Play It Again Mam…

We don‘t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing. George Bernard Shaw

Over the past 4 months, playing has changed.

Our kids went from playing every day with a variety of other kids, enjoying all sorts of games and having all sorts of fun, to playing at home with the same person or people.

On a typical day, my eldest daughter would have gone from playing with the bus kids, to playing with her classmates in the classroom, to playing with other kids in the playground, to playing with whoever was in afterschool, to playing with her sister at home.

On other days, add in the kids she played with at her drama/gymnastics/dance class and maybe even a play with cousins at the weekend…

It was Play Central really.

Rediscovering the simple pleasures…

But isn’t that what childhood IS? Learning to make sense of the world through play and interaction?

The novelty of playing at home was great for a few weeks. And of course, my girls were so lucky to have each other. For every scrap or fight, there were hours of games and being best buddies. It helped.

It helped both them and us.

They spent most of lockdown outside in the garden. Swings, huts, dens, make believe adventures, talking to the cows in the field… I watched them living my 80s childhood, (with the added bonus of more than 4 TV channels and Disney Plus in the evening.)

I did have to stock up on lego and playdoh and crayons after about 7 weeks… but I didn’t mind. I like that they played so much with these.

It was lovely mostly. And the reality that our previously far-too-busy lives had been denying them such simple pleasures was not lost on me.

But they, like ALL children, got to the point where they missed their wee friends. Mini-Me took part in maybe five Wattsapp calls over the few months we were at home. She was so excited by them and so glad to see her wee friends, but in the final few weeks, didn’t really want to take part.

On the last call she had with one of her wee pals, she was so quiet that we thought the call had ended. When her Daddy looked into the room, she was sitting at her desk, colouring, with the phone set up beside her. Her friend was playing with her dolls on the screen. They weren’t really talking.

When Himself asked what they were doing, she looked at him as if he were stupid and answered, “We’re playing together.”

Simple. They aren’t grown ups who thrive on conversation and empathy. They aren’t teenagers who need laughs and craic and affirmation. They don’t yet know that they need conversation or companionship.

They simply wanted to play. Together.

That broke us a wee bit if I’m honest.

All she wanted to was to play alongside her friend. So when last week, we were able to let her meet said friend for a play in the park, I’m not sure who was more excited, her or me.

The playpark was open. Both of us Mammies looked at each other, trepidation about whether to let them in on both of our faces. We were afraid. The kids were not. We both had hand sanitizer with us and figured they deserved to have fun, so they ran and down we calmed.

We sat watching them and listening to the sound that I never really listened to before; The sound of children playing; of running and laughter and squeals of delight and roars of fun. We listened to parents calling out to ‘be careful’ or to ‘stop that’. We listened to the sound of playing.

And we both agreed that it was just lovely. And that there are some things that can’t be done on a wattsapp call.

As the sun finally sets on lockdown…

As the sun sets on the “lockdown”, our children will have to learn many things over the next few months. They’ll need to learn about social distancing, and how to behave in certain situations, about hygiene and danger and how to go to places with new procedures in place. But they’re faster learners that we adults are.

And one thing they won’t need to learn again, is how to play.

They are heroes and play is their superpower…

Once Upon a Normal…

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me.” 

I’ve said these words more than a few times over the past few weeks. Mainly, because I found myself absolutely bricking it over things that ‘once upon a normal’, wouldn’t have taken a fizz out of me. 

I’ve found myself anxious and sweating and with all the fizzy fingers at just the thought of having to go into the town. 

As someone who generally is not in any way worried about going places, or being out in public, this new found worry, worried me.  

I’m the type of person who can happily spend a day wandering around London on my own. I won’t care if someone I’m meeting in a restaurant or coffee shop is 20 minutes late.  I’m more than used to going to events on my own.  It wouldn’t have cost me a thought to go to a new place before lockdown.  

So how come, after going in to do the Big shop (not for the first time) a few weeks ago, I found myself in an absolute tizzy when I got back into the car?  I’m talking palpitations, sweats and a frustration that had my shoulders up at my ears. 

I was engulfed with a rage at myself, at how stupid I felt and how anxious I was over something that only a few weeks earlier, had been one of the banal, ordinary, boring even, activities of my previous normal. 

And so for at least 6 weeks, I refused point blank to do the shopping.  I’m lucky I have someone that could do it instead.  We had been taking turns anyway, so he didn’t mind, but I simply could not face going back in. And because I didn’t have to, I didn’t.

Ridiculous yeah?

