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…

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

Might We Eventually Miss Some of this Loathed Lockdown?

Lockdown.

We’re all so looking forward to the lockdown being over and to returning to “normal”…but I’ve been wondering how much of this we will eventually miss.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There is a LOT about this current situation that deserves our frustration and hatred.

The sudden crash of everything, the sudden and immediate changes that none of us were prepared for, the emotional rollercoasters that we’ve been on since March 12th.

We’ve all had our worlds turned upside down. And for those of us who are parents, alongside trying to deal with our own grief and fear, we’ve had the added challenge of trying to provide security and stability to our kids.

And trying to keep one’s shit together so that our kids had to deal with minimal upheaval has been hard.

There is much to despise about Lockdown; not seeing family, not hugging, being limited to our homes and minimal journeys, the gauntlet that is the foodshop, the stresses of trying to save businesses, the “joys” of homeschooling our kids… all of these things have had us reeling.  I know they’ve left me reeling anyway.

And for many of us, we’ve been trying to keep working while parenting.  It’s been, erm, interesting to say the least.

And of course, MANY MANY MANY of you have continued going out to work on the frontline and in essential services, putting yourselves at daily risk to try to keep some normality going. (You are all heroes.)

We’re all at the point where the novelty has well and truly worn off. 

We’re all at the point where we’re done with this situation, and yet we are a long way from returning to the “normality” that we all crave so much.

We are all different, with different realities and different “normals” and we all have our own struggles and triumphs right now.  As with all things parenting, we can not compare our homes to other, nor should we.  Some of us are LOVING this. Some of us are hiding at least once a day in the utility room or bathroom.

We might be all in the same storm, but each and everyone of us has our own boat, and those boats differ greatly.  We shouldn’t judge each other’s boats.

BUT. 

Dare I say, there have been positives that maybe we have yet to appreciate. 

For me, the biggest change has been slowing down.

I’ve gone from having a schedule which literally had something every hour of every day, for myself and the girls, to slowly realising that much of my running and “Busyness” was unnecessary.

I’ve realised that being Busy all the time is not conducive to being happy.

I’m enjoying spending time with my girls… and yet it’s still PERFECTLY acceptable to admit that some days I just want to scream and hide.  You can be a good parent while admitting to needing a break.  It’s not a sign of weakness, but that’s a WHOLE other article.

20200411_142133

I love that the girls are getting this HUGE chunk of time with Myself and Daddy in the house with them.

I love that we’re getting to spend this chunk of their childhoods with them, with no interruptions or “other” stuff to do. We’ll never get this back.

I’m loving spending time with Himself.  We’ve been together a LONG time, and yet I don’t think we’ve EVER spent more than a week or two in each other’s constant company. Certainly not at home. That joy is usually only achieved when we’re on or family holiday.  (And yes, it has been an adjustment and a challenge for both of us!)

I’m struggling with plenty, but as we step into phase one of our reawakening, I find myself taking note. 

Because some day soon, I’ll crave the nothingness, if only just for a day.

Some day soon, I’ll wish I was back at home watching the girls playing with the dog.

Some day soon, I’ll wish I had nothing to do or nowhere to go.

Someday soon, I’ll find myself missing Himself, because we’ll be back to our usual Sunday night joke of “See you Friday Baby!”…

Now, for fear of sounding romantic and idealistic, I’ll NEVER miss the zoom meetings, or teaching from home, or constant worry that has coated every day of my life since March 18th.

I’ll NEVER miss trying to work and train and teach and parent and feed and comfort and exist all under one roof, in a constant whirlwind of our new normal.

I long to get back to my jobjob, to get my girls back to the joy of their school and seeing their friends, to get back to having a hot cuppa in the staffroom with a friend, or sneaking a coffee date with someone in before doing the school run, to get the door of our gym open again, to wander around Dunnes at my leisure without fear or anxiety.

I long to hug my family, to see my brother and his family who are so near but yet so far right now, to visit my friends, to get back to rehearsals, to go for dinner, to go to the theatre, or the cinema, or just for a quick bite to eat.

I long to book a flight to see a sibling, or book a hotel for a night away, to visit a park, to drive to Glenveagh, to climb Errigal, to walk on a beach, to see outside out my own 5k.

