Lockdown Lament

This is how lockdown with six kids and a dog in a two bedroomed flat looks like.

5:27am. The baby wakes. I get him from his cot in the hallway outside our bedroom door. He has breastmilk. He has used his teeth to lacerate my left nipple recently and it really hurts. Every time he drinks he seems to open the wound a little bit. It doesn’t seem to bother him. I wince and flip him to the intact right nipple as soon as I can. We get up.

6:30am. The other kids slowly drag their little sleepy selves out of their beds and flop onto the couch for a bit. Silence. The baby is walking around the flat now, pulling things out of drawers and ripping things. I am drinking coffee.

7:30am. Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday mornings I go for a half hour run through the park. Currently this is an approved lockdown activity provided I keep my distance from other people. It is light and gorgeous at this time of the morning and the evidence of spring is everywhere. The roads are empty, runners are everywhere, respectfully apart. There are dog walkers and swimmers and a few people on bikes.

8:30am. I get back, warn the kids that they have to be dressed and fed and ready for home school at 9am. They ignore me.

9:00am. I am out of the shower, this morning with a bout of pinkeye that I can’t seem to shift. It is caused by overusing my contact lenses (read: wearing them all day and into the night) but I am too vain to wear my glasses. Even in lockdown. It makes no sense. I decide today to switch back to glasses and I feel grubby. Glasses are greasy and annoying and they make your foundation pool up at the bridge of your nose. Mine also make my eyes look tiny because I am so blind. They make eye makeup a bit redundant. I am entitled to hate them because I have had to wear them for 33 years, even though people say WHY DONT YOU WEAR YOUR GLASSES? THEY SUIT YOU. They don’t.

9:05am. There is a flurry of activity while all the children hurriedly make themselves bacon sandwiches. I shout at them that they are already late for school and that lessons should have already begun but are, once again, delayed because NO ONE LISTENS TO ME.

They eat their bacon sandwiches on the couch, I shout some more, they try to find the assorted laptops and iPads and iphones that we need to access all the different portals of remote learning. Most of the devices need charging so there are fights over the working chargers and where they will all sit. The baby cries and wants to be held but I have to log into different computers and not get tripped up by various misfiring charger wires. The baby keeps falling over and banging his head on furniture because he’s tired but it is too early to put him into bed.

Otis won’t sit down at the table for long. There are no sharp pencils even though we have many hundreds of blunt and broken-leaded ones caused by the children historically tossing them over their shoulders when they have finished with them. There are no pencil sharpeners. Casper starts making really loud noises with his mouth so he is sent into our bedroom. He plays really loud music from there; I shut the door and go back to the kitchen table and notice there are vases of flowers and cold cups of tea all over it from breakfast and that soon someone will spill something onto a laptop and we will be one down and all of our work from the Time Before The Virus will be lost. I attempt to clear up. The baby cries again, snotty and still in his pyjamas. He needs a nappy change but Otis has to start his work or I will have lost the tiny window a mouthy six year old gives me to get him on track to do his lessons. I try to log into his schoolwork but the links don’t work.

10:30am. Everyone says they need a hot chocolate and a biscuit. I make them one each but use all of our milk.

11:30am The older kids say they have finished their work for the day. I don’t believe them but am too busy trying to get Otis to write a sentence about his favourite animal and its habitat. In large letters, taking over nearly two lines, he finally writes:

“My frafrit animal is a gry parit. My uther frafrit amilv is a ant tha liv all ov the world. I icspecd the wethe to be sunee in Africa.”


12:00pm The baby is taken to bed. He is grateful for it, and so am I.

12:30 Everyone stops to eat. There is not enough bread for all of these people. I raid the cupboards and invent Baked Beans in Pitta Bread Halves, with a side of Oldish Leftover Taco Mince in Pitta Bread Halves. They eat it all.

1:00pm. Everyone goes silent, playing on phones or the playstation or the iPad. It feels good. I sink into an eBay wormhole, searching for Hermes silk scarves and up-cycled dresser drawers. My eye hurts and so does my nipple.

