It had been 17 weeks. I counted, twice.
17 weeks of the kids at home with me, while doing the Pandemic Parenting Juggle that we are now all intimately familiar with. I goes a little something like this:
Work between hours of 5-7am.
Then back to Mom mode for wake up time, the breakfast buffet and then head out at the allocated exercise time slot, not so much for the health benefit, but more so that the kids can miss their devices. The odds move considerably in my favour of having at least 40 minutes of uninterrupted focus time, assuming the kids have all other 47 needs met.
Back to work mode trying squeeze in a string of five-minute-focus opportunities to eek out a couple more hours until preparations for the lunch cart get underway.
Curse yourself for not having the “tidy up fairies” booked while you straddle the fine balance of having an empty dishwasher available to stack just at the right time you need it to avoid double parking the dishes along the free counter space in the kitchen. Yes Susan, I know I could probably have washed those things in the sink, but the point is I have a dishwasher, and I would be depriving it of its only job. Why would I do that?
Fight the five year old in the epic lounge battle of top trumps edition- Zoom Meeting vs My Little Pony. Take the laptop upstairs or in laundry area for Zoom meeting, trying not to trip over the drop lip of defeat.
That usually would get us to around 12.30 if it was a good day. (Yoh, my blood pressure shot up just writing this all down.)
But now, that is all in the past and we (I) prepared to get back to some semblance of normality. The return to school dates had been published. My mission was clear. School uniforms, stationery, lunch bags, snacks, masks, visors, sanitisers, personalised aftercare play box all sorted! I was even added to the class whatsapp groups and I did a reconnaissance mission – a school run practise on the weekend. I was ready for school. Soooo ready. The kids were excited and ready. “Are you excited for school guys?”
Looking back, I think it would have been hard for them to reply with anything other than “Yes totally so excited Mom.”, what with my fluttering, bulging eyes, huge smile and giddy disposition.
We may have all been excited, but were we ready? I’m not sure.
Those first couple of days were a euphoric bubble of bliss. But then on Wednesday, the 3rd day back to school blues hit. Big time.
If you want to know what Mom Guilt looks like in real life, here it is….The school bell had barely rung for the start of the day and I was already half naked, spring boarding onto the massage table of the first place that was available…. when the school phoned. My boy had a tummy ache, was inconsolable. Please can I collect him from the office. “Yes,of course, I will be there as soon as I can” I just need to reschedule an important meeting…. and put my clothes back on. This happened twice that first week. No, not the massage, (if only!) the school calling.
Silly of me really, to think I could get away with a sneaky massage just down the road from the school. I apologised profusely to the lady who was going to take my knots and aches away, wondering if the kids could perhaps sense my presence nearby? Maybe the 4 months of living in a near umbilical state with me, gave them super powers?
That weekend we were all utterly exhausted. If I am completely honest with myself, I think I was so desperate for normal, desperate for a routine I once thrived on, and dare I say it, desperate from some alone time, that I underestimated the effects of “going back to a new normal” would have on us. This was not your average “6 weeks summer holiday now back to school” vibe. We were home for 4 months, 2 of them in Cape Town. We then moved provinces under level 4 lockdown, and so it wasn’t even back to school for the kids, it was a “let’s start a new school and aftercare with all new safety procedures with no social interaction, no friends, no creature comforts in the classrooms (like cushions and curtains) , no extra murals, sports or even access to the fantasy dress up room” vibe. I’m referring to the Grade R Wendy house with the kids dress up clothes… just in case you were wondering.
The following week we took it slow and steady. The kids stayed home a couple days and we spoke a lot about being anxious, nerves, butterflies in the tummy and the difference between that and a real tummy ache. The grade 4 teachers also sent out a letter to the parents on anxiety and what we can do to help our kids when they have tummy aches. Thanks, yup, got it. Appreciate it. Arggg, they might as well have addressed it dear Ms Kelland and asked for a read receipt. I secretly enjoyed having the kids home with me and not venturing out in 3 degree temperatures at 7am, and washing their contaminated clothing – daily – and then trying to dry them in front of the heater at 5am. (Edit- I think I meant to change the order of that sentence to: I secretly enjoyed not having to venturing out ….) I bought a big bottle of rescue tablets. (Brave pills as I called them) We upped our car playlist game and even included dance moves into the mix. Apologies to anyone driving behind us, they must be getting some very confused signals. We managed two full days of school that week with no tummy aches, lots of genuine smiles and loads of stories. The aftercare teacher said the kids had the best day ever and were starting to really settle in and make friends. The new routine was starting to come together nicely.
Then uncle Cyril closed the schools again. FFS. Obviously.
And so we will try the school thing again.
At least this time round expectations have been calibrated, and we can say we are really ready for back to school.
Perfectly sorted for back to school