And yet, I’ve never been so grateful for my own 5K…

This weekend, I took the girls down one of our fields on our family farm, and we had a picnic in the grass.  It was where my siblings and I played daily as kids.  It’s right on our doorstep and yet I do wonder if I EVER would have “had time” to take them down the field for a picnic in normal life.

20200513_154730

Last week, we spent two hours on the shore near our house, again in a spot that I haven’t visited since I was a child.  We’ve driven past it to go ANYWHERE for years.  I don’t think we’d have ever visited under normal circumstances.

Himself has finally had time to walk the route that I’ve been walking my whole life.  He never understood why I loved it until he learned to love it himself.  He never would have walked these roads under normal circumstances.  He never would have had time.

And so while I am very aware that lockdown is going nowhere for the foreseeable, with the glimmer of hope that is upon us tonight in the final night before Phase 1, we can begin to look forward.

But in looking forward, I think that many of us will begin to look back at this time too.

We’ll take certain parts of this experience with us as we walk towards our individual realities, and for me at least, I’ll be bringing a few new priorities into mine.

20200423_162913

And while I won’t miss this one little bit, and I’ll embrace as much of my old life as I can, I’ll also look back and be glad of the time that I got with my wee team. (even if some of that was spent hiding in the utility room.)

(Remind me of this when I’m back fitting 38 hours into 24 and complaining about the things I’m currently missing!  Because we’ll al do it!)

 

When this is all over Mammy…

“Mammy, when this is all over…”, Mammy will need to have won the lotto.
 
I hear this line at least 5 times a day, from both of the girls.
And I find myself agreeing to pretty much everything that follows this phrase…
 
So far, I have agreed to:
 
Sleepovers with their cousins
A trip to Aberdeen
Dinner in Backstage EVERY night
A trip to Harry Potter World,
A trip to go see Santa in Euro Disney
A trip to Disneyworld Florida, where we will apparently swim with feckin dolphins
To have all of their cousins here for a sleepover
New clothes in Penneys like Arianna Grande
A visit to Uncle B in London
Playdates with EVERY BFF and general acquaintance in the world.
 
In fairness, they are also asking for things that are so heartbreakingly simple and genuine, that I find myself nodding in fervent approval when they say Mammy, when this is all over can we…
 
Go hug GannyGanda
Go play in GannyGanda’s back garden
Go to get icecream in the shop
Go in the car
Go out for pancakes
Go in to see Daddy’s gym
Go to dancing
Go to Glenveagh
Go to the beach
Go to school
 
And these I eagerly agree to because I can’t wait either. Actually, they’ll have to get in line for some of them, because ‘Me first yeah?’.
 
I had a catch up with two mates last night. And all of our kids have taken to using this line. We wondered where they heard it…but we know where. Well, obviously, they heard it from us, because let’s face it, we’re ALL using this line.
 
We’re all dreaming of the things that we once perhaps took for granted.
We’re all dreaming of doing the things that we are not able to do currently.
We’re all dreaming of the places we’ve wanted to or love to visit.
We’re all dreaming of seeing the people we are missing.
 
And it’s perfectly normal to miss and to plan and to dream.
 
Yes, we are all finding our grooves in this “New Normal”. I’ve used that phrase many times. And yet, now, while I am indeed living in my new normal, I know that it is thankfully, NOT going to be normal forever.
 
This new normal is temporary and we must all remember that. We must all accept it for what it is, for now, and look forward to when we can start to move on.
 
Because, thankfully, nothing lasts forever and everything changes eventually.
 
So, when this is all over, and it WILL be all over, we will all have things that we can’t wait to do and places to which we can’t wait to go…
 
We’ll have energy and determination to get or do things that we’ve perhaps procrastinated about or put off until now.
 
And the things that we CAN arrange and afford and aspire to, (mostly the hugs and playdates), will be done with joy and enthusiasm.
 
And while, short of a lotto win, there’s not a hope that I’ll follow through with the full list of things that I’m agreeing to right now, I will continue to let my kids enjoy the momentary dreaming that they get when they start a sentence with “Mammy, when this is all over…” because we all need to look forward and dream of when it is.
shadows

Creating a New Normal

What a week it’s been eh?

We’ve all found ourselves slowly sliding into chaos. And even for those of us who hoped it’d all pass and gently laughed it off, (yes I was one of them), we’ve suddenly had our eyes opened and our backsides slapped.