2:00pm The three middle children attempt day four of the Lego challenge. This requires them to make a shipwrecked boat from their imaginations. Inexplicably they will only use white lego bricks though so I am set to work raking through the boxes of Lego to find a pure white stash. I find dog bones, sharpened pencils, prosecco corks and old chocolate wrappers in among the sharp little non-white boxes of bricks. As much as it seems to dry out my cracked hands even more,  I love this task because it is mindless and yet rewarding. The kids lose interest but I stay, hunched over the Lego box getting excited over the white bits I find. There is Lego everywhere.

2:30pm. The baby wakes and drinks and I wince again and think about cocktail hour which thankfully starts quite soon. I shout at the children to put their shoes on because we have to exercise in the park for an hour. The kids have a fight over a rugby ball. There is crying and still no one has shoes on.

3:00pm. We walk to the park. We find a tree, the kids climb it, Barnaby throws the rugby ball at the kids in the tree and one slips out. There is a lot of crying. There are police vans driving around looking for people to forcibly socially distance. I am scared we will get in trouble because there are so many of us and it looks like we are having a shouty, crying party. The baby walks off and find a discarded Bach’s Flower Remedy bottle with a soft nib like my broken nipple. He bites it and it splits. I feel like I know how the rubber tip feels.

3:30pm. We walk back, worried that we are enjoying the outdoors too much and that we should #stayathome even through there is no one else around us. As we walk back through Kensington Gardens, an older lady calls us “selfish fucking pigs”. The children are scared but I tell them not to worry. She is scared too.

How’s lockdown going for you?




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18 Responses to Lockdown Lament

  1. Jo says:

    I’ve been wondering how you’re all doing, at least you’re getting them to do a bit of work and they have each other to play with. I’m finding it tricky with 2! My sister has an only child, it must be so different but easier for teaching I suppose. I have done my usual art class online and that has been really nice, and the applause for the nhs last night was wonderfully heartwarming. Take care, will be thinking of you xx

  2. catalpa99 says:

    It sounds as if you are doing brilliantly. Who are all these bitter, shouty ladies in your neck of the woods, anyway?

  3. rose says:

    SO glad to hear. sounds like you are doing brilliantly in tough times. HOPE so much, that lockdown DOES flatten curve and saves our medical professionals lives, and avoids the overwhelm. Am in U.S. area that shut down first, It is hard for everyone. I am amazed at all the teachers have done to make any learning possible. Glad for your mental health the boys have some focused activities. it does get better with school as everyone gets into the routine and the teachers figure out what does and does not work. And it occupies the students. Aren’t you lucky to have older kids at home who can help the younger ones……. Well it IS a lovely thought that that would work but maybe over time some of that will occasionally happen (said so you know I am not eating strange mushrooms. and hallucinating wildly about siblings.)
    Expect the Snarky Woman ASSumed you were a play group not family. Even with 2 weeks of shutdown order here, there are still people who are seeing it as party time for kids and doing ‘accidentally, gee, we are all at same park at same time, surprise’ ….Which I almost understand a tiny bit in counties where there ‘is no covid’ BUT I know those counties also have zip negative no test kits available so NO testing occurring… so their idea it isn’t there is totally a dream.
    Anyway, I think you are doing wonderfully fabulously well. It must feel insane sometimes. Baby probably likes having his brothers around. But maintaining the food requirements of your crew … WOW!
    Thank you for finding the minutes to write this and brighten our days. Tell the older boys to take the pencils and learn whittling skills. Sharp knives are safer. Keep the bandaids out during this process. Safe knife skills DO get learned.
    Can you get antibiotics drops for your pink eye … and is there anything to use to help heal your cracked nipple? (Think you are totally an expert on that issue!)
    HUGE support and appreciation. Thinking of you ALL the time!
    Ancient CA reader……

    • theharridan says:

      Thank you! I agree that the schooling is actually a bit of a godsend. It keeps them all busy once they get going. We will get there – we all will xxx

