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 17 and Maddie is negotiating anxiety, the endless patience required for parenting, and a cat that is, frankly, too big for his balls.
I found that the pattern of waking up anxious, but it dissipating by the evening, hasn’t been eased by the return of S and Z after all. I’ve limited checking the news to once a day for the Daily Briefing. I’m avoiding social media. I’m doing all the positive things. But I still wake up in the morning like it’s Groundhog Day.
I tried to pinpoint what is worrying me the most amongst the endless list of anxieties we all face now, and I realised it’s the prospect of me getting ill and not being able to care for my children. That thought has been floating in and out of my awareness all weekend, so I decided I needed to put in place a contingency plan with someone I could call on to help in that situation, and instructions for S about what to do in the event of my incapacitation.
I video called H and she said she’d be there in a flash if needed. She was feeling sad and so was I. We’re missing each other and it’s really starting to bite now. After we did a bit of remote crying together, I suggested her siblings and I walk by her dad’s on our way out to the common for our exercise. I thought it might be nice if the kids and I could wave at her from a safe social distance, and that just seeing her face in the flesh might help us both. I perked up just at the thought of it.
Of course, by the time we got there, having taken an hour to complete a 12 minute walk, I was frazzled. If you were anywhere near the Lawrence Road area about 3.30pm, you may have seen an exasperated mother with a dog, and 2 teenage boys, trying to cajole a screaming 5 year old onwards towards Albert Road.
A wanted to count rainbows in the windows, but then S saw one before her and she lost it. So we said we wouldn’t count rainbows anymore, which then set her off about wanting to count them, but being further upset when we wouldn’t accept the number she’d counted had jumped from 8 to 176 while she was trailing behind us. This went on for what felt like the amount of time it takes to write a novel. A going 10 more steps and then having a meltdown again, about anything. And everything. At one point she lost it because she didn’t like the look of a car going past.
Essentially it was nothing and everything. It was a manifestation of her stress at this whole situation; excitement that her brothers were home, (‘the’ brothers, she calls them, as if they’re Simon Cowell’s latest protégé boy band), fear that we were outside and having to socially distance our way around other pedestrians, fear that we might not be allowed outside and could be breaking the law, and anxiety about one of us catching the virus while we’re out.
By the time we reached H’s house, I was a double fried egg. Crispy at the edges with jangled nerves and a complete lack of patience. S and Z started bouncing the moonball they’d brought along and ignored me asking them not to do that next to parked cars (one of which was H’s dad’s BMW). A acted like her older sister had the plague and refused to look at H. H and I tried to have a conversation from 3 metres apart but it was impossible amidst the chaos, and in the end I just had to leave with silent tears streaming down my face that I can’t even have a 2 minute conversation with my oldest child without the other 3 causing mayhem. This is nothing new, they’ve always been like this. But trying to have a conversation in the time of Coronovirus feels even more stressful than usual.
By the time the dog had run about on the common, the kids had climbed a tree, and Z had noted the differences in bouncing a moon ball on concrete paths and on grass, I’d started to feel better. We went over to the bandstand and headed towards Castle Field, because A thought she might find some dragon eggs there.
This was when they started reminiscing.
‘Do you remember when people used to sit here and watch music and dance on that dancefloor?’ said Z, pointing to the empty bandstand.
‘Do you remember when you could walk next to someone sitting on a bench without caring how close you are?’ S added, giving a man looking sadly out to sea a wide berth.
‘Do you remember when we used to be allowed to play in the fountain with other children?’ said A, running through the middle of the now dry water feature outside the castle.
The UK has been on lockdown for less than 2 weeks and my kids sound like Brexit supporting OAPs recalling the golden days before the UK joined the EU.
My day had once again picked up by the evening, and this was aided by the boys letting A have a sleepover in their room, where they all watched a movie, and me joining an online live quiz organised by one of my friends. This is clearly going to be a weekly highlight for Wednesday nights, and the bonus ‘Draw an Armadillo’ round was hilarious. Thank god for friends, even when you can only see their faces on a screen.
And finally, Houston: we have a problem. The kitten with balls bigger than his brain has really upped the ante. In lieu of being allowed outside to sow his wild oats, he’s taken to – how to put this politely – using cuddly toys for his pleasure. I now find myself walking around the house saying, ‘Who left that teddy on the floor? It’s not even machine washable!’ Luckily A thinks he’s hugging them. I just have to remember to retrieve the toy before she does.
The vet said Cat Dayman can’t be neutered because they’re only doing emergency surgeries. At what point does this constitute an emergency? Asking for a friend…
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.