The suddenness of Thursday’s announcement left the country reeling.  Yes, we all knew it was coming, but I don’t think anyone was prepared for the “6pm tonight” closures.

And so over the past few days, we’ve all had to try to adapt.  We’re trying to adapt to all of the changes that are coming at us faster than Sonic the bloody Hedgehog, while trying to maintain a “calm” in front of our kids.

Personally, it’s been a difficult few days.

We had to pull our run of The Addams Family after only 2 shows.  I had to leave work, saying bye to my other babbies and my colleagues in a weird and eery atmosphere that none of us have experienced before.

And this morning, Emmet and myself made the decision to close the gym for a while, in order to keep our members safe.  A difficult decision, but easy in the grand scheme of things.

And of course, these things are wee buns in the midst of the new reality we fins ourselves in.

So how can we make the most of the situations we find ourselves in?

  1. Routine:  Make a plan for the week, just as you would if you were all getting up to go to work/school.  For me, I intend to get up at 6am as usual, do a few hours of school work before the girls get up and then a few more after they’re in bed.  I’ll allocate a time for Mini-Me to do school work.  We’ll schedule time for us to train together or to get out for a run.  The girls will have playtime and downtime and bedtime will remain as normal as possible. And they’ll know that Mammy and Daddy still have to work for certain hours.
  2. Eating:  If your kids are anything like mine, they’re ALWAYS hungry.  I’m going to try to keep the idea of “breaktime” and “lunchtime” etc going at home.  Otherwise, Princess’s bum will be stuck out of the fridge constantly.  I’ve also chopped up their favourite fruit and put it in the fridge, so that if they do want snacks, they’re getting snacks, not treats.
  3. Get dressed:  seems obvious, and yet it’s so easy to stay in the pjs.  To be honest, I was so upset after Thursday that I spent most of Thursday and yesterday in my pjs.  But from tomorrow, it’s up, shower and get dressed as normal. Just without heels or makeup. See the positives where you can!
  4. Don’t overdo the Mary Poppins act:  I’ve already seen social media influencers who have done 3 weeks worth of arts and crafts activities in the first 2 days of no school.  Calm yourselves.  Let the kids play. Let them be bored. Let them read or draw.  Put on their coats and open the door if you can!  Not every activity needs to be organised or planned. Save those for the really long rainy days where they are genuinely bored or need cheered up.
  5. Follow people who inspire you:  Social Media has been a dark place this past few days.  Don’t allow yourself to become bogged down or overwhelmed. Switch off the phone. And try to have a switch off time in the evening.  And only follow people who are making you smile.
  6. Keep active:  The one thing that has been lovely this past few days, has been the weather.  Get outside with the kids.  Go for a walk. Keep an eye on our pages for some workout ideas that you can do with or without your kids.   And fresh air is good for everyone. Get as much as you can.  walk
  7. Read:  If you’re like me, you’ll have a pile of started and unread books in the house.  Put down the phone and start to read.  Let your kids see you do it.  Have a “reading time” block in the day where you all sit and read. Monkey see, Monkey do.
  8. Cook:  Again, most of us cook functionally and conveniently.  Rather than firing on the slowcooker or  cooking in a hurry, set your inner Nigella alight and get chopping.  Let the kids cook too.  They love it.  And if you have a few of those “Betty” quick brownies in the press for the really long days, you’re winning at life AND you have something sweet and tasty for your cuppa.
  9. Stay in touch:  For many of us who are used to social interaction with colleagues or clients, the sudden isolation and lack of communication can be upsetting.  Talk to each other.  Message friends. Set up messenger groups with people who you would usually see each day and check in on each other.  Make phonecalls.  Pick up the phone and call someone rather than always messaging.  Some people might not hear another voice from one end of the day to the next.  Communicate.
  10. Stay positive:  yeah it’s easy for me to say isn’t it? But it’s hard to do.  But go easy on yourself.  You’re allowed to be scared. You’re allowed to be upset.  Grief and fear are not signs of weakness.  In order to deal with things, we first have to process it; to let it sink in. So allow yourself time to process.  Then, look for the positives and focus on those.

We are in weird times.  We are dealing with disappointments and stresses that are unprecedented.  Much of what we are facing is new. and yet in the middle of it all, we’re seeing glimpses of human kindness and commeraderie that only the Irish can show.

We have a new reality.  We will all have to find a new normal for ourselves.  We can and we will.