There is no denying it – it is hard!
I would love to be able to say that 13 weeks in, we have established a new routine, a new normal, and every day is full of new opportunity and delight, but this is no fairytale. The reality is we take each day as it comes: some are truly inspiring and give you a glimmer of hope, that maybe you do actually have your sh*t together, while others we plough through with our heads down.
Routine was once a formidable safety blanket, but introducing and more importantly maintaining a new structure in a two up, two down terrace house, which is no longer just their home, but now an office, a gym, a playground, a school and canteen, is just damn-near impossible. Their emotions are shot, my children have already grieved heavily in the past. The loss of their birth family, their foster family, and now this.
I understand to many, they may feel I am over exaggerating, but the truth is our five year olds have experienced more trauma than many of us will face in a lifetime, and to have their routine, family and friends suddenly stripped from them alongside the emotional anguish attached is an experience they only know too well.
After the honeymoon period of being at home with Dad and Dadi ended, about two weeks in, the realisation that this wasn’t going away hit. Their behaviours started to regress, and past feelings, along with their dragon-like tantrums, started to raise their ugly head again. Chaos well and truly descended!
So, we took each day as it came, reverting back to old tactics which we were first introduced to from their foster family. Their days became structured around their meal times, breakfast, lunch and dinner, because as long as they knew they wouldn’t go hungry, which they once did, they felt secure. We then dotted in some home-schooling, garden play, PE with Joe Wicks (who I hope to never have in my living room again) around this, keeping it very much lead by them.
We vastly reduced the number of video calls. We discovered as time went on that they could unsettle the boys. The presence of a family or friend, on a screen, in our house, with only verbal interaction combined with their already mixed feelings of uncertainty, and lack of understanding only enticed their already hyper vigilant and sometimes manic behaviour. Instead, we hold off video calls until they ask, which is usually when they are excited to tell them something or want to show something off.
I myself have also struggled. Just before lockdown I was made redundant from a job I loved. Not to be too disheartened, I had a number of very positive interviews under my belt and opportunities started to dot across the horizon, yet this all came to a halt with the uncertainty brought on by lockdown. I love the boys but, personally, being a stay at home dad was never something I desired. My career is part of my identity, something I could succeed in that was my own, but now in lockdown, and with the light at the end of the tunnel constantly on dim, it is difficult to motivate yourself when you don’t actually feel you are working towards anything.
That said, it hasn’t all been doom and gloom and now as we enter our 14th week, those dragon-like tantrums are securely reigned, they are returning to school in some shape-or-form in a couple of weeks and we can meet other families in the park.
The chorus of ‘Dadi, he hit me!’ or ‘DADIIIII, he took my toy’ will resound in my ears long after lockdown but if you had the choice, being locked down with your brother who also happens to be your best friend doesn’t seem like a bad option. The pair of them are completely different, yin & yang, but lockdown has meant that they have not only found comfort in each other, but learned to appreciate each other’s differences and enjoys each other’s company through the sharing of the others interests.
I no longer feel guilty about their screen-time and the worry that they may not develop at the same rate as their peers has well and truly been erased. Comparison is the devil and as long as they feel happy, safe and content and sleep well at night we are happy.
So, for now, whether it is a long walk or simply vegging out in front of the TV, we’ll take it, and when routine finally presents itself again, we’ll relish it but more importantly be ready!!