As we mark the end of a surreal academic school year and a laboured 18 week period of homeschooling here in the UK, I feel intense relief to be welcoming in the summer holidays, as I’m sure you do, too.
Undoubtedly, the burden of responsibility to both teach and care for my kids 24/7 whilst working late into the night, most nights, has felt overwhelming at times (many times) but on reflection, I feel calmer than I did pre-COVID crises as the daily stresses of school runs and work commutes evaporated, replaced with longer periods of meaningful time spent with my sons, Oliver, 10, and Xander 7, as well as a deeper dedication to my work.
Lockdown provided me with the elusive work/life balance I’d been yearning for and made me acutely aware of the time I’d previously wasted with procrastination and my people-pleasing ways.
This period offered me a unique opportunity to reconnect with my husband and kids and suprisingly with myself as I started painting again after a 20 year hiatus, and I even managed to write 26,000 words of a first draft comedy screenplay, a dream I’ve put off for years.
The children and I have leaned on one another and we’ve had a great deal of fun too, in between the restlessness, fatigue and boredom.
We’ve literally run around Windsor playing Tig, tennis and football; we’ve hiked up hills and walked for miles and miles on the Long Walk insect, butterfly and bird-spotting ( the Nat. Geographic approved Seek app is a must) and I’ve been invited into my sons’ worlds time and time again be it favourite board games (Cluedo) or baking giant chocolate cookies, washed down with milk in front of hilarious episodes of Sponge Bob, Little Lunch and The Loud House.
We’ve also built elaborate LEGO houses with garages and dressing rooms (my dream) together during this time and we’ve invented a children’s story inspired by The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and Tom’s Midnight Garden, even drawing characters to complement it.
We’ve watched movies on the projector from classics like Sister Act to Disney Plus’ Frozen 2, and most importantly we’ve discussed, processed and tried to problem-solve world events, with our relationships deepening in the process.
My own sons’ bond with one another has strengthened too, without the distraction of different schools, timetables and friends competing for their time and attention.
So, there we have it. Many a silver lining and memories made but nonethless I’m tired and ready for a break. A break from the many roles I’ve appropriated from carer to cook, entertainer, therapist and homeschool teacher too.
I’m sprinting through the final lap of this marathon, the end in sight, meaning I muster up the strength and pick up speed towards the finish line. The finish line for me, is Monday, the day I’ll see my parents again, in Yorkshire, for the first time since March. I’ll be falling into my Mum’s open arms, a weary heap, exhaling at last, allowing her to care for me a little, as I have cared for others.
No more FaceTime or Facebook Messenger for us, just endless cups of tea and catching up on Corrie (which I only ever watch with my Mum) in the home I grew up. Family, old friends. The familiar. My bedroom mirror decorated with stickers of a floppy haired Joey Lawrence taken in the 90s smiling back at me, the antique chaise longue I love to lie on despite the fear it might collapse, the scented garden in full bloom overlooking the farmer’s fields where so much of my youth was joyfully spent (some of it unlawfully, with many a ‘Field Party’). My home. My heart.
I cannot wait.
…Oliver took the photo of me above on my phone, his POV of me, his mother.
Others have commented that I appear bold and brave here as I face away from the camera, looking ahead at a future hopefully still full of endless possibility and opportunity.
My therapist, in response to my own self-doubt, has told me many times that I’m ‘plenty strong’, and it’s those words I rely on when my own voice falters and I must use her’s.
Her parting email to me read,