I felt rather fragile last week if I’m honest, finding myself spiralling in worry and overwhelm to the point I was crying ugly tears most days.
It’s as if the last 87652196780560 weeks of parenting in isolation; homeschooling and working, suddenly hit me. The realisition of living and still living through a global pandemic hit home and I felt helpless and frustrated. I felt like I was mourning my old life.
Self-indulgent perhaps, but the months of pressure, fatigue and frankly bottled up boredom required a release and I cried me a river (not the sarci JT river either).
Perhaps I’ve reached the final stage of grief this week: acceptance. Maybe the pain I endured was me wading through that well-known depressive stage which usually proceeds acceptance and closure.
We’re all currently grieving to varying degrees right now, and write that fully aware at how damn lucky my family and I are to be well and our jobs secure during such a traumatic period for many.
…I wonder if staying with my folks back in Yorkshire a few weeks ago, wrapped in that precious parental love and being cared for to returning home back to my own caring duties felt abrupt and disorientating. The missing parent-shaped hole coupled with the fact that many of my close friends nearby are away has made me feel a little lost and lonely.
Lack of routine since Homeschool ended has also contributed to this purposeless time as we’ve waded through the summer holidays as a three (Peter is working as usual), each day resembling the previous one, weeks merging into weeks, or melting rather thanks to this heatwave.
Oliver, 10, has been on tech far too much, and we’ve all felt grumpy and exhausted af from highs of 37 here, making even the shortest of walks laborious.
Sharing how low I felt yesterday with my Mum on the phone, and my husband Peter in person, allowed me to unburden this frustration and sadness and equally take action.
I held a family meeting (soap opera style) brandishing a purple felt tip listing new family rules on a piece of A4 as if taking a class. It was time to regain some order and routine and establish new boundaries. Kids thrive on routine and structure and so do I.
By ensuring I explained the reasons behind the changes and new rules, the boys were able to understand my concerns and I was happy to see they willingly committed to support these new house rules.
Oliver’s tech time is now a maximum of 2 hours a day which includes texting friends, watching YouTube and playing games (films and TV don’t count) and the first hour of tech must be followed by an hour of reading before he can ‘unlock’ the second and final hour of the day.
Outdoor play where possible has been made a priority as have other pursuits my sons enjoy like cooking, drawing and painting, tennis and board games.
Alexander at 7 is rarely online anyway so whilst he doesn’t require a tech limit, he has committed to reading for 30 minutes daily too.
He’s a huge fan of the Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen’s series and is now discovering Roald Dahl. Oliver is currently reading The Boy Who Fooled The World by Lisa Thompson which is so captivating I’m reading it myself when he goes to sleep.
The new family rules also comprise a list of chores the boys need to commit to again as I’m thoroughly fed up of this Cinderella role I’ve found myself taking on.
I’ve explained that as a family we all have to do our bit to run a successful home, with every member of the family contributing.
I don’t want my children leaving home for uni in the future (all being well) struggling to keep their rooms tidy in their Halls, and unable to boil an egg.
So, every morning, the boys must make their beds, wash their faces, brush their teeth and hair and change before breakfast rather than waking up and rushing to play on the computer or watching TV before doing anything else.
Oliver has also learnt how to use the dishwasher and make a cup of tea during lockdown (life skill milestones) and both boys can make their own sandwiches easily.
I’ve also pushed home the importance of more veggies to Oliver as whilst Xander has a varied, extensive diet, Oliver is stuck in a stubborn rut relying on a few meals on repeat and rarely divulges in veggies outside of his current carrot, cucumber and sweetcorn repetoire. I’ve explained that in order to stay well, we need veggies to fight the bugs and provide us with strength and energy. He’s willing to give tomatoes, peppers and radishes another go.
It’s time to plump for plums and other fruit and veg over crips and ice cream that are being enjoyed all too frequently.
So there we have it. More arts, crafts, sports and varied healthy eating is on the agenda.
All things the kids genuinely loved previously which have been sidelined for YouTube videos and Candy Crush of late.
I adore tech and love that the kids can connect with their friends and our family because of it but we need greater balance moving forward. I want my kids to feel bored more often so they can become greater inspired and creative. Boredom allows kids to use their imagination and teaches them how to problem solve as well as learn to enjoy their own company.
Tech provides constant stimulation and it’s important to learn how to sit with yourself, to observe, become mindful and not need entertainment 24/7.
Oliver’s teacher noted what an excellent reader he is in his last school report yet he’s rarely picked up a book since the end of Homeschool. Now he must read daily if he wants to unlock his tech time and hopefully he’ll remember how nourishing and fun reading can be and he’ll be racing to read more often just as he used to.
It’s only day 1 but so far so good.
Both boys are instantly happier, more attentive, less moody and I feel like I have control back.
So here’s to moderation and happier and healthier kids. Oh and Oliver had a haircut and look 25!