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I am not, by nature, much of a planner. I let life spool out in front of me and just turn towards the path that seems the most exciting or interesting. I suppose that was how I came to walk down the aisle on my wedding day five months
Then lockdown came and punched the
My temperament is happy with not knowing the future, but not with doing nothing. I am, by
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Life after lockdown is on the horizon, like a yellow neon arrow flashing outside an American motel. Now it’s so close it looks Vegas-cheap, a gaudy thing. I have been trying work out how the pieces of this strange time fit together, turning back to work out what it has meant. The lesson is unexpected.
I am not, by nature, much of a planner. I let life spool out in front of me and just turn towards the path that seems the most exciting or interesting. I suppose that was how I came to walk down the aisle on my wedding day five months pregnant, my Autumn wedding losing out to a September due date. It was why life as a criminal and family barrister suited me. My days were mostly unpredictable. I would rarely know for certain what would happen tomorrow, or next week, or next month. I had been someone happy to think no further than that afternoon. My children were the ones who made me live in the future. They turned me into someone who thinks of spare changes of clothes and snacks and water bottles and suncream. It did not come easily. I had to wash naked babies under cafe bathroom taps to remember to carry wipes, and feel the full force of a blood sugar crash to know to bring snacks in a tupperware box small enough to be held by a hot little fist. Becoming a mother turned me into a fortune teller tasked with predicting the needs of others. But somewhere along the way they had stopped being true needs and had become ‘shoulds’ instead. We should go here. We should see them. We should fill the day with a task or activity or experience. We should do something productive.
Then lockdown came and punched the future in the face. In doing so it freed me, and my children too. No longer hauled to museums or galleries or parks or playdates they did not bounce off the walls as I had thought they would. Our world shrank, and our expectations with it. We just kicked around. We just hung out. We played some of the games I’d dug out, coloured some of the pictures, read some of the books. They would start the day dressed but always end it naked. Not that it mattered. Sure, there was a crippling level of cooking and tidying up. My brain longed for creative space amongst the domestic. They asked for their friends, their grandparents, their cousins. But their connection is stronger than it’s ever been. I’ve spoken to friends whose children have, during lockdown, resolved their sleep problems, whose toddlers have rapidly started speaking, whose children have become soul mates. Homeschooling meant I saw sides to my children I had not properly understood before. I felt ashamed not to have noticed how carefully my three year old colours within the lines, or how upset he gets by a mistake. I was surprised to realise my five year old doesn’t really care about getting things right, and glad to discover he’ll happily read a book about bugs rather than struggle through another adventure with Biff and Chip. I’ve learned about them in a way that I had not expected to and they, in turn, have held a mirror up and made me see things about myself. Because, I think, that is what children always do. The trick is to make sure you look in the mirror.
My temperament is happy with not knowing the future, but not with doing nothing. I am, by nature, restless. The idea of a day without activity usually makes me itchy. But, locked into our bubble, for some reason I did not feel the kind of suffocation I’d expected to. Maybe it was knowing that it was not just us that had stopped but that the rest of the world had too. Once I’d pushed past the anxiety of illness and uncertainty, time seemed to mould and shape itself around our new life. My home, thankfully, is a safe one. We stayed inside our sanctuary, wriggling ourselves into our shrunken world. I breathed out. And my children did too.