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?