We have been self-isolating for almost six weeks. My children are verging on feral, my four-year-old has given herself a haircut and I know all the words to all the songs in Frozen 2. The phrase I hear the most, at least 150 times a day, is 'can I have a snack'. I am not being smug - I'd hate to come across that way - but here are some things I have learned from a month of lockdown with my children.
When it was obvious that school, nursery and work were cancelled for the foreseeable future, I decided the following:
- Although I would do my best to home school, it is more important that we’re all calm and happy, and in my experience so far the former doesn’t always result in the latter.
- I wouldn’t compare what we were doing to what other people were. I find that unhelpful at the best of times!
- I would make sure I got some time to myself. I know that if I don’t look after my own well being I can’t look after everyone else’s.
- If I come out of this without being a divorced, overweight alcoholic, whose children hate her, that will be my biggest lockdown achievement.
My youngest child has a fairly short attention span and has little legs and my eldest has a lot of energy and needs to run around a lot so whatever we do needs to suit them both. Although they benefit from some structure to the day, they get bored quickly and appreciate variety. Even if it’s just doing the same things in a different order. This is what we’ve been doing.
We are very lucky to live on the edge of the Lake District National Park so we have plenty of walks to choose from and it’s unlikely we’ll bump into many people.
For the first few weeks we walked every day in the afternoon. We tried going to different parts of the village, in different directions, short walks, shorter walks, road walks, wooded walks, hills, common...
We walked a bit further at the weekends when we’re both not working, and tried to make it more of an adventure.
However, the children started to get bored. And while my son has taken an interest in what’s going on so we’ve been able to explain why we’re exercising like this every day, on our own, my daughter is too young to understand. She’d rather be in her mud kitchen or cruising the kitchen for crisps.
Following an accidental 7km route (the furthest my youngest has ever walked) that I’d promised would be shorter than the 6km we’d done the day before, the kids went on strike.
So now I’m not pushing it. Spending an hour with miserable children who stop every 30 seconds to ask when we’re going home or for another snack isn’t enjoyable for anyone and I don’t want to put them off walking for life.
Neglecting my garden for years has paid off because we spend hours in it every day, weeding, digging, potting herbs and building dens. Now I’ve cleared away the brambles (a surprisingly therapeutic job) the garden seems to have doubled in size. The children are enjoying watching it come to life with birds, bees and butterflies.
We’ve lived here for 8 years and every spring I’ve attempted to grow vegetables. I think I’ve been successful once. This year I’m putting all my faith in runner beans (I know my limits) and the children are enjoying looking after them. We’re also having a sunflower growing competition.
The kids love baking and ‘helping’ with the cooking but we don’t often have a lot of time to do it. We’ve tried cakes and various biscuits. As you can see from the photos the results have been mixed. I don’t think any length of lockdown will improve my skills in this area.
The children have a very strict 7pm bedtime and in normal circumstances I would never ever intentionally wake them up. But they’re very interested in space and constellations. So for the first time I’ve let them get up and look at the stars from the garden. That would never happen during school time.
We live next to a common and have explored most of it on foot so now we’re going there on our bikes, where Alfie is riding the tracks on his BMX. At first he was quite scared and didn’t want to do it, but now he asks to go most mornings. Eleanor comes on her balance bike or scooter.
I bought a bike at Christmas. The first time I took it out I really struggled but I can feel that I’ve improved a lot and now I really enjoy it. Hopefully, by the time this is over, Eleanor will be riding her own bike with pedals and Alfie will be able to come out with me on some longer rides.
Of course, it’s not all one long holiday. It can be hard to find time to unwind and stay calm and motivated. Like everyone else, we miss family and friends. It can be difficult giving both children attention all day, best highlighted by Eleanor giving herself a haircut while I was on the phone. But I have nothing to complain about, and I appreciate how lucky we are to have a garden and lots of outdoor space. I’m not really thinking about when the schools will reopen or when life will go back to normal. I find it easier to take it one day at a time.
What seems to work the best for us:
Varying each day slightly
Letting the kids have a say about what we do and where we go
Taking it in turns to lead walks
Not making them do something if they don’t want to. If they don’t want to go out, I go out on my bike
Printing off scavenger hunts to tick off on the way
Giving them jobs around the garden - watering the plants, filling the bird feeders, making a butterfly feeder
Having some routines, for example going to the neighbours to buy eggs when we run out, going to see how big the lambs have got, finding bluebells
Challenging them - trying different bike tracks or walking up higher hills
Doing something different on a walk - taking the binoculars up Whitbarrow to look for our house, picking wild garlic for dinner
Spending half our weekly shopping budget on snacks