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.”

You’re not a Machine, You’re Amazing

I haven’t learned a new language.
I haven’t made banana bread.
I haven’t decluttered my house.
I haven’t painted the house.
I haven’t organised my life.
I haven’t sorted my garden.
I haven’t watched box sets.
I haven’t made a mood board.
I haven’t lost loads of weight.
I haven’t found zen.
I haven’t had a calm and relaxing time.
I haven’t caught up on the stuff I always thought I just needed “time” to get done.
I haven’t used this time to research stuff or “better” myself.
I haven’t cut out caffeine or alcohol.
I haven’t found positives in every feckin moment.
I haven’t found that I LOVE zoom calls or quizzes.
I haven’t finished that novel I’m writing.
I haven’t got the cleanest house ever.
I haven’t cooked wholesome meals every day.
I haven’t found harmony that was apparently missing from my life.

I haven’t learned loads about myself.

Well actually, no.

That I HAVE done.

I’ve learned that I’m a fricken machine.

A machine who is able to admit her weakness and fear and know that it is OK to be overwhelmed.

A machine who kept her family relatively well, fed and feeling safe throughout a global pandemic.

A machine who up until last week, worked more than full time at my job job while simultaneously being Mammy and Wife and keeping my kids entertained, fed and even someday, educated (😂😂😂😂I say this lightly).

A machine who has tried to fully support her other half as he fought to maintain our family’s business.

A machine who has been “fine” until the kids are in bed, when I’d then cry or rant.

A machine who dealt with loss and fear and all of the anxiety and stress that came to us all with this shitstorm.

A machine who has missed people and longed for interaction and normality.

A machine who hid her own stress and fear from her babies to make sure that their fears were, and are, minimal.

Actually, I’m not a machine.

I’m just a Mammy.
I’m a me.

And just like every one of you, I’ve had my good days and shit days and I know there’s more of both to come.

But today is sunny and beautiful and so I’m raising a feckin glass to MYSELF and to each of you…
To all of us machines who don’t need to have done loads of shit that Instagram tells us to, to feel validated and strong.

It doesn’t matter if you’re riding out of this on a gilded unicorn, farting glitter and fablis and enlightened… or sliding out sideways, glass in hand shouting “woohoo!”… like a badger’s arse, clawing towards whatever finish line you’re aiming for, you are here and you are brilliant just as you are.

You are not a machine.
You are simply amazing.

Cheers Ladybelles.

M x

Life is a Covidcoaster, Just Got To Ride it…

Mammy likes rollercoasters. I like theme parks.

But we’ve all been landed into a theme park that we had not planned to visit, and it seems that we all have to travel on a whole series of rollercoasters before we get to leave.

It’s a bit like a bad movie, isn’t it? “2020 – The Theme Park of Covidcoasters…”

We’ve been on one already.

On March 12th, all of us were hustled into little carriages and we’ve all travelled on our own Covidcoaster through lockdown.
For many of us, the track was scary and bumpy, but not too terrifying.
For many of us, it’s been an absolute nightmare and we step off it, battered and bruised and a big bit heartbroken.
For so so many, the rollercoaster still included working either from home or from the frontline… Every single person has had to travel on their own rollercoaster and every single one of us is absolutely allowed to feel a bit shaken by whichever track we were on.

Friday’s news of further relaxation of the lockdown restrictions came as a bit of a surprise to me.

I had taken a few days off social media this week and so I’d missed the usual leaks of announcements that always precede the actual announcements. I can’t say I was emotionally able for it. I wasn’t emotionally able for very much this week if I’m honest.😂

So the announcement that we are able to travel anywhere within our own county AND the realisation that things might just begin to move back towards our old normal a little faster than we’d hoped, was quite a gunk.

Add to that the realisation that we can look forward to opening our gym in July rather than August, and an already emotional trainwreck of a Mammy became an absolute blubbering mess! ❤

Messages began to come to my phone…promises of coffee dates and delight as friends realised they can finally visit parents and siblings.
Our beloved family and friends who have been so far away and yet so close since March, can now be visited and seen for the first time in almost 4 months.
Lists of shops and businesses were announcing their new opening dates on their social media, creating a whirl of anticipation and excitement in my tummy.

It is indeed a rollercoaster.

We’re already in our carriages, strapping ourselves in, slowly ascending; knowing that there would be a sudden burst of speed…
But knowing it is coming and being ready for it are two different things.

Some of us now face going back to work earlier than we had anticipated. Some of us have had our time in lockdown cut short.

Many of us now have to start to put actual measures in place to reopen our businesses, rather than the hypothetical “maybes” that we have been working towards.

And of course, with childcare facilities still closed, much of the workforce are wondering how the heck any of this is going to happen and who is going to look after the children?

And so suddenly, in the midst of the sudden joy that came with the 20k restriction being lifted and phase 5 being no more, a new and unexpected series of worries and problems are facing some of us.

While we have longed for this to be over, how many of us were actually ready for things to suddenly burst back to life? ❤

We’re in our rollercoasters but the safety barrier doesn’t seem to be quite secure. It’s a white knuckle kind of ride and it may be bumpy.

But the thing about rollercoasters, is that they begin and they move and they go up and down and spin around and round, but they eventually always slow down again and return to a pace where we can breathe easy again and eventually step back onto the platform.

And now, we all step onto the next rollercoaster in the Covid theme park.
It’s going to take us on another journey.

And it’s uncertain and frightening and exciting and wonderful all at once.

Whichever carriage you are in, I hope you have time to put your safety barriers down (or on!) and that you step off this particular stage of the journey a little further on and a little closer to contentment and normality.

And I hope that you all get to see someone who makes you smile in the next few weeks.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!)