These days we are having much more ‘stay-at-home’ weekends with Mole, Hedgehog and Beaver. Not that we were jetsetters before, but a combination of the lockdown(s) and switching our petrol car to an electric one with a range of about 90 miles on it, means we’ve been sticking to a one hour radius of home for most of the year.
I thought this might bring on the dreaded cabin fever or provincial boredom, but far from it, in fact I’m enjoying it. I’ve been trying to tease this apart and work out why, because for most of my life the urge to go here-there-and-everywhere was always hardwired into me. It added to that sense of busyness and sense of achievement.
But one of the many things that motherhood teaches me is that slowing life down and noticing the little things is more where the party is at. Hedgehog dawdles on our walks home from school to a point that drives me mad most days, but a shift in perspective has me slowing down with her, noticing the ant that she’s just pointed out, and being drawn into her world. I realise that there is in fact no point in being in such a hurry all of the time.
So our weekends are now about catching up on sleep, making Saturday morning pancakes, Mole’s violin lessons by weblink, while Beaver walks in front of the screen to beam at the teacher every few minutes, before being whisked away by Mr M&H to have her bum changed.
I do a regular batch of bread now, having perfected the recipe that Mole, Hedgehog and Beaver will actually eat. The plainer the better. No wholemeal flour, seeds or exciting bits at all. Just plain white flour. Hedgehog especially likes things bland. She’s the hardest one to please. Most of the time she sits down to dinner every night to take one look in her bowl and declare ‘yuk’, before scurrying off to play with her favourite barbie doll. She doesn’t even like the rhubarb crumble. I wonder what she lives on sometimes.
There is a lot of Disney film watching, usually with popcorn or hot chocolate, and the day ends with puzzles and games sprawled over the living room carpet, that we wade through and have given up trying to tidy away every night.
Mr M&H would watch TV all day if he could. He’s a bit like Mike Teevee in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I’m more the outdoor one, so I’ll escape to the allotment for about four hours, or go for a run with a friend round the woods to get my nature fix.
The challenge comes with getting everyone else out of the house with me. It’s like trying to move a tree load of monkeys. Cliched but true. Leaving the house with Mole, Beaver and Hedgehog takes about half an hour. It is the universal law of children that everything will take at least twice as long with them around. It’s just something we have to accept. And since we’re basically always with them, this has now become the rhythm of our life.
First they whine that their game is being interrupted, but they are always in the middle of a game. Then they disappear to fetch something about twenty times, and spend an eternity in their bedroom doing god knows what. Then once they’re actually outside and getting strapped into the car, they suddenly remember another item of vital importance that we have to go back inside for. There are tears and screams if we resist this. Mr M&H is always the last out of the house. I sit in the car with Mole, Hedgehog and Beaver - waiting. Sometimes I switch the engine on and start backing out of the driveway in an effort to make him appear, which sometimes works. But the electric car is silent, so he usually doesn’t notice anymore.
Getting back into the house is almost as much of a headache. Our hallway is about the size of a broom cupboard, it is like the airlock to the house. So we line up single file, squeezing round each other, pulling off shoes and coats, most of it being dumped on the floor and Mr M&H or myself taking five minutes to hang everything up. Mole and Hedgehog charge upstairs to resume their game, while Beaver toddles around trying on different shoes that she’s found. Beaver is especially keen on Hedgehog’s shoes right now. She is very determined about this and tries to make the one mile walk to school in them, stumbling over the clown shoes that are four sizes too big for her.
We’ve always stayed away from shops, restaurants, pubs and the like with Mole, Hedgehog and Beaver, because, basically it’s too much hard work. Anyone who’s tried to go for a nice relaxing afternoon shop with a whiney toddler in tow who won’t stop touching everything in sight and asking to buy the whole shop will know what I mean. We get a babysitter and leave them at home if we want to do things like that.
So the lockdown hasn’t been a huge lifestyle change for us, but the lack of fetes, festivals, and general parties and get togethers has been new, and a bit sad. I didn’t mind this with the first lockdown as it was Spring time and the weather was so amazing. But now the Winter is closing in, and I’m starting to really miss being around other people. I’ve even missed the children’s birthday parties. It must be bad. All the little rituals that gave me that sense of togetherness with my community have gone. I try to substitute with zoom sessions with just about everyone that I know, but it’s not the same.
My Winter remedy for this (when Mole, Hedgehog and Beaver are not around) has been reading a steady supply of library books, and listening to podcasts like crazy. Accidental Gods, The High Low, Women Who Travel, The Economist, Happy Place and The Infinate Monkey Cage are some of my faves. It makes me feel like I’m still engaging with the adult world on some level.
Our spending and earnings have evolved a bit this year too. I’ve discovered sites like https://www.ethicalconsumer.org/ and https://www.ethicalsuperstore.com/, and trying to do any online spending via these sites. Offline spending is mostly at charity shops or local small businesses, on the rare occasions when I go anywhere. I came across The Squiggly Career book too, which confirms what I’ve always suspected about myself, that I just don’t fit into the linear career model, but prefer to be a bit more… squiggly. It’s given me the courage to get creative about my career and vary my sources of income.
When Mole, Hedgehog and Beaver are around I hide the chocolate, the laptops and the phones, and either provide cuddles or story telling services, or prepare food for them, as it’s a safe bet at least one of them will be hungry. This keeps us busy until bedtime, when Mr M&H and I collapse in front of Netflix with some wine. Usually it’s something like The Vicar of Dibley, (something nostalgic and comforting, and short enough that we can stay away till the end).
But Mole, Hedgehog and Beaver are taking it all in their stride. Their main concerns seem to be whether I have snacks for them at the school pick up, whether I’ve brought the car so they don’t have to walk, how many days it will be until Christmas and what the elf on the shelf will be doing tomorrow. Their favourite netflix after school programme right now is Avatar (an adventure Japanese animation that I approve of), it makes a welcome change from Barbie anyway. They keep talking about a fictitious dog called Coco that we will one day have, (based on one time when I mentioned that we might one day get a dog). So no pressure on that one then.
Beaver still noshes on my boobs every chance she gets, saying ‘Sit down’ every time she sees me, which is code for ‘I want boob’. She’s also very territorial over me when the other two come near, batting them away and yelling ‘My mummy’. When she’s not on a playdate Mole is practicing her violin or asking me a question about the galaxy. Hedgehog is by far the easiest, playing her endless Barbie doll games on the stairs and coming in for a cuddle or a reading sesh every now and then.
My favourite time of the week is still Saturday morning, when we all have morning cuddles in bed, before making pancakes for breakfast. Beaver wrestles herself to get closest to my boobs, Hedgehog flicks my earlobe, and Mole inches her finger into my neck to find the freckle that lives there and stroke it.
It’s a bizarre scene, with each of them finding their comfort point on the mothership, but I just lie there, close my eyes and smile.