Self-Isolating My Family in Southsea: Day 4, Numbers, Dilemmas and Birthdays

Local parent, researcher and writer, Maddie Wallace, continues her daily diary describing the experience of self-isolating with her children in Southsea. It’s Day 4, and the highs and lows of self-isolation are becoming more familiar, but the family face a dilemma about her son’s birthday this weekend.

The Gregorian Calendar no longer has value, and days are now numbers. They’re all eerily the same but different. I’m taking my tablets out of the pot in the mornings and hoping I didn’t forget to take them yesterday. Days in isolation, people infected, people recovered… it’s all numbers. 

If the rest of Europe – and the hysteria on social media – is anything to go by, everyone could be doing this soon. Isolation isn’t like a school holiday or Christmas. It’s not like having a relaxing day off. It has a strange, endless feel to it; that of the unknown. As if life will just go on like this. You feel stuck in time, while it also feels like time is sliding by. You are very aware of it but don’t care about it either. It’s indescribably lovely not having to rush around and do the daily routine, cramming hours of work into the gap between school runs before doing the dinner and rushing A to bed so I can do more work. Having the time and space to sit and hug my kids, to stop and watch the kitten play, to practice tying headscarves, make biscuits and watch a movie are beautiful things in the middle of all of this mayhemThe pressure is off where time is concerned but running at a high where anxiety and uncertainty reside 

S turns 14 on Saturday. Lots of people are going to have a very different birthday this year. He’s disappointed about the current situation but being pretty stoic about it. My heart stopped for a second when I went to open the curtains in the lounge, and hed developed a husky voice. I asked him if his throat was sore. He said it wasn’t. 

How do you not get 10 more grey hairs at that though?  

His voice was still husky a few hours later, and as much as I wanted to pretend his voice is breaking and it’s an age thing, the timing is too much of a coincidence with the incubation period of this virus. He admitted, after watching an infographic about how the virus spreads, that his throat was a bit dry and sore. 

We talked about him not going to his dad’s for his birthday and coming back Saturday afternoon as planned, but he still wanted to. He was being picked up by car, I explained to his dad that him and S’s Nan would now need to self-isolate for 2 weeks. I didn’t want S to go because I don’t want him infecting someone else unnecessarily, but his dad said he understands the implications and that S will stay in. It’s been a real dilemma all week, but ultimately S is still a child who wants to see his dad. His dad is an adult who understands the risks. And if there is a lockdown soon as many people suspect, it could be a long time before they can see each other. Z chose not to go. 

Home schooling didn’t get off to a great start, so I’m having to re-think it. S and Z have their knowledge organisers from school but don’t want to do any work. A is a typical 5 year old requiring a continual input of knowledge, but she decided she didn’t want to look at any of the things I’d found about fish who live on the bottom of the sea, as she’d requested the previous day. A is possibly the most contrary person I’ve ever met; she has arguments with everyone, including herself, and she decided that the sea was stupid. She wanted to look at animals in the zoo, just in case she still wants to be a zoo keeper when she grows up, so we found a website that records baby animals born in breeding programmes all around the world. She loved it and we covered many topics in half an hour that will feed her imagination for days. Now she wants to start a sloth breeding programme in a special forest just for sloths, where there are no fast animals that might startle them. 

Maybe home schooling is about teaching in an unstructured way rather than sitting down and working. Today A and I are going to re-pot some plants and talk about how they grow. I’ll invite Z to join us, but he is reluctant to come out of his room in case he makes us sick. I explained that we’d been with S, who had a sore throat, but he’s insistent. Turns out he’s very concerned that if I get ill, he’ll have to look after the house.  

‘What the hell am I meant to do? I can’t do laundry and cook. I’m 12.’ 

‘You can,’ I told him. ‘I’ve been teaching you to do this stuff for years.’ 

I know how to do it, but I can’t do it as well as you do it. I might get it wrong. 

Gulp. Almost cried again. 

I had a long chat with my oldest daughter, H, a third-year psychology student at Southampton University. She’s home with her dad now, but obviously can’t come to see us. Her exams and graduation – everything she’s worked for – have been cancelled. She’s upset, scared about the virus because she’s very capable of reading the science around it, and I can’t even hug her.  

I did cry at that. It was long overdue.  


Maddie will be sharing her experiences every day on S&C – you can find each day’s diary and all of Maddie’s previous articles for S&C here.


Image by diapicard from Pixabay.


Star & Crescent is Portsmouth’s only independent community news outlet. We don’t answer to shareholders and we don’t publish sponsored or promoted content – we answer to you.

Get involved or donate to help local independent media thrive, and be part of the conversation on Facebook and Twitter