  4. Petra says:

    You did it! You’re amazing, it’s so funny. Love Otis’s sentence, you made me cackle! Xx

  5. Mimi says:

    My son has done no schoolwork whatsoever since stopping 2 weeks ago. He moves from screen to screen. He seemed AFFRONTIT (affronted in Scottish) at the very notion that he was expected to do any. I have loads of work to do at home and my husbands about to be furloughed and I’m not a teacher and even if I was, kids don’t want to be taught by their parents, so fuck it! I wouldn’t worry – playing with Lego is educational. Fighting is probably educational in its own way. This whole thing is mental. To just get through it will be doing well! I laughed out loud at ‘a shouty, crying party’ – the best kind of party, no? You’re going for a run 4 times a week, looking after a squad of boys including a wee baby – you’re doin amazin hen.

    • theharridan says:

      I thank you! I am certainly not cut out to be a teacher. Bad at maths and bored by everything else. Good luck with it all – not long to go now (well….)

  6. raccontando says:

    Sounds like you are doing great. We are a month in here, with no outside exercise allowed. There is a lot of indoor football going on though. And this week we have done ZERO homeschooling which I know is bad but I am finding it hard to care.

  7. Aileen says:

    Long time reader here and I’ve been thinking about you. I hope you all stay well.

    I’m lucky to not have children at home, and yet, there’s a different kind of difficulty having newly adult children who are out in the world during this. I worry about them so much! My oldest is an emergency room clerk, so he can’t stay home. My daughter lives in New Orleans, where she and thousands of people mingled for mardi gras all through February and now there is an explosion of covid cases and deaths. Luckily, she is not sick and has been isolating for over three weeks now. My other daughter is a daycare teacher at a big hospital, so she is busy and stressed and my youngest lost his job in a restaurant because of the crisis.

    We will all pull through somehow. ❤

    • theharridan says:

      Wow – that’s really sobering. I bet you are worried. Thanks for the perspective – as much as mine drive me a bit batty, I know they are safe. Sending lots of love to you!

      Sent from my iPhone


  8. rose says:

    SO APPRECIATIVE OF THE QUEEN!!!! Glad we across the puddle got to hear her too. I think she is a world-wide symbol of hope and endurance. I am old enough to remember her wedding … really really glad she has longevity genetics and is clearly getting the best medical care possible. (Hope Ruth Bader Ginsburg is too!!!!!!)
    Super quiet and very isolated/social distanced living solitary. But fa**tim/z**m type technology is really helping re grandchildren sightings. There is a lot that is anxiety provoking but what I can see out my window is changes that make me feel more and more people are 1000% percent on board with flattening the curve and it is helping the medical situation though it may prolong the time frames while saving lives.
    Very best wishes to all of you!

    • theharridan says:

      And to you! What a time to be alive, eh? And yes, the Queen is utterly splendid. They don’t really make them like that anymore. It’s really lovely to hear from you. Thanks for checking in. This too shall pass xxx

      Sent from my iPhone


  9. Lucie says:

    So good to hear news from you and the gang.
    I am now living alone :-O my Son went to my parents in Scotland for a holiday just before lockdown and now he is stuck there for the foreseeable. I am quite glad (I do miss him) because he is a supervisor in grocery retail and the 2 weeks before he went away drained the soul of him.
    I am mostly WFH with odd days in office (alone). I was designed for this life in some respects, but I wish it was under nicer circumstances!
    Try to ignore shouty people. A few short weeks ago everyone was #bekind. That seems to have been lost somewhere for some people, while others are going above and beyond to help.
    This will pass. I am looking forward to recreating our whole family pic when it is over – with nobody missing.
    Take care and stay safe x

  10. WEM says:

    You popped into my head – and I thought, how the hell are you managing the home schooling, and there you are, still lovely and managing brilliantly. Glad you’re all okay. Bloody madness. Thank God indeed for cocktail hour. Bravo for the running too – most impressed.
    Sara (w1mum)

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