This coronavirus lockdown isn’t all bad for parents. Yes, for most of us, it’s a nightmare trying to juggle childcare, work, and downing half-a-pack of Custard Creams in the kitchen without getting caught. But you can learn a few parenting tricks when you’re trapped inside with the children.
Here are five that have emerged for me since Leo handed us back our children and said, ‘all yours.’
The cursing hour It’s simple, really: everyone in the house is allowed to use whatever curse they want for an hour. We started it here this morning. My five-year-old was straight in with a string of ‘f**ks.’ We laughed. His mannerly sister started out with ‘flipping hells,’ but it wasn’t long before we had her encouraged onto ‘sh*t’ and ‘boll*ocks.’
Five minutes of intense cursing and all the dread of another day in close quarters had dissipated. We’re going to give it an hour every morning, from now on, unless one of us is on a work-call, because it’s hard to sound professional when your seven-year-old is screaming, ‘f*ck, sh*t, bollo*ks’ in the background.
Go to the graveyard There is a lot of angst around bringing children out in public. Some people must have misread the messaging when Leo closed the schools, and decided that children are the root of all evil and should be kept out of sight, like in Victorian times. This is contrary to all the official advice, not to mention the fact that a child who doesn’t run around for an hour in the open air is a shortcut to divorce.
That’s why I started bringing mine to St Joseph’s Cemetery, in Cork. The long paths, segregated by graves, are perfect for running around in seclusion. There are no swings to share a virus with the next child. And looking at graves dating back to the 1840s is a decent reminder that we faced bigger challenges in the past.
I shouted at my two earlier, outside of cursing hour. This morning’s war to end all wars was because the five-year-old wouldn’t let the seven-year-old put her mermaid in the Lego aquarium, even though she helped him build it. It wasn’t long before my wife and I were drawn into this, on different sides. It was very like World War I.
The only solution was to split them up, which is why I ended up bringing the five-year-old on a graveyard tour earlier. Not only did it give them a break from each other, the one-on-one time allowed him to tell me that he missed his best friend from school. It was hard not to cry, but I was glad he told me.
Lunches I miss lunches without the children. I work from home anyway, so I’d come down to an empty house around 1:30, and do what I want for lunch. It could be an omelette or 10 cream crackers with butter, with the radio on in the background and time to think. It’s not so quiet these days.
When the schools first closed, we tried to vary the lunches every day and give them something extra healthy. Now, we just give them what they’d normally get for lunch at school, which they scoff down, because they like continuity. It takes all the stress out of lunch. Well, most of it, anyway.
The Secret Life of the Zoo It doesn’t matter if you’ve watched this Channel 4 documentary about Chester Zoo before: like all the good shows, you can binge-watch it again. Just put the All 4 app on your phone and there are 60 hour-long episodes for your family viewing.
It’s basically a soap opera for all ages, with a couple of awkward moments when the animals get jiggy with each other. We keep it for just before bedtime every night. It’s the perfect end to another day in lockdown.