Local parent, researcher and writer, Maddie Wallace, continues her daily diary describing the experience first, of self-isolating, and now of being in lockdown with her children in Southsea. It’s day 37, and Maddie negotiates a home-schooling schedule with her boys. Will they stick to it?
‘My tummy hurts,’ said A, looking pale.
I have an irrational fear of vomit, which peaks during Norovirus season or times of stress, so waking up to this nugget of news was far more terrifying to me than anything the Daily Briefing or Twitter can come up with during a global pandemic. Fortunately, it soon became apparent that this was a ruse by A to get her grubby little five year old mitts on one of the ice lollies we made the day before. She obviously thought if she couldn’t eat breakfast because she felt ill, then I’d give her frozen blackcurrant and apple squash to suck on instead.
I told her she could have it after her cereal and she made a speedy and somewhat miraculous recovery.
However, stress isn’t a good way to start the day, and with my back playing up, I decided to log on to my physio’s client page and do one of her Pilates work outs. Because exercising in the living room with a dog, a cat and a five year old joining in tends to increase stress levels further, I snuck off to my bedroom, closed the door like a ninja, and put my exercise mat on the floor.
I’m quite deaf but haven’t been wearing my hearing aids for weeks, so trying to listen to the workout on my phone has been proving difficult. I’d left my laptop downstairs and didn’t want to alert small children and animals to the fact I might be missing in action, so I decided to be clever and download Facebook onto my Amazon Firestick and access it on the TV. After half an hour of downloading apps, waiting for Facebook access codes, learning how to navigate a webpage with directional arrow keys and locating a workout video on the Chi Physio page to do, it finally came on the screen – but muted. Nothing I did could unmute it, and because I was cross and pressing all the buttons on the Firestick controller at once while shouting at the screen, everything froze. And my secret bedroom tryst was revealed to the child and the animals, who came in and laid down on my yoga mat.
I tried, OK. I bloody tried.
When S and Z arrived home on Sunday, we discussed the need for them to do schoolwork and jobs around the house before they even think of any screen time or games consoles. They had the option to separate the school’s suggested four hours into morning and afternoon sessions, or to do it all together in one hit. They opted for the latter, and reasoned that as teenagers, mornings are not their best time, so we agreed that as long as they’re sat at the table working by 1pm, I wouldn’t send their little sister in to wake them up with her impression of a wild animal caught in a bear trap.
After some negotiation, we also reached agreement on where they should work, with them insisting it was fine to work on their beds, and me fully aware they think I won’t notice when they’re on their phones or gaming because I’ll be too busy downstairs trying to do my own work or dealing with A.
It’s like they forget I’m an actual teacher.
I hit them up with research on how working space should be kept separate from sleeping space and explained the psychological benefit of this. Any difficult questions I signposted to their older sister, H, because she’s about to graduate with a first in psychology from a Russell Group uni, so just chucking in some vague notions and asking them to WhatsApp her seemed like a good plan.
Our first day of the new routine, (despite their protests, I will not refer to it as torture), got off to a bad start with technological issues I should’ve sorted ten months ago, but Tuesday’s #homeschooling kicked off with a positive vibe. S got up voluntarily at 10am, had some breakfast and did his work. By 1pm, as I was threatening Z with little sister solos, S had finished everything and declared that would be his working day from now on. Just get up, get on with it, get it done.
Hearing this, Z had an involuntary and uncontrollable urge to do the exact opposite, because brothers close together in age either compete with their sibling, or they decide what their sibling has done is stupid. Z seemed to be trying out the same tactic he employs with the washing up; create an enormous scene about how hard it is, do a crap, half-arsed job, make my life as difficult as possible, and work on the assumption that I’ll eventually give up and let him off whatever the task is. This has never once worked, but he still tries. He’s very trying.
As I attempted to digest a research paper on propaganda, he asked me questions every five seconds, huffed and moaned about how hard his life is, and complained for almost an hour that his history teacher expected him to represent five key moments in Hitler’s rise to power as a drawing.
‘This is stupid! How am I meant to draw the president giving power to someone else and Hitler being angry about it?’ he wailed, giving me his best injured face and burying his head in his arms on the table again.
‘I don’t know, stick men? One of them with a small moustache? Maybe a dark cloud over his head with a Swastika in it?’
‘I just don’t get what drawing this is meant to achieve!’ He looked like he might be trying to force tears out.
‘Well, look at it like this babe: When you come to write about this in a GCSE exam, the five stages of Hitler’s rise to power will be etched onto your brain by the experience of moaning about drawing them. You’ll remember that you learnt those stages during a lockdown, while working at our dining room table. Isn’t that great?’
Apparently, it wasn’t. Apparently, I’m as stupid as every teacher that was ever a teacher.
It took him four hours to do his work. It took me four hours to read the research paper. But I did it and so did he. Because as stubborn and difficult as he thinks he is, he gets it from me, so he might need a new approach.
Maddie is sharing her lockdown experiences every day on S&C – you can find each day’s diary and all of Maddie’s previous articles for S&C here.