Self-Isolating My Family in Southsea: Day 12, Parents Behaving Badly

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 12 and Maddie says a short goodbye to the kids as they visit their dad, only to start wrestling with her parents, and herself.

How do you discipline your own parents? 

After a bit of a mix up last weekend over S returning home from his dad’s for his birthday, I now have my parents’ second car for the foreseeable. I can therefore get any bits and pieces they need. Like the loo roll that Sainsbury’s didn’t have.  

So why are they still going to the shops?! 

My 82 year old dad(he of the previous heart attack and 40 year cough from working in asbestos-clad submarine engine rooms), told me they’re fine to pop to the shops because they’re not in a high risk group.  

I would have screamed at them, as I stood 2 metres from them on their driveway pointlessly observing social distancing with people who are still going shopping, but my kids were in the car – and I definitely don’t need to encourage those 3 to argue with their parents. Parent. Me.  

Is it OK to lock your parents in their house? Can I stop their pocket money if they keep misbehaving? They’re using social distancing with their neighbours, with me on their driveway, but my dad is still doing his weekly booze run to Aldi’s, despite Sainsbury’s giving them a priority delivery slot because they’re most definitely in the high risk category.  

Oi, parents! Behave! Go for a walk with the dog for exercise – yes. Go to Coop for loo roll – NO. It’s time to be looked after by your kids now.  

Speaking of rebellious rule breakers, I found myself in an empty house by 7pm last night. S and Z’s dad wanted to pick them up a day early. When A heard her brothers were leaving, she obviously insisted on equality and fairness. Her dad is working from home, so I hope she manages to curb her innate urge to verbalise really important yet utterly mundane trivia as soon as someone’s on the phone, because he’s in sales. That’s a lot of phone calls.  

Letting them go to their dad’s at all has been such a tough decision. I know many people have struggled with it this week on the back of Monday’s restricted movements order. The official advice from the Government is that children in separated families can follow their normal contact routine. But the president of the family division of the high court said it’s down to parents to make the decision, even where a contact order is in place, and it’s OK for the primary carer to exercise parental responsibility and not let the children go where there are safety concerns. 

Such a dilemma. Not an easy one at all for many people I’d imagine, and I know some people are using this as an excuse not to send children for contact out of spite, or not to return them home after contact. I gave it a lot of thought and came down on the side of keeping their routine in place for now. Children everywhere are stressed enough as it is, and A would struggle even more with her anxiety if I decided she couldn’t see her dad, so until full lockdown happens, they’re still going, but for a few days longer and with assurances to all my inane questions about frequent handwashing and not going out to any shops.  

I dropped A off and took the dog to the Common for our daily exercise. It was beautiful, with a huge orange sun setting behind the war memorial and people being very respectful of social distance with others. Apart from the 4 teenagers I saw sat on a bench together smoking. And coughing.  

I walked from the Pyramids end to Clarence Pier and back again. As I was just getting back to the car, I saw 3 people on the pavement waving their arms in the air at me. It was H, my oldest, with her dad and boyfriend out for their exercise. is just finishing her final year of a psychology degree at Southampton University, and yesterday she found out she’s assured a first. I can’t describe how proud I am of her. Not being able to run up and hug your baby is hard, and we have a very close relationship. Instead, the 4 of us chatted briefly in circle a good few metres apart, but we were all worried other people might think we were having a gathering. I’m sure the police wouldn’t have minded a mother having a 5 minute catch up with her daughter while maintaining social distancing, but there’s a weird vibe where people are either interpreting the rules in a way that allows them to bend them, or taking them too far to the other extreme.

I spent the evening watching what I wanted on TV and loving every second that no one was screaming at anyone else for looking at them funny/going in their room/touching their bed/being born. But I’ve woken up this morning with enormous anxiety. I had no idea how much I was holding it together for the sake of the kids. Their absence has freed my brain to unleash a tidal surge of panic.  

I’m don’t think I’m scared of dying. I did a lot of work around that after I had breast cancer 7 years agoBut I’m scared of my kids dying, or my parents, or my brothers, sisters in law, niece, nephews, friends, other relatives I’m anxious that my parents are still popping to the shops, I’m worried that my kids might go in a shop and not wash their hands. I was even too scared to pick the post up this morning, so it’s still sitting on the doormat. It all just feels too much today. I have a whole bunch of strategies I can use to help me manage the terrifying what ifs my brain is unleashing, and it looks like I’ll be using them all this weekend. Damn you, brain. What are you playing at? I thought I had this down.  



Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay.

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.

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