One of the things that the enforced lockdown of the coronavirus has helped me with is being more grateful for what I do have, especially my health and the fact that both my husband and I have kept our jobs without being furloughed or worse. There are millions of stories all around the world of people far less fortunate and I grapple with this every day, sometimes even feeling guilty for not suffering as much as they are. I realise this is a bit daft, but it just feels like there is so much tragedy surrounding us all right now.
Amid all this chaos, life has a strange way of just keeping going on and never is this more apparent than when you have young kids in your care. I find my son excellent at grounding me and helping me to see that sometimes the most important thing you can do is jump on the trampoline with him. I highly encourage everyone to jump on the trampoline at least once a day, with or without a toddler in tow.
I also have a small confession to make. I think the lockdown has been good for me in many ways. It slowed me down. I got some more sleep as I wasn’t in such a rush in the mornings. Sometimes cake became a meal. And I just cut myself some more slack than I usually do. I follow a few blogs here and I sense a running theme throughout them (and in mine too) that we set such high expectations for ourselves when actually we really just need to strip it back and stop thinking we can be freaking superstars at every last thing in life.
Some days you will be killing it at work, some days you will manage to bake a cake with a toddler and some days everything will be a total disaster. But and if you take the attitude of a toddler, the sun will set and rise again and a new opportunity to do better presents itself. This is what lockdown has taught me. Be kinder to yourself and expect less of each day.
I absolutely freaked out at the beginning of lockdown as to how I would keep N entertained at home, but it all worked itself out and he’s very happy to play with his toys at home now. In fact, he’s probably more comfortable at home than he ever has been definitely helped by an influx of new toys during this period as well as a recognition of the simple things in life being enough.
And I would like to particularly highlight how I have seen absolutely zero, none, nadda blog posts or mummy media stories about screen time guidelines for children. A gigantichallelujah to that because sometimes you just need a few minutes of screen time to reset and get back on track. I for one rejoice in screens as one of my tools in my kit. N has not been so bad with screens. He has his own small iPad and he does like to use it but he also likes to do other activities, so it doesn’t (yet) rule his world. Sometimes he even instructs me to sit next to him on the sofa and look at my phone while he watches his iPad. He will rest his feet on me during these sessions and, if I’m honest, I find these moments sweet and intimate.
He has also developed a borderline obsession with the rubbish truck which visits our neighbourhood. When we see it coming we have to sprint outside to watch the truck tip out the rubbish into the back and say hello to the rubbish truck men. I bought N his own rubbish truck toy and it is his favourite toy by far! The rubbish truck men really love him so it’s a super fun moment. He also really into playdough and a marble run toy where you set up pipes for marbles to run through. Most of the time though he just wants to help at home, so he’s become very competent at using the cordless stick hoover and I bought him a small broom so he “cleans” with that too. He helps get food out for meals, puts away shopping in places that I don’t want it, and even tries to peel cucumbers for me, albeit we are still finessing his technique with that.
We had an insane heat wave a week ago with temperatures of around 40C (100F+) for a week and during this time I took N and his cousin in his grandparents swimming pool. This was the first time N had experienced arm bands and he was so delighted! He was entirely able to bob about in the water without me doing much other than obviously monitoring his safety throughout. He is so comfortable in water and I am getting him swimming lessons ASAP that such things are allowed again.
I have also used the unexpected period at home to go through some big transitions with N. Early on we transitioned him to his big boy bed (his cot bed, reassembled into bed format) and this was absolutely a non-event. He has not been troubled by this whatsoever and sleeps wonderfully in it. And then I had a crack at potty training over the Easter break and this was unexpectedly smooth too. I had gotten myself in a bit of a funk worrying about this so the ease at which we managed to get him potty trained still surprises me.
N’s nursery headteacher had supplied us with some instructions on potty training and I found them useful, albeit I didn’t follow them prescriptively. Her guidance said on the first day of potty training to remove the nappy and not put it back on at all apart from at night for sleeping in. You are meant to take the child to the toilet/potty every 40 minutes and sit there for a few minutes in the hope that something is delivered in the toilet. This sounds very straightforward, but on day 1 N peed on the floor every single time. Each time he peed himself I took him to the toilet and sat him on there (even though he had clearly emptied himself nicely on the floor) before wiping him and putting fresh underwear on him.
By about 2pm on day 1 I had had enough of cleaning up wee on the floor and put a nappy on him. I highly advocate when you’re losing your mind to take a break to restore some zen.
On day 2 we made better progress as N started to tell me he needed a wee at the exact moment he was actually weeing. This may not sound like progress, but it was! Each time he peed himself I would again take him to the toilet to clean him up. The nappy went on again for a few hours at the end of day 2 too.
On day 3 N got it. He told me he needed a wee in sufficient time to make it to the toilet (aka 5 seconds) and he made his first wee in the actual toilet. We have a toddler toilet seat that fits on our regular toilet and he was fine with this. He absolutely rejected the potty outright. From that point onwards he has always been able to tell me he needs a wee and we have had no wee-based accidents. One of the advantages boys clearly have is the ability to wee standing up and – assisted by his 4-year-old cousin – by day 5 he was weeing standing up. This is extremely helpful when you are out and about without easy access to a loo (hello watering the trees!)
On days 1-4 we did have a bit of a poo issue, aka there was no poo. I started to get a bit worried as he usually poos once a day and I have heard horror stories of potty training and constipation, but he ended up doing a poo in his pants on both day 4 and day 5. We were at the building site of our new house on both occasions and I think he just didn’t really know what to do about the need to go so let it out. This was a bit of an admin headache and mildly traumatic for me but overall everything was fine.
And then on day 6 we had success! A big plop of a poo in the toilet and we were all so delighted, no one more than N(actually, maybe I was the most excited one)! There was a lot of congratulating him and he very much enjoyed looking at his “yucky poo” in the toilet. Since then, it has been a daily delight for him to see the “many brown” of his “yucky poo” in the toilet before flushing them away by saying “bye bye yucky poo!”. I’ve never been so happy to celebrate poo in my life!
Since then, N has even stopped weeing in his nappies at nighttime so last night we successfully went entirely nappy-free, even at night. The biggest lesson to me in all of this is how capable N is now. It’s hard to process that he is so independent and grown up now!
I also got a LOT of pushback and unsolicited comments from my husband’s family telling me he wasn’t ready for potty training so I cannot begin to describe my delight when he took to it in days. No one said a word after that!
On the practical front, our lockdown measures have been eased and there have been a couple of days recently where no new cases of Covid-19 have been diagnosed. At my work we begun to progressively return to the office from last week, and this week everyone is back to normal. There are some various measures about hygiene and keeping your distance, but it’s business as usual. The only hiccup to this has been that while schools are open now, nurseries/kindergartens/daycare remains closed. There are rumours that they may open in June, but I’m not sure yet if that will go ahead. I’ve had some help at home which has made it possible for me to continue to do my work but it’s been enormously difficult overall for working parents (usually mothers) to juggle the childcare requirements.
I can’t help but wonder how the pandemic has changed the fabric of life as we know it. I don’t have any real insights into this but I do feel that it has helped me to reset in a way that was REALLY needed. Perhaps most of life will return to how it was before, but I think I learned a few new skills during lockdown that will be useful to reflect on for other difficult moments in the future. But most of all I realised that sometimes you just need a glass of wine at the end of a very long day.