Then, when the phases began to move, we went to a local park with the girls.  I looked after the girls. Himself it turns out, had to look after me.  Because I was so terrified of them going too close to people or doing something wrong, that I was on ‘fight or flight’ mode from the second we parked the car until we got back into it.

The following week, my best friend messaged about a coffee date.  Yay and hurrah… 

We were sitting outside a cafe, having a long overdue catch up, but we were at least an hour in before my shoulders lowered to where they’re supposed to be and I actually relaxed. A bit. 

Sitting outside a cafe I’ve frequented for years, with my best friend of almost 20 years, waving and saying hi to people we knew as they passed… I was calm on the outside, but a trainwreck inside.  I wasn’t calm and confident.  I was buzzing on nervous energy and on high alert. 

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me!” I said to my parents a few days later.  

And as usual, they had the answer. 

“You’re afraid. We’re all so afraid.”  They’re wise, and usually right are my parents, but don’t tell them I said that.

So armed with the fact that if my Daddy and Mammy can be afraid of normal stuff too, I decided that if I was in fact afraid, I had to face it. 

I sent a few messages that night and arranged a different coffee date or walk for each day that week.  Having just one thing on my schedule (and yes, I wrote them into my diary which has been lying redundant since March 12th) made me face a different place each day. 

I had coffee with a friend on a bench.  I met a mate for a donut and cuppa on the square. I even had coffee and cake with a friend in the back of her husband’s van which has a table in it… A-TEAM, eat your heart out. 

And as nervous as I was about each of these, making myself do it and speaking to familiar faces who I have missed so much, was the tonic that I needed.  Even better, each and every one of them said that they were feeling the exact same. And my message had made THEM get up and get out of their own comfort zones. 

I’m not a psychologist. I’m not a councillor.  I’m a hot mess and like everyone, I’ve been affected by the changes of the past few months. 

 I am however, able to admit my weakness.  I learned a few years ago that if I’m not feeling “right”, that saying it out loud leads to figuring it out. 

I figured out that I needed to face my fear and make myself get up and go out. And I’m stubborn enough to make myself do it. 

And considering that I have to go back to work in our gym at 6am tomorrow morning, I really had no choice but to get up and out. 

Now, I still haven’t faced the big shop.  And I still have to take a breath and plan where I’m going beforehand.  And I still sigh with huge relief when I’m safe and back in my car. But I’m another step closer to being back to my old self. And we have to keep taking those small steps to get to where we want to go. 

So if you can relate to ANY of this, I hope that you can get out and about.  Go for that coffee.  Meet that friend for lunch. Take the kids to the park. Go to the shop you’ve missed. Go back to the gym.  Book that restaurant. Go get your hair done.

With care and planning and abiding to social distancing guidelines, we can stay safe and keep each other safe.  

And soon, our “Once upon a normals”, will be “Happily Ever After Lockdown.”

The Click between the Phases…Bedtime.

“Goodnight my little darlings!” sings Mammy.

Mammy is hopeful…

Mammy is closing the hall door. The minions are tucked up and have been tucked in after their bedtime stories, kissed and snuggled and are as snug as two bugs.

Mammy has had the glass of grapes poured and ‘breathing’ since before the bedtime routine began.

Mammy slowly closes the door, to a chorus of “Night Mammy!” and “wuboooo!”

In the seconds before the click of the door of phase one, Mammy dreams.

Her mind jumps forward to an evening of feet up, of peace and joyful quiet, of adult conversation and grown up tellybox. Mammy’s muscles begin to relax and the excitement rises in her that she is about to cross the glorious finish line of another day of the race that is parenting.

Click…

Silence.

Joy.



Mammy reaches for her wine, sighs and smiles. She lifts it, smells it, for that is what one does, is it not?

Mammy does NOT whisper sweet nothings or declare love to the glass, for that would be weird, would it not?

Mammy sips the glorious grapejuice and allows the bitter beauty of the grapes to seep into her gums.

And as Mammy allows her muscles to relax, she listens to the silence…

It lasts 0.6433 fucking seconds.

“MAMMEEEEEEEE!”
“MAMMWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!”

FML

And so begins phase 2 of the bedtime dance.

The “needs” range from a hug, a blanket fixed, a lullaby (wtf?), a wee dwink (you and me both chick), a teddy which has been lost for approximately 5 months, an answer about why white blutac isn’t blue and doesn’t stick as well, a promise of another playdate (she knows I’d promise the Crown Jewels to get them to sleep), among many, many, many other things.

In fairness, these are mostly things that u can and happily do provide. Good Mammy…💙

And so, eventually, they are in bed and are quiet. I am experienced enough to know that they are probably not asleep.
But I am also KNACKERED enough to know that as long as they’re quiet, they’ll eventually fall into the snoozy slumbers.

