This lockdown life: Four weeks of lowering the bar on my family improvement plan until I collapse on the sofa with wine, Wotsits and a TV box set
As we enter week 5 of lockdown, Cate Wilson reflects on a traumatic family Joe Wicks PE session, 'bake's off' with her 16-year-old son and Zoom chats with her mum's feet...
Like many families the length and breadth of the country, a few weeks of lockdown have led me to reflect long and hard on the Wilson family dynamic.
Having failed to recall the lessons learned from a spectacularly ill-advised wet February week in a two-berth caravan some years back, I embarked on the UK-wide lockdown with the misplaced zeal and confidence of a Girl Guide leader.
The threat of coronavirus hung like a black cloud over the country, yet it also provided a unique opportunity for ‘quality’ family time together at home in Bishop’s Stortford.
So what that my plans for group exercise and self-improvement sessions were greeted with a raised eyebrow (husband Scott) and a barely audible grunt (16-year-old son Jacob)? I was confident that by week three they would be thanking me for our transformation as a family unit.
By day one, it was clear I had set the bar too high.
A group Joe Wicks PE session in the living room, designed to bond us as a family, had proved more traumatic than invigorating. An over-enthusiastic bunny hop by Scott resulted in the dog, Lily Pickle, being heavily trodden on and none of the family speaking to each other for the rest of the morning.
Equally disappointing was the mother-and-son afternoon baking session, swiftly abandoned when it became clear the only purchasable eggs lay somewhere on the outskirts of Northampton. It was not exactly an encouraging start.
But I was undeterred. Grateful that the three of us were, so far, healthy and not facing the kind of sacrifices being made daily by key essential workers, I decided to lower the family threshold for success and plough on.
My husband, by now having abandoned any pretence at enthusiasm for the Wilson family improvement plan, had retreated to the study muttering something about ‘home working’. It was clearly time to turn my full attention to the teenager.
Here was a project I could finally embrace. Helping him with his A-Level studies, teaching him new skills, perhaps a few valuable life lessons? Let’s just say, it was not to be. And by the end of the second week of tears and nagging (me) and sulks and slamming doors (him), I finally admitted defeat having failed to add ‘picking your wet towel off the floor’ to his repertoire of skills.
Never mind. At least, unlike our forebears in the Blitz, we have the joys of digital media to connect us to our loved ones in households elsewhere. True. Yet following frustrating hour-long Zoom sessions with my elderly parents, I’m still none the wiser as to whether they are coping well with the lockdown, but am at least now familiar with my mother’s feet as she struggles to adjust the camera angle to the right setting.
Online group quizzes, sing-alongs and, heaven forbid, discos have also long since fallen by the wayside due to technical ineptitude on my part and the dog’s habit of barking every time she hears strange noises coming from the laptop.
Yes, I have been comforted in my depressing failure by the experts advising us not to pressurise ourselves to achieve during this stressful period of national crisis. However, I’d like to think that when the history books of this period are written and my grandchildren ask me earnestly: “Gran, what did you do in the Great Pandemic of 2020?”, I will have something more impressive to say than “Well, I finally got round to sorting out the sock drawer.”
I know I’m not alone. Friends who started lockdown with social media posts of home-made dog agility courses or plans to drop two dress sizes with online body pump sessions, have since gone quiet.
No doubt to join the vast army of us succumbing to life spent on the sofa with wine, Wotsits and Walkers and a TV box set.