What I Learned at School

One of the things I’ve been struggling with lately is forming my thoughts into something coherent. I’ve been caught up in a vortex of fear and work; it’s not pleasant, I can tell you. Sometimes, everything feels OK and we all carry on much as we do every summer (it has helped that the weather has been so lovely), with the added advantage of having daddy around. Other times, like last week and this morning, I, and the kids, feel like we’ve hit a wall. We want back the things we enjoyed. A takeaway. A hug. A chat and a giggle that just happens and doesn’t have to be organised and filtered through a screen. Movement. Someone different to the same five faces.

Most of the time I can almost persuade myself nothing much has changed. Over the years I have become used to periods of isolation. I’ve lived most of my life away from my parents and sister (funnily enough I am seeing more of them now than I have in a while). Chicken pox, nits, fevers and the, shall we say, digestive nature of many childhood illnesses have been good training for weeks of being housebound. I gave up going to church at Christmas some years ago – and my health at that time of the year has improved dramatically as a result. So far, so same old, same old.

This strange time has highlighted some of the sadnesses that are easy to ignore when you are all busy, beetling about, doing all the things. My younger children are hanging on in there with the support of friends on Whatsapp and Discord, but S…he has a phone but noone has helped him put a friend’s number on it, and I can’t because I’m not there where his friends are. Like many disabled children and young people, he is doubly lonely, the barriers to friendship amplified by this lockdown, a sinister foreshadowing of his future if we aren’t careful.

And mortality. I mean, I’m not saying that I forgot I was mortal, but I kind of did. Giving birth to S was the last time I had a proper brush with death, and that was nearly twenty years ago. It’s easy to pretend we will go on forever and fail to plan for the fact that we won’t. My biggest fear is that the hubs and I will be carried off and A will be left with the responsibility for both his older brother AND his younger sister. It isn’t to be borne, it really isn’t.

I do wonder what the medicine of fear will do to us all. In the short term it is keeping us safe, but there are side effects. Will we be able to function in the workplace when we feel breathless with anxiety about being there? How will I reassure everyone else who leans on me if I can’t reassure myself? And the children. Mine are older, but they are still young. How will this caution we have drummed into them – and I know we have because S doesn’t know what to do when he sees a stranger – affect their friendships? Will they judge friends who took a different approach to theirs? Social media has been great – but the FOMO is still strong and maybe even stronger now. Will they be afraid?

I’m not one for wishes and I don’t believe in luck, but I wish it was the summer holidays. I wish I didn’t have to cut myself in two, ignore my precious loved ones, in order to work from home. I wish that we were already at that natural break. I wish the economy that we have created, the giant hamster wheel we all seem to be trapped on, hadn’t taken advantage of the second wave of feminism and ensured that a household of expense needed to be serviced by at least two people working – and pretending that their familial commitments were managed by someone else.

I don’t know how we are going to get back to school, to some sort of run of the mill, humdrum, ordinary existence (I’m avoiding the word normal), but what I do know is that we need a plan. And more, it needs to be simple, clear and created together. I learned that at (specialist) school.

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