And so I sit, sipping the rest of the earlier started grapejuice, glad that they are a phase closer to sleep.

Maybe.
Possibly.
Who knows?

They could be back up the hall 629 times before Mammy eventually loses her shit, but then again, they might get bored and just go to sleep.

Mammy too need a hug and a lullaby and a promise of a playdate with MY friends, but tonight, I’ll settle for a wee dwink myself!

Cheers Mammies. You’re smashing it. Bring on phase 3…😘

X

Sorry Whodeewhat now?

“OK girls… movie time!” (because if I have to intervene in your fucking 387th row of the day, I may SCREAM.)

Mammy reaches for her phone to rev up the beloved Disney Plus, excited already about the inevitable peace and joyfully joyful quiet that Mammy will now experience for approximately 90 minutes.

I’m planning a cuppa and a sneaky Double Fecker/insta scroll in the tillyday room and am already relaxing in thoughts of imminent calm that is about to be magiced via Disney Plus into my home…

“We’re not allowed Disney Plus!” announces Princess, wide eyed and deadly serious.

“Of course we are. Don’t be silly!” I laugh.

“No She’s not EVEN Lying like Mammy. It’s banned for the rest of the week…”

“Says who?” I demand.

I’m bemused. I’m confused…I’m slightly terrified…

“Says Daddy!” says Princess, still wide eyed and suddenly so fecking virtuous and obedient that it’s OBVIOUS that she will NEVER be coerced into betraying The Daddy.

“Since when?” Mammy is seriously wondering if I blanked out and missed thiat particular row, but in fairness, every day is merging into the next at the minute and I gave up on listening to every single conversation in mid April.

“Since the last night when we were up really late and SHE wouldn’t get out of my room” admonishes Mini-Me, obviously not ready to forgive Princess. “He says it’s banned for the full week…”

Shit.

“Ok I’m sure Daddy didn’t mean a full week. Hang on until I call him to check.” I grin through gritted teeth. My palms are a bit sweaty to be honest. I’m panicking a little… just slighly jittery at the prospect…

A week without Disney Plus? Has he lost his fricken MIND?
I go to the other room and pretend to ring Daddy.

I don’t, for he is back in his office this week, being busy and stressed, and so it’d be unfair of me to ring him now to discuss… because obviously the DISCUSSION would consist of me launching into something along the lines of “WHATTHEFUCKiswrongwithyoubanningDisneyFeckingplusforafullfeckingweek? ARE YOU MAD? It’s OK for you Mr I@m in the Fecking OFFICE all week. YOU don’t have to play waitress and bouncer to these two all fecking day do you!? So I’m SORRY but Disney fucking PLus is NOT being banned for a week, not on MY WATCH. K?”

To which he’d OBVIOUSLY concede and apologise and grovel at his utter silliness and naivity and agree with my decision to reverse the punishment…

So why waste time annoying him right then eh? (I’ll get him again…)

I come back into the room and tell the two minions that Daddy has said that it’s not banned for the week, but just for the day, which is met with rapturous joy and much appreciation for “clever Daddy!”.

Then, The wee doll, who only two minutes ago was fully loyal to Daddy asks, “So what’s on Netflix then?”

I’m either incredibly proud, or absolutely fecked from here on… I haven’t decided yet.


And to be honest, I don’t care. I’m too busy enjoying the calm and quiet. 🙂

The Text…The Speedclean

Yesterday, I sat in my Mammy’s kitchen.

Says me to her, “My house is not clean. It is a kip.” Grumble grumble agree agree it’ll be grand sure etc…

It has not been clean since March 12th and it shall probably remain in such a state until the day before I go back to school when I do my annual “ALL THE EVERYTHING NEEDS DONE AND CLEANED TODAY” day…”

I ventured further. “I don’t know WHAT it’d take to motivate my arse to clean to be honest”.

And then this morning, I received THE TEXT.

The text that we have all forgotten…The text that is pretty much the main reason ANY of us had clean houses before Lockdown, but which we haven’t yet realised to be responsible for our semiclean homes…

My friend sent the beloved-dreaded message “I’m coming for a cuppa”.

And suddenly, something in the biosphere shifted and I remembered what motivation felt like.

Within an hour, I’d “tidied” and dusted and hoovered and wiped and bleached and sprayed…

Mammies.
I even…
Mopped.
The.
Floors.

I shit you not.

Who knew? My house needs visitors just as much as I do!

Try it.

But be sure it’s YOU who sends the text!

Otherwise, you might end up mopping YOUR floor too.