Okay so the last two weeks were just a trial run? Now the 21 days lockdown starts for real.
I suspect President Ramaphosa is using the same tactics I use with the kids. Incremental steps. “Just have 3 more bites of dinner, then you can have ice cream. No, I meant 3 big spoons. Well now that you did 3 it wasn’t that bad was it? Look you are nearly finished. Why not just have 2 more mouthfuls. Mommy will be so proud.”
Speculation was rife, I knew it was coming but until our President spoke those words loudly, clearly, courageously and without conviction, it wasn’t a reality. Or rather it wasn’t my reality. At “the office” – wonder when we will ever use that phrase again – more like at my dining room table on Zoom calls, we have been planning around the likelihood of this scenario but for some reason, possibly survival or protection of my sanity, I never applied it to my own situation.
So here I sit, in grateful solitude, the morning after the night before’s sentencing hearing, contemplating my next move. My plan? My plan is not to freak out. I have a penchant for the overly dramatic however, I am going to reframe the last 2 weeks as a trial run. It was my opportunity to hone my survival skills, plan, prepare and in the words of Bill Gates an opportunity in “staging simulations”.
These are the 10 lockdown lessons I learnt during the trial run*
#1 Carve out me-time
I get up at 4.45am every morning. Even non office work days, previously referred to as weekends. This way I am awake before 5am and successful people rise before 5am so there we go. I’m successful. Haha. But more importantly, I am alone. Alone with a fresh, creative, calm mind. This time is not for housework or work.
It’s my time. I write in my journals, some pieces like my gratitude journal entries, find their way into blogs like this. I have fun posting blogs and tinkering on my website. I video call my sister in Canada. I do Pilates. I meditate. I eat my breakfast in peace and quiet, slowly, sitting the whole time, without indigestion. I scroll fb and have a laugh.
#2 Wake the kids up early
I know it sounds crazy but I don’t let the kids sleep in. If they sleep in too late, they go to bed too late and usually it’s not in proportion to the amount of time they slept in which means I have zero evening. My parenting threshold taps out around 7pm -7.30pm. I can’t go much past then so I start bedtime but if they have slept in, they are nowhere near the vicinity of sleep and so bedtime stretches out from 7.30-9.30pm. I’d rather have the cute cuddly sugar-free cuties in the morning than post ice cream dessert devil’s spawn to content with in the evening. That coupled with the warn off effects of my tranquillisers does not make for a good combination.
#3 Plan an early morning activity
Having run numerous simulations during the last 2 week testing phase, my research data has confirmed that if I get in there first in the morning with an activity, before their nagging ammo has been loaded, I am in for a fighting chance. I plan an obstacle course, or a dance a thon or maybe watch the live stream of the Kruger Park Game drive. I nag them. I try rope them into tending to the garden or helping me hang washing or sort socks. I even try plan out an art project. They are enthusiastic for a brief time, and then they beg to please be allowed to go to their rooms to do their own thing. Victory.
That usually gives me a good hour in peace.
#4 Set up virtual play dates
Where possible, if I know my meetings in advice I arrange for Ava’s besties, my mom, Jean the nanny, or my ex to video call the social butterfly. She gets to show them her current Lego castle, teddy bear tea party or artwork. This usually only works if a) the internet it working well and b) Ava is in the mood for virtual socialising. Sometimes she just leaves the poor baby sitter or bestie leaning against a pillow on the couch while she runs off outside.
#5 Be proactive with feeding times
Feed them before they have a chance to nag or raid the snack cupboard. Don’t ask, just prepare, and present. Once they start snooping around in the kitchen it’s too late. They will make a bee line for the Nutella and Marie biscuits and you have lost. Also be realistic. My kids are not going to eat steamed fish and a salad. I make burgers, bacon rolls, cheese sandwiches.
#6 Have an afternoon jiggle session
I’ve noticed in my trials that come 3pm, the kids turn ferrel. Literally they will climb walls, jump on everything bar the trampoline, pick fights with each other and work diligently on my last remaining nerve of the day. So where possible I try take some time to do something fun with them. An impromptu dance party, or ask them to run 100 laps around the garden. Lately it seems they find the vacuum cleaner fun so I go with it. However some supervision is still required. They used an entire bottle of carpet cleaner in Aiden’s room. Mind you his room might have require it, I can see the original colour of the carpets and we all enjoyed the high from the fumes.
#7 Let it go
My boy is on his PS4 or his phone pretty much all day, apart from when he has to do his chores, or the internet is slow and he comes out his room to annoy his sister. Ava has taken over the entire house, every corner. Toys, everywhere. All the time. It’s like walking through a mine field of Lego pieces and random things stuck together with plasters because well, she couldn’t find the sticky tape. Picture the scene in Entrapment with Catherine Zita Jones working her body through the laser beams. Except I’m in my pj’s and there is nothing of value on the other side of the mission. Let it go. It’s not a normal weekday or any day for that matter. They are also taking strain and if they are happy and keeping occupied then let it go.
#8 There is always a lesson
I haven’t even thought about home schooling. Luckily the kids school has taken a stance that for now there is no online curriculum to follow, just read and have fun with the kids. To make myself feel a bit better for having to leave them to it for the most part of the day, I try find lessons in the little things. I try explain things a little more. I show them how to do things. Any tiny thing, like spreading Nutella on a Marie biscuit. I showed them which knife is best for spreading. Which way up the Marie biscuits should be. How the lid of the jar has been designed to twist back on just as easily as when you untwist it off. What Nutella is made from. What Marie biscuits are made from and why it’s important to clean up all the crumbs on the counter and floor otherwise the next lesson is all about the behaviour of the ant colony.
#9 No news is good news
Try not to indulge in too much news. It’s basically the same stuff over and over again and it will drive you insane. I don’t check news daily. Only now and then. I find lately I’m not even putting the TV on if possible, rather enjoying the quietness. Ava and I have taken to colouring in in the evenings while she talks the hind leg off the donkey. (Hence my no TV comment. Can’t hear what the characters are saying over blabbermouth sitting next to me.)
#10 Prioritise your priorities
I think I’ve said this before but it’s worth repeating. In order for us to survive this lockdown it has to be me, the kids, then work. In that order. Work is important but I can’t give of my best if I’m hanging by a thread. I also can’t give of my best if my kids are having tantrums, feeling neglected and need some attention. Every morning I take 15min to plan my work day. I write down my main project deliverables and I’m realistic in that regard as we are only human. This keeps me focussed on priorities so I don’t end up spending my precious time on work that can wait. A lockdown lesson I’ve learnt is that there is nothing that urgent and important that can’t wait for 10min while you have a cup of tea outside, and just breathe.
Good luck in there peeps.
These coping strategies are a working document, subject to change without notice as each day/ week passes, and is mood dependant – mood of both kids and myself. And also full moon dependant. Weather dependent. Hormone dependant. Internet dependent.
Stay home. Stay sane.