On another sunny morning in lockdown, I am enjoying a coffee outside prior to beginning work for the day. A man is coming to mow the lawn later on and so my husband and I have had to create some access points through the fence (the one we put up to stop the kids from getting to the gravelled areas of the garden) so that he is able to get to the grass. As I am sat watching the kids and clearing my head, I experience a sudden onset of stomach cramps. Just as I realise that the combination of curry from last night and my early morning caffeine fix have stimulated my bowels and made it so that I am in urgent need of the toilet, I notice that the kids have found their way through one of the access points in the fence and thus have breached the fortress. Suddenly I am faced with a dilemma. Either I must get the kids back to the safe side of the fence and out of danger and potentially sh*t myself in the process or I must run to the bathroom and risk leaving them to their own devices on the “wrong side of the fence.” My conscience gets the better of me as I start to imagine the worst case scenarios. If I leave them and prioritise my bowels, they could get to the main garden gate, open it and run out into the path of fast moving traffic and be hit by a car (we live right by a dual carriageway). They could attempt to eat and subsequently choke on stones. THEY COULD INGEST POTENTIALLY POISONOUS SHRUBBERY AND GO INTO MULTI-ORGAN FAILURE AS A RESULT! After running through these disastrous scenarios in my head, I realise that there is no contest as to which is the correct course of action and so I go to get them and bring them to safety. Alas in the process, I soil myself, as expected. They say you will do pretty much anything for your kids. Now I can say I even sh*t myself in order to protect them from potential harm. It will be difficult (though not impossible) for the day to get much worse than this, I think to myself, in an attempt to be reassured that things should only get better. Later on I tell my mum this saga, and she is in stitches and says “you mean to tell me you actually sh*t yourself today thanks to the kids breaking through the fence?!” and I said “yep.” Just for the record, I am never making the aforementioned curry for dinner again thanks to the disastrous effects it had on my digestive system.
During lockdown, the kids have been at home with me 24/7 and so are eating three meals a day plus snacks in the house every day. Anyone who has children will know that toddler mealtimes are absolute carnage and result in half chewed foodstuffs being thrown across the floor and smeared all over the high chairs. As a result of the number of meals being eaten at home at the moment, the high chairs are absolutely filthy and I have been struggling to clean them adequately using disinfectant and a cloth/sponge. I know I need to find a way of cleaning the high chairs more thoroughly and so I invest in an electric scrubber so as to try and achieve better results (I have seen a similar cleaning device on Mrs Hinch’s Instagram stories). When the boys are napping one day, I decide to tackle the chairs with the electric scrubber. The scrubber works a bit like an oversized electric toothbrush in that it has a head of bristles, which rotates rapidly. It also makes quite a loud noise when it is switched on, but this is tolerable because it is excellent at cleaning off tough marks from the chairs. Shortly after I have started cleaning and discovered how effective the instrument is, my husband James comes downstairs to the kitchen looking rather shocked and intrigued because he can hear the sound of fierce vibrating accompanied by me shouting “yes, yes, YES!” at an ever increasing volume. The poor bloke was so disappointed when he realised it was me squealing in delight at how well an electric brush cleaned food off a highchair. Oh how relationships change after you’ve had children.
When shielding is eased slightly in June and again in July, I am permitted to go out for exercise, and so we begin to take long walks as a family. One thing we have come to realise is that prams are rather cumbersome and do not allow one to walk and drink a much needed Starbucks coffee at the same time as pushing them (not enough hands). As a result, we invest in some backpacks that enable us to put the kids on our backs and walk. This not only means that we get a far better workout than we would if we were just pushing prams (due to the added weight) but also that our hands are now free for the much needed caffeine fix. Whereas walking in excess of 3 miles with a toddler on our backs is difficult at first, we quickly build up strength and fitness and it becomes easier the more we do it. This all seems too good to be true until on one walk Edward (who is, astonishingly, the lighter of the two kids- though only just) pinches me and pulls my hair for almost the entire duration of the exercise. James and I decide to try and distract the kids by buying them an ice cream, but we soon regret this when the lollies melt and drip down our backs, leaving us feeling very sticky and an extremely attractive target for wasps. Luckily on our next walk, Edward falls asleep in the rucksack and so does not pinch me or pull my hair. Henceforth, we try to schedule walks around the boys’ nap time.
