extra treats, the relaxed rules. They’re missing school and their friends, but I like to believe they’re cocooned from the worst of it, and enjoying the unexpected best of it. (And if they’re really lucky, I might even get them a tin of Campbells meatballs.)
3 thoughts on “Forward Planning for Looking Back on Lockdown”
I think about this a lot – the things I will miss when “this” is all over. I’ve continued to work full time throughout quarantine, but that work has been done at home, which I’ve loved and which I think I’ve excelled at. I think it brought my team closer together, ironically.
During the first part of quarantine the weather was amazing, and I often worked outdoors on our deck. It was soul-fulfilling.
It’s not been great for my son, however. He’s 18, and he completed his junior year online. Let’s just say that online school was not a great fit. It requires a greater level of personal motivation than he possesses at this time in his life, and I couldn’t really help him along the way I could a younger child. By 18, the schoolwork is his own, plus I had my own work and deadlines to keep.
Also, it’s been super challenging for him as an only child. It sounds like your kids have had each other and that you haven’t had as much of a schedule to keep. I’m curious, were you an only child? The scene with your dad made it sound that way, although it could be that you were the only child at that time. I was an only child but a lot more self-motivated than my son is unfortunately.
I will miss the freedoms of this time. I’ll miss the time I’ve taken to work out before work that I probably won’t be able to squeeze in after I return to my office. I’ll miss not having activities after work, either my own or my son’s. I’ll miss sleeping in on Saturday mornings when I have to take him to robotics, even as I’ll be so glad when he has robotics back. (Please let him have robotics back!)
Thanks! I enjoy your writing so much.
This is so lovely Andrea, and I agree, while I wish for them to hang out with friends etc again, I do appreciate the slower pace and all those little things you mentioned, and I hope they do remember the good times we had throughout the time…..I am so grateful those lunchboxes are packed away!
Beautiful words, Andrea.
I can relate to most of it apart from the tinned meatballs! I’m in NZ and we’ve been out of lockdown for several weeks now; we had a gradual reopening and we are now more or less back to the lifestyle we had before March. When lockdown finished (albeit with restrictions), we were all euphoric, but as the weeks have gone on traffic has returned to normal levels (getting to/from work takes longer every day) and the kids winter sports and activities are back up and running. I miss those quiet days where we were all at home without the traffic, stress, rushing and school lunches. I personally loved the time we spent together and came to know my children better and appreciate their individual quirks. I will always look back on lockdown with nostalgia and feel grateful for the special bonding family time we had. So yes, lockdown will end in Ireland too, but you’re wise to take stock and appreciate the positives of this strange time 🙂
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