Lockdown With My Family in Southsea: Day 43, Pick Your Battles

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 43, and Maddie is juggling parenting with tiredness and anxiety.

I had an awful night’s sleep. Every time I laid down my chest was so tight it was hard to breath. I know it was anxiety, but nowadays that comes with the added fear of Covid 19, where difficulty breathing is a symptom. And being anxious about that does nothing help you to calm down about the other thing you’re anxious about.

I sat propped up in bed until 5am, drinking camomile tea, practising deep breathing and getting cuddles from the cat. He seemed to be aware I was struggling and hopped off the chair and onto my chest, where he laid on his side with his head under my chin, purring louder than an airplane. It was like he was trying to soothe me. I went to sleep calmer and thinking how lovely my cat is. However, when he woke me up three hours later by sitting on my head to attack the fairy lights above my bed, eating my toes and scratching his claws on the base of my divan, I remembered why he’s such a little prick.

I spent the day tired and struggling through quicksand. A wanted a mixed bowl of every cereal we have for breakfast and stood next to me directing. Do you know how many bowls of cereal I’ve made for kids in this lifetime, love? No, I don’t either, but it’s certainly enough to warrant unsupervised cereal pouring first thing in the morning.

S was up at 10am as requested and doing his schoolwork. Z is proving a bigger problem. He doesn’t want to get up then as he feels it’s ‘too early’, and provided he gets up and does his work, it shouldn’t matter.

Hmmm, conundrum. I can see his point and can remember the feeling of needing to sleep until the early afternoon when I was teenager. I can also remember how much my mum’s attempts to wake me up annoyed me; opening the curtains, vacuuming around the bed, telling me someone was on the phone, banging saucepans like a pre-emptive Thursday night NHS clap, although with no gratitude for my heroic efforts to sleep.

On the other hand, I know from forty seven years on this planet, almost half of them as a parent, years of teaching and researching how children learn at different ages, decades of mental health problems and the counselling and self-care that goes with it, that having a structured sleep pattern is vital for wellbeing.

I also recognise this is an unprecedented situation.

If he wants to sleep half the day but still gets up and does his work, should that be a problem? Pick your battles is the golden rule of parenting, (apart from the other one, which is be careful what you tell your child the consequence of breaking the rules will be, because you must follow it through once you’ve said it).

Not to mention, with the way I was feeling, I’d have given anything to be sleeping in until 1pm. So, I let it go until tomorrow. And then I’ll probably have to sit him down, explain why I think he needs a more structured routine, listen to what he’s got to say, and then problem solve with him so that we can find a solution that works for both of us. Not today though, I have no mental energy for that, and it’s not like he’s doing something dangerous. It can wait until I have the strength for a long winded debate on why he’s always right and I know nothing.

I did decide to unearth my bike, Betty, from the outhouse though. I don’t ride her in winter because the cold hurts my hands too much and I end up arriving at my destination with rigid claws that take an hour to stop seizing. It seemed like serendipity when I went on Facebook and saw on my memories that I’d got my bike exactly four years ago. It’s Betty’s birthday! She needs a blast along the seafront. I need a blast along the seafront. It’s meant to be.

But Betty, on account of not being used since October, was buried under several bikes and scooters in the outhouse, and do you know how many spiders live in that outhouse? It’s a veritable arachnid ecological system in there. I did what anyone would do in that situation and got my live-in spider catcher, S, to dig my bike out for me. Poor Betty, so dusty and cobwebby. I was hoping S would clean her off for me while I sat and read another chapter on propaganda.

‘Mum, you’re always telling me that if I want a bike, I have to learn to look after it myself,’ he said, with a little too much smugness.


I washed the bike, I dried the bike, I polished the bike, I checked the breaks, (you just squeeze them and if they seem to work that’s fine, right?), and then I set about pumping up the soft tyres. Nope. Nothing. No amount of pumping made them anything other than flaccid. I called S again, who confirmed punctures, but claimed he couldn’t fix them. I’m sure he could, because last year he took his BMX apart and put it back together again, but he was on his down time and playing on the X Box. Betty went back in the outhouse and I made dinner, with serendipity clutching its belly and laughing at me.

While all this was going on, A was pottering about the garden with an old yoghurt pot collecting flower petals and leaves for a ‘potion’. At certain intervals she thrust her concoction under my nose.

‘Does it smell right yet?’

‘Smells lovely,’ I said, with no clue what it was meant to smell like.

By dinner time, A had finished her potion and announced it was part of a care package for my friend Molly, who just needs to add water to it and then she’ll turn into a dragon too. A insisted that we had to drop it off while we were out walking the dog, and I agreed, but with a precaution.

‘You know she can’t drink that, right? It could make her sick.’

A looked at me with a mix of horror and disgust.

‘You don’t drink it! You put it next to you while you sleep and breath it in. By the morning you’re a dragon!’

Phew. And lucky for Molly too, because there’s only so long you can pretend to drink a potion made by a five year old before they work out you’re faking it. No one knew I was faking it all day when I felt like it was a savage Monday in 1991 after a weekend rave.

Maybe fake it till you make it, (or hopefully wake up feeling better the next day), is how to deal with lockdown.


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.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay .

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