The following day, I have put Edward to bed for a nap, but am experimenting with dropping Henry’s siesta altogether and so have kept him up and downstairs. He requests a viewing of Beauty and the Beast and I agree enthusiastically, grateful for a break from The Three Little Pigs (which Henry has been obsessed with since the start of lockdown. I am also very disappointed that after 4 months of seemingly watching nothing but The Three Little Pigs, we still don’t seem to have got through every version ever made and I’m not sure how that is possible). Since having kids, and therefore rewatching many of the animated films as an adult that I once watched as a child, I have started to notice lots of the more subtle adult humour that is cleverly incorporated into them (presumably to prevent parents from going absolutely NUTS when having to watch them over and over again. Sadly this point was clearly not considered by whoever wrote and produced any of the thousands of versions of The Three Little Pigs). Stuff that I would either not notice as a child, or that would not mean much to me back then, is now relevant and entertaining. I have been thinking that I look rather weathered and aged as a result of 24/7 parenting whilst under total house arrest. However, I am truly shocked when, at the end of the film, the characters transform from household ornaments and furniture into people and I see that Mrs. Potts looks ANCIENT even though she is mother to Chip, who is clearly supposed to be quite a young boy. Crikey, I think to myself, motherhood really aged Mrs. Potts! When the film is over I’m not only glad that I got a break from The Three Little Pigs, but also that I now look like a teenage parent when compared with the aged Mrs. Potts. Feeling elated, I turn to Henry, only to discover that my attempt to drop his nap has failed epically and he is comatose and snoring on the sofa beside me.
Since the start of lockdown, Edward has progressed massively in terms of his development. He is now walking and running around every where and has begun saying a few words. He has perfected his pronunciation of “mummy” and “daddy” whilst at home, and he spends most of his waking hours saying either or both of these. At first, James and I find this cute and endearing, however, after hearing these two words constantly for days on end, they start to feel as exasperatingly repetitive as when your housemate slips into a 12 hour long drunken stupor with their bedroom door locked having left the same annoying song on repeat. In other words, it soon does our heads in big style!
During lockdown, I have been trying to exercise as much as possible and have become quite determined to get into shape. Unfortunately, after being unwell and in hospital at Christmas, I lost all of my fitness and after several courses of steroids since then, I found myself the heaviest I have ever been at the start of lockdown. However, I’ve been running in my garden and have even invested in a road bike, which I have been riding using a turbo trainer whilst I am housebound. Now it is a running joke that all anaesthetists are obsessed with cycling (most of them actually are) and that all you need put on your CV in order to get accepted on to the training programme is that you are an avid cyclist (of course this last bit is a joke, but is reference to the fact that it seems to an outsider as though you will never truly fit in unless you start peddling whilst donning some dazzling lycra). I always said that I would never in a million years get a bicycle and become one of “those” cycling anaesthetists. It was almost as if I liked being different. However, after my husband began cycling I decided I needed to get a bike too and when it arrived, I put a photo of it on Instagram and several of my anaesthetist colleagues messaged me saying “how wonderful, you are FINALLY a proper anaesthetist- a bike and everything!” It feels nice to finally be accepted into the cycling clique, but also slightly unfair that having to successfully derive the Henderson-Hasselbalch equation* from scratch in a terrifying viva exam in front of several senior anaesthetists in London isn’t enough to make you legitimately part of the anaesthetic club! (*The Henderson-Hasselbalch equation is used in chemistry and biochemistry in order to estimate the pH of a buffer solution. Knowing it and how to derive it is part of the syllabus in the first set of anaesthetic fellowship exams in the UK- the Primary FRCA. The second part of the Primary FRCA exam involves going to the Royal College of Anaesthetists in London and undergoing a gruelling viva exam in front of a panel of examiners who may ask you to derive this equation and explain how it is used. I got asked this in my Primary viva- yay).
