Today’s instalment for the Letters from Cardiff in lockdown series comes from Pete Sueref. We’re looking for your stories, so please contribute to Letters from Cardiff in lockdown!
Nurses? Forget nurses. They should give me a medal for being locked up with three kids for the last eight weeks. I mean honestly. It’s fine for Mr and Mrs Sourdough Starter and their darling cat, but for us parents, especially us SINGLE PARENTS, lockdown is literally hell. (Yes, literally. Not figuratively. This is actually what hell would be like for me).
It’s not that I don’t love my kids. There’s an expression – love the people, hate the job, right? But have you actually met kids? They’re awful. Just the worst possible humans to be stuck with for an hour, let alone 24 hours, every day, without a let up. Needy, whining, bickering, gross. If you’re thinking of having kids, then DON’T. (Note to We Are Cardiff editors – could we link to a contraceptive provider here?)
(Note from the We Are Cardiff editors: normally we don’t insert ourselves into stories if we can help it, but actually this is a good link, bookmark it kids! Cardiff and Vale UHB Sexual Health info).
Today, this happened at breakfast: My three year old, who can most kindly be described as unhinged, was eating his Rice Crispies. His six-year-old sister decided, for reasons, that she had to have a poached egg for breakfast. Not a fried egg, not a scrambled egg. Poached.
For the childless, it’s worth mentioning that each interaction with your little angel has the potential to turn into a battle. Small decisions, like which colour dress to wear, whether or not to go to the toilet before getting in the car, or how to cook an egg, take on a level of seriousness and import usually more suited to high-level government meetings (I say usually. Not really the case with the current mob; their main decisions seem to be how to pick the policy which causes the most needless death and suffering and then figuring out how to lie about it.)
As with Boris’s daily briefings, every conversation with your child has the potential to end in confusion and tears.
At nine in the morning, after 50-plus monotonous breakfasts in a row, you have to decide if this is really the hill you want to die on. On the one hand: give-in, show weakness to the enemy and then suffer a conflict over every breakfast to come. On the other hand, play hardball, announce to the room that “we don’t negotiate with terrorists” and serve up a hot dish of justice-flavoured scrambled eggs with a side-order of tantrum.
Dear reader, you know the punchline. After some tears and some stern words (from her to me), the poached eggs were served. The previously quietly chomping three-year-old took the opportunity to tell his big sister that he hated the smell of eggs. And by association hated her. Violence was in the air. Their eight-year-old brother, displaying admirable neutrality to that point, decided to play both sides like a cold war double-agent, announcing that he, too, hated the smell of eggs (thus lending credibility to the accusation), but also that despite this hatred he would tolerate it because he was older and “not a baby”. This final remark was the spark that ignited the powder keg, and moments later both the Rice Crispies and Poached Egg were no more. Spilt and splattered, like a metaphor for my family, indeed, for the nation! What joys will lunch bring? God only knows…
And this is just one small incident in five minutes of one day. Repeat this over and over and over again, every day, with no let up, no respite and limited alcohol. A medal, please. A big one. Made of gold.
Lest you all consider me a terrible parent and a terrible person (I won’t try to defend myself against either accusation), I should point out that I have been home-schooling diligently throughout, although we have deviated from the curriculum recently. My eldest is now learning about political revolutions in preparation for the post-COVID world that may emerge. His Machiavellian instincts, practised on his siblings, put in him in a good position to be the next Washington (or more likely Robespierre). My daughter has learnt to read which is a genuine delight, undermined only slightly by her absolute lack of desire to read anything not on an iPad.
My youngest has been building more and more elaborate shapes and patterns out Magna-Tiles. He may be trying to summon some kind of demon. I’ve decided to leave him to it.
It should go without saying that clearly we are in an immensely fortunate position – none of us are ill, none of our family or friends have been seriously affected and my wonderful employers have taken pity on me and allowed me to mostly forget about work and focus on taking care of my children. A word also for my wonderful mum who’s been living with us for the last five months, cannot possibly have expected to be locked up with small children again and has dealt with events like most Greek mothers in a crisis: cleaning and cooking constantly.
And there are some small pleasures to be had, particularly as a runner (I know – you already thought me insufferable, but a runner, too!).
Jogging the full length of Waterloo Road right in the middle of the street with no traffic is still weirdly fun. And crossing the normally log-jammed Newport Road whenever and however I like will be sorely missed once the world returns to normal.
And of course, loudly tutting all the people ignoring the one-way system around Roath Park almost makes the whole catastrophe worth it. Almost.
Anyway. After all that, I don’t actually want a medal. What I’d really prefer is for people to stop dying needlessly. I want doctors and nurses and carers and especially teachers to be paid a lot more. And for a kinder, better world to emerge at the other end.
But mostly, I just want this hell to end, all of us to be safe and happy and to have some time away from my fucking kids.
Before Pete became a full-time quaranteacher and part-time alcoholic, he worked in data science for Centrica. He hopes one day to return…
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- LOOKING AFTER YOUR MIND IN LOCKDOWN