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. We’re at Day 67, and Maddie has noticed that her inner voice needs to be more kind to herself. Will she be able to use the mindfulness strategies she’s learnt?
A had one of those days where she needs to be near me all the time. And by ‘near’, I mean ‘on’. When H’s boyfriend walked the dog for me the previous evening, he also dropped round some unicorn poo flower bombs from his mum for A. They had glitter in them.
Poo and glitter are two of A’s favourite things.
She wanted to plant them immediately, but I needed to feed the dog and cat and do some work, so I bribed her with working alongside me at the ‘hot desk’ and the reward would be planting the wildflower bombs as soon as we were both finished. A is getting very good at waiting and thinking about the joy to come when she’s finished a task. As a result, she did several pages in her spelling book and I got my Star & Crescent work delivered to my lovely editor well before midday, caught up on all my emails, did some referencing on a longer article and wrote a bit more of a poem I’m developing.
She was so happy when it was time to go out in the garden. I read the instructions and tried to explain them to her, but A learns by going through the motions, experiencing the thing, and then working out how she feels about it. If she doesn’t like it, that’s it. Fortunately, she likes most things – apart from instructions. She hates being told what to do.
‘You need to throw yourself into my brain again, so I understand,’ she said, glutching handfuls of soil.
‘What do you mean by that?’ I asked, trying to remember which pot went with which saucer. She was doing the soil because I hate it. I don’t tell her that because I don’t need to. She’d be apoplectic with rage if she wasn’t allowed to dig her hands into the bag and feel it.
‘You know, like when you’re helping me do something and you’re inside my brain.’
I tried to get further details of this, but she wasn’t interested in explaining what she meant. I showed her how to do the planting, pushing one bomb into the soil in a pot with my finger, leaving it half exposed, as per the instructions.
‘Yeah, like that, that’s what I mean. Now you’re in my brain.’
S and Z were up and frenetic as soon as I woke them. They were heading off to their dad’s for the weekend in the afternoon and had done all of their schoolwork by midday. A is thrilled to be having a girls’ weekend. With them gaming and A planting flower bombs, I managed the full hour of my Skype with my mentor this week. That’s only the second time in nine weeks I’ve achieved that. My mentor, Luke, is the voice of reason inside my head, reminding me to organise my mind and my work in a way that’s effective for me. When I do something wrong and catch myself thinking you bloody idiot, what did you do that for? it’s his voice I hear in my head telling me to watch the negative self-talk.
A wanted to walk the dog on the beach, but it was too hot to take a hulking black-coated beast out in the afternoon, so I told her we’d wait till it was cooler in the evening. The tide would still be far enough out at 6pm for her to paddle, and I hoped the beach would have emptied out a bit by then.
In the meantime, we walked my bike down to Portsmouth Cycle Exchange and dropped off a birthday card for Lesley, who lives opposite. A is still reluctant to go out walking on the pavement, so we took back roads and walked slowly. Painfully slowly. A twenty five minute round trip took almost an hour, but she did it.
I got my bike out a few weeks ago, itching for a ride. Both tyres were flat. I’m capable of watching a video on YouTube and working out how to change inner tubes myself, but I don’t want to. I know it would take me hours and would be stressful.
Luke’s voice inside my head said: give yourself a break, you have enough to do without spending a hot afternoon getting stressed over bike tyres.
My own voice added: it’s taken you weeks to get the bike out again you massive twat, think of all the bike rides you’ve missed out on already.
Luke’s voice: remember to watch the negative self-talk.
Negative self-talk is rife. That instantaneous inner monologue of criticism which ignites so quickly you barely notice you’re doing it. I’ve been working on this with Luke since September last year, and I’m only at the ‘awareness’ stage: I can usually catch me being a bitch to myself, but I still haven’t mastered not doing it in the first place. As it’s probably best not to beat yourself up over beating yourself up, I try to accept that in a busy world, even coming far enough to have that awareness is progress.
The beach was still packed at 6pm. I’m fairly sure the several large groups of six or eight adults and multiple children having barbecues weren’t all from the same household. We picked our way around the crowds, holding hands and walking barefoot in the sand.
‘Sometimes girls cross over to boys,’ said A.
I asked her to explain a bit more about what she meant.
‘Girls have to become boys and stop being girls.’
I explained that it’s true that some girls do decide to stop being girls and become boys. Some boys also decide to become girls too. But nobody has to do that if they don’t want to.
‘But,’ she said. ‘If you want to play basketball you have to become a boy.’
I managed to pick up my jaw before I ate too much sand.
‘If you want to play basketball, you can do that as a boy or a girl. You don’t have to change; girls can do anything boys can do,’ I said.
‘Except grow a penis,’ she shot back.
‘Well, I’ve grown two penises,’ I said.
She laughed. ‘What? You haven’t even got one penis! I’ve seen you in the bath!’
‘I grew both your brothers – including their penises – inside my womb. Girls may not be able to grow their own penis, but they can grow penises for others when they have babies.’
‘So, girls are okay too then?’
I’m stunned. This is not what I’ve been teaching her.
*Note to self: increase gender equality education for the five year old*
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.