Local parent, researcher and writer, Maddie Wallace, continues her daily diary describing the experience first, self-isolating, and now being in lockdown with her children in Southsea. It’s the weekend (day 19 and 20), and Maddie is preparing for a visit to the vet and the stress and anxiety of supermarket shopping.
Hey, guess what, Cat?
The vet called and you’re getting your balls off on Monday. Due to the current health crisis, the Cat Clinic are only neutering pets in emergencies, which they count as unneutered males and females living in the same property who might make babies. However, the practice manager thankfully decided that Cat Dayman gripping on to S’s forearm with his teeth while humping away madly and using his claws to subdue his ‘conquest’, counts as enough of an emergency situation under the circumstances. No one wants to be going to A&E with their 14 year old’s lacerated arms right now.
The kitten doesn’t know what’s coming, we haven’t told him. Sorry not sorry.
I spent a large part of Saturday fretting about the diminishing food supplies, the clear need for me to go to a shop, the lack of money in my bank account, and the food vouchers sent by the school to replace free school meals for S and Z that could only be used in Tesco. My friend said the M&S food hall is being really well run, but it wasn’t an option financially. This time 20 years ago I had a huge phobia of illness and germs. Especially vomiting, but anything could set me off.
I once got shat on by a bird when I was pushing a 2 year old H along in her buggy and spent the whole weekend panicking that I might be sick. I don’t mean just wringing my hands, I’m talking crippling anxiety for three days.
I spent a long time dealing with my emetophobia and fear of illness with a very good counsellor. Parenting two boys close together in age also helped, probably in the same way that immersion therapy works. There’s only so much time to panic about them getting ill after they’ve stuck all their toys down the toilet when they’ve already moved on to trying to climb out the window. Z once ate a snail in the garden and while I did get the panic, it subsided quickly because I’d learnt to rationalise. (He wasn’t sick either.) Nevertheless, my friends still relentlessly mock me for always having hand gel in my bag, (yeah, who’s laughing now though guys?), and I don’t mind admitting that this whole global pandemic business has certainly brought up some of the old feelings of abject fear at being in a public place like a supermarket, where other people might not be showering themselves in bleach and following the strict rituals I have to follow before leaving the house.
My brain did everything it could to protect itself from the need to go to Tesco. We can live without bread and milk, it told me, trying to lull me into an alternative narrative. They won’t get scurvy after a couple of days with no fruit, do it tomorrow, it said, trying to trick me into unnecessarily worrying about the situation for extra 24 hours. It came up with whole lists of things that needed doing around the house to delay the inevitable. I’m pretty sure I didn’t need to do three loads of washing, change all the beds and clean the oven. But that counselling has made me wise to brain trickery, so off I went, lamenting my previous belief in the government’s advice on masks being pointless. I should have bought masks. Why didn’t I buy masks?
Do you know what? Tesco in the Pompey Centre have nailed it. The experience was surreal, but what isn’t at the moment? The aisles are all one-way. You get a disposable cloth to wipe down your trolley and gloves to wear in the store. They don’t let too many people in at once. The queue system both outside and at the tills is well managed with clear places to stand and wait. Customers are carefully and thoughtfully guided to ensure their safety and that of the staff. The staff were in good spirits, showing kindness and doing a really tough job with smiles on their faces. I almost cried with relief in the cheese aisle while stroking my packet of Cathedral City Mature and muttering a little thank you to the Gods of Tesco.
All that self-induced stress left my nerves shattered. When I got home, I wiped everything down and put it away, then I finally let myself sit down to enjoy the Starbucks Iced Mocha I’ve been saving for just such an occasion. It’s been in the fridge a while, so it had settled, and I shook it vigorously without realising that either S or Z – both deny all knowledge and blame the other – had undone the lid and not put it back on properly. I cried for a bit then, sitting in the chair wearing Iced Mocha, my hair a sticky mess, feeling sorry for myself that sometimes being a single parent is bloody hard work.
I told S and Z over dinner that I’ve had enough of them treating this like a holiday. I explained it’s the worst thing the world has had to face since the Second World War, and at the moment I’m doing absolutely everything myself while they lounge about not showering, playing X Box, moaning about what I’ve cooked for dinner and bitching whenever I ask them to lift a finger to help me. I told them there will now be a zero-tolerance approach to either of them responding to a request for help with ‘Why do I have to do it, why aren’t you making him do it?’ and we agreed that before they’re allowed near a games console in future, they first have to ask me what needs doing and then do it without complaint. They have to do some school work, or help A with hers, or at least pick up a book, (S looked like he might throw up when I said the B word), and only then can they think about whether it might be time to start shouting at Fortnite.
Then I told them the washing up needed doing, the rubbish needed to go out, the living room needed tidying and A needed a bath, a story and bed. I got the dog and left them to it while I stomped along the deserted beach. When I came back an hour later, utterly drained, the whole house was tidy, the washing up was done, and A was in bed. Yes, her towel was on the bathroom floor, and yes, I had to re-do some of the washing up this morning, but I’ll take that.
We’re in it together now.
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.