I won’t lie, the whole shielding thing has been incredibly tough at times. Not only has it been difficult not being able to go out much or see anyone, but having two toddlers at home 24/7 has been nothing short of relentless most of the time. Overall, I feel I’ve coped reasonably well with the whole thing but, as expected, I have had my moments during which I find myself feeling exhausted, lonely and emotional. On one particularly hard day, I have got a bit overwhelmed and am having a little cry on the sofa (I’m not one to bottle things up). My husband tries to comfort me, and just as I’m starting to feel a bit better, Henry takes a huge backswing and absolutely wallops me on the knee with his sippy cup. The blow is so violent, that it actually brings tears to my eyes, but at least it momentarily distracts from the emotional pain of whatever it was I was crying about in the first place! This violent act immediately reminds me of a boy at my playgroup when I was a toddler. My mum always laughs about a time when he hit a girl over the head with a toy hammer whilst simultaneously sucking his thumb. His mother tried to justify his behaviour by saying that he was bored at playgroup because he was so intelligent and under-stimulated by the primitive activities that took place there. In reality, my mother always tells me, she suspects that he was simply a violent little sh*t who saw an easy target. Of course, when I tell my mum about the “sippy cup on the knee incident,” she immediately refers to this day at playgroup and says jokingly “it’s because Henry is so bright and he is bored!” I of course reply with, “no, he’s just bloody wicked, much like the thumb-sucking bloke at play group with the plastic hammer.” We have a really good laugh about this, and I end the day feeling a lot better than I did earlier on. The sippy cup is confiscated for the rest of the day though, of course.
The following morning, Henry has decided that he needs the toilet when he wakes up and so I am sat in the bathroom with him. As usual, he elects to tell me his favourite story, That of The Three Little Pigs in impressive detail. As I’m sat, trying my hardest not to fall asleep whilst attempting to look remotely interested, I’m impressed that I’ve made it to the part where the wolf tries to blow down the brick house (nearly the end) without nodding off, when my husband appears at the bathroom door. Henry spots him and says excitedly “Daddy! I need to tell you the story of The Three Little Pigs!” I look exasperated and say to Henry “please don’t feel obliged to start from the beginning again” hoping to God that I don’t have to endure yet another long-winded rendition of this wretched tale before he has the decency to finish sh*tting and move on.
On one particular day, the kids are beginning to act crazy because neither of them have had a nap. Sometimes time just runs away with me and things don’t quite go to plan and so, before I know it, it’s too late to really put them to bed without condemning myself to a night of sleeplessness courtesy of two insomniac toddlers. After a little while, the boys are sat on the sofa watching nursery rhymes and since they appear to be settled at long last, I decide to attempt to get a few things done in the kitchen. After an unknown amount of time has passed, I realise that they seem to be very quiet- abnormally so, in fact. I decide to check on them and I find that they have fallen asleep on the sofa to the soothing melody of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Edward is passed out on top of Henry and together they look like a pair of drunken youths who have raided their parents’ liquor stash for the first time and not remained conscious to tell the tale. I have to wake them up after only a short “power nap” to give them tea and also to prevent them from sleeping for too long too late and thus totally disrupting their night. Of course, this results in them being fractious as hell and refusing their evening meal (including cake!!). I am frantically trying to dunk them in the bath and put them to bed when my husband arrives home and asks me what their problem is. “They are overtired” I reply apoplectically, astonished that after a good few years of parenting he still isn’t able to recognise the cardinal signs of this common cause of murderous rage in toddlers.
Edward has recently developed a very annoying (and painful) habit of pulling people’s hair. Of course he is too young to understand that this causes the victim of said hair pulling immense agony and distress. He has pulled both mine and Henry’s hair on multiple occasions and, as a result, myself and Henry have developed a sort of mutual understanding that when one of us falls victim to Edward’s hair pulling attacks, the other will fight him off. I’ve had to prise Edward off Henry several times when one of their playful brotherly scraps ends in tears courtesy of Henry having his hair pulled. One afternoon, Edward launches an attack on me whilst I’m sat on the sofa minding my own business. He sneaks up behind me and yanks my locks extremely hard. As a result, I am left writhing around cursing and trying unsuccessfully to get him to desist. Luckily, Henry comes to the rescue and starts pulling Edward away from me whilst repeatedly saying “get away Baba, GET AWAY!” Once Henry has successfully rescued me from this painful situation, I am left remarking about how unpleasant that was and as I thank Henry for his help, he, noticing my obvious distress, kisses my head “better” and says calmly “don’t worry Mummy, I’ll get you a compress for your head.” Later that evening when Henry comes to me stating that his bottom hurts and asks me to kiss it better, I refuse and say “I’ll kiss most things better, but I draw the line at kissing arses I’m afraid, child.”
Once the kids are in bed I come back downstairs to face the cluttered eyesore that is my kitchen and begin the long and arduous process of cleaning up. I decide that I will conduct an experiment using my apple watch to see how many calories I burn doing this. When I have FINALLY finished this onerous task, I am pleasantly surprised to see that I have burned 340 calories simply by tidying up after my kids. For a very short while, I find I begrudge them less for ransacking the place whilst I undoubtedly replace those lost calories with a large portion of Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food ice cream.
The following day, I awake to hear Henry shouting “Mummy, TOILET!!” repeatedly over the baby monitor. I leap out of bed and go to attend to the issue and discover my eldest son on all fours in his bed, his trousers round his ankles, grunting as though he is imminently going to give birth to the turtle head that is slowly emerging from his arse. Frantically, I scoop him up and take him to the toilet, leaving a trail of toddler poo on the carpet as I go. I was thinking that that was enough sh*t for one day, but later on when I am out walking with the kids, a bird decides to evacuate its rectum during the split second it is flying directly over my head. The result being that I am covered in bird excrement and, to make matters worse, it’s in my hair. Everyone around me sympathetically reminds me that this is supposed to be good luck, although by their faces it is obvious they are thinking “that poor lady covered in bird sh*t, I am so glad that isn’t me right now.”
I arrive home in the early evening with the boys. James is not yet back as he is playing cricket and the match has gone on into the evening (as cricket matches often do). As I go to run the bath for the boys, I am horrified to discover that there is no running water in the house. Shortly after ranting about this, I receive a text message from the neighbours saying that the water supply to our area has been temporarily stopped due to a burst water main nearby. The kids are forced to skip their evening bath as a result of this. Just as I am getting even more irate as I realise I can’t even respond in the traditional British way at a time of crisis and make a cup of tea, I am ecstatic when the neighbours tell me that the supply is back on. Naturally, I abandon my mission to make a tea and reach for some “much needed” wine.
The following day, James and I have been out walking with the kids in the park. Once we have finished, we decide to go and grab some sandwiches for lunch from a nearby cafe. As we arrive at said cafe, I realise that I cannot find my phone (and therefore the debit card that I had put in my phone case whilst we were walking). A wave of dread sweeps over me as I realise that I have left my phone on the car roof and it is no longer there. Just before we drive back to retrace our steps, my husband advises we use the iPhone locator app on his phone. This reveals to us that my phone seems to be in the carpark of a nearby Marks and Spencer. This confuses us, since we have been nowhere near there since the phone was lost. Nevertheless, we decide to go and investigate, and by some miracle, we find my phone with a lady in the carpark of M&S. She was just finishing her shopping before heading to the police station to hand it in. I am majorly impressed by this act of kindness and also by the amazing things that the app can apparently do. “Track and trace” for iPhones, is extremely effective it would seem. We can only hope that the Covid-19 track and trace system works as well as the iPhone one does! As we drive home, I say to my husband “thank goodness that bird sh*t on my head yesterday! Otherwise I’m not sure I’d have been that lucky with my phone or with the water supply coming back on so soon last night! Perhaps it is true that a bird shitting on your head really does bring you good fortune.” Suddenly I’m feeling rather smug about the fact that out of all those people who were in the near vicinity yesterday, said bird selected to crap on my head and none of theirs.
When we get home after yet another unanticipatedly stressful day, the boys ask to play outside. Henry, being obsessed with The Three Pigs throws his hands in the air and exclaims enthusiastically “I am going to build a house of STRAW!” I look at him, absolutely dumbfounded, and say “Bricks are the safest option for building houses, have you learned NOTHING child?! Only bricks and stone are wolf-proof!”