On December 31st 2019, I found myself waiting to see in the new year from a hospital bed. I was absolutely wired on steroids and was, therefore, an insomniac for the majority of my week-long hospital stay. As I watched the new year celebrations being televised live from London, I ate a celebratory chocolate muffin that was lying unopened on my bedside table. Oh well, I thought to myself, 2019 may not have ended especially well, but I’m sure 2020 will be a much better year. Of course, I, like everybody else, now know that to have been an epic example of “famous last words.”
I was supposed to have returned to work as an anaesthetic registrar following my second maternity leave on 30th December 2019. As it happened, I was actually really looking forward to working again. I had had two maternity leaves relatively close together and I had begun to miss work towards the end of the second. Furthermore, I had really got my head around the fact that 30th December was going to be the day I went back. All this had to be put on hold however, when my kids attempted to murder me just before Christmas.
Before you start worrying that my one and two year old had hatched some elaborate homicide plot in an attempt to see me off for their inheritance (not that there is much of that at the moment anyway), the way in which they actually attempted said murder was by bringing a case of the common cold home from nursery and passing it on to me. This relatively minor cold caused a life-threatening asthma attack on Christmas Day, which resulted in a week-long hospital stay over the entire festive period. When I finally made it out of hospital on 2nd January, I was convinced that the only way was up from there.
After a couple of weeks spent recovering at home from the Christmas ordeal, or what I commonly refer to as “the total f*ck up that was Christmas and New Year 2019/2020” I FINALLY made it back to work on 21st January. I spent 4 weeks undergoing a phased return, during which I worked with a senior colleague whilst I got back in to the swing of things and “re skilled” (anaesthetics is not really a job that you can “wing” as it is actually pretty dangerous putting someone under anaesthetic for an operation or in order to put them on a ventilator in intensive care and so you really do need to be on the ball and very familiar with the steps involved and the ways in which to proceed should you run into trouble before you go about doing this solo again otherwise it is reasonably likely that you will royally screw it up and cause someone serious harm in the process). By the time my phased return was over, I was weirdly excited about going back to the on call rota again and, although the first few shifts I did were manic as usual, I found myself coming out the other side having actually enjoyed them to a degree. It felt good to be doing something other than just parenting for once (not that there is anything wrong with that, but I had had almost two years of just that and nothing else and being a doctor is such a big part of my life and identity that it just didn’t seem normal to not be doing it for such a long time). Additionally, I was working in a big hospital with a big anaesthetic department and I knew and liked a lot of my colleagues. It was nice to see and work with friends again. It was refreshing to have adult company and fun to chat with some colleagues about subjects other than parenting. The kids seemed to be thriving in nursery and it seemed like life had settled into quite a nice routine. Not to mention it was especially nice to be earning money again after two maternity leaves. Things seemed to be going better as I had hoped they would following the, less than ideal, start to 2020.
Then the Covid-19 pandemic hit. At first the whole thing didn’t feel real and we couldn’t really believe that it was happening. However, when the case numbers in England gradually started to creep up and plans started being made for how we were going to change things in order to try and cope with the pandemic within the NHS, the seriousness of it all began to hit home. As anaesthetists, we spend a great deal of our out of hours shifts working on intensive care units. This is because a lot of people on ICUs are in “medically induced comas,” which is essentially the same as being under a general anaesthetic. Therefore, you need doctors who know how to put someone under an anaesthetic, adequately care for someone under an anaesthetic and manage advanced organ support machines such as ventilators to be working on there.
The first thing we were told was that our rotas would be changing at relatively short notice so that there would be more of us on shift at any one time so that as a team we would able to manage the potentially very high workload that would be coming our way in light of the pandemic. Whilst all of that was being sorted, we were instructed that in line with government guidance we would need to isolate at home if we, or any family members, showed possible Covid-19 symptoms. The main symptoms we were told to look out for were a new, persistent cough and a fever. Great, I thought, with toddlers at home we are going to have to isolate virtually every other week- the little blighters are forever bringing viruses into the home! This is certainly going to be fun.
It took approximately 24 hours before we had to isolate due to Henry having a cough and a fever. I received the call from nursery when I was in the middle of a case in theatre that I had really not wanted to miss. Anyway, there was nothing I could do and so I gave my apologies and made my way out of the hospital (someone else took over the anaesthetic in case you were worried). As I left, I called my husband (who is also a doctor and was at work) and broke the bad news that we were going to be in isolation for the next 14 days at least thanks to number one son and his new onset persistent cough. As I walked out of the hospital and towards the carpark, little did I know this would be the last time I would be in the hospital for quite some time.
Anyone who has young children knows that being confined to the house with them is extremely challenging. Essentially, you can’t divert your gaze or lose concentration for a split second otherwise something potentially catastrophic can, and usually does, occur before you can say “Bob’s your uncle.” That being said, I have no idea why I was so surprised and horrified when, after approximately 10 minutes of being trapped at home with the kids, I discovered a smattering of vibrant orange-coloured cheese and tomato pasta all over the sofa. FML, I thought, this is going to be mighty trying. Deflated, I grabbed the Vanish, a sponge and the hoover and tried to hold back tears of despair as I attempted to clean the first of what was surely to be many toddler-induced furniture disasters.
During the first week of isolation, I receive news from work that, thanks to my near death experience at Christmas, I have been assessed as being too high risk to work on the front line during the pandemic. Since ICU is about as high risk as you can get in terms of exposure to Covid-19, they do not feel I can safely work in such an environment. They tell me they are going to look for alternative, non-clinical work that I can do instead. Later that week, I am told by my GP that I meet the shielding criteria as a potentially “extremely vulnerable” individual and that I am advised to shield at home for a minimum of 12 weeks until further notice. This all comes as a bit of a shock to me and is difficult to get my head around at first- although I’m not sure why, since it was only a cold that nearly saw me depart my mortal coil over Christmas and we now have a potentially lethal respiratory virus spreading rapidly round the country. Nevertheless, I have only been back at work for 2 months post maternity leave and now I am going to be at home with the kids once again and this is a strange thought. Not to mention the sudden wave of dread that sweeps over me when I realise that, as a shielded individual, I am going to have to keep the kids at home for the entire shielding period otherwise it will kind of defeat the object (as key workers my husband and I could have continued sending the kids to nursery if we were both continuing to work). Yes that’s right, I am going to be confined to my house, unable to leave AT ALL- even to go for a walk round the block- for a minimum of 3 months WITH A ONE AND A TWO YEAR OLD and no chance of any respite! Honestly, there is absolutely nothing I can do about this other than laugh at the prospect of how utterly horrendous and exhausting this is going to be. However, I also know that there is nothing I can do to change this and so I figure that I am going to have to just get my head down and get on with it, whilst trying to make the best of it and trying to somehow maintain some shred of my sanity. Easy! I exclaim to myself, whilst simultaneously trying to locate the strongest bottle of gin that I have in the house along with a straw. I am not particularly bothered about sourcing any tonic to mix with said gin, just incase you are wondering.
In the early days of isolation, the weather is surprisingly very pleasant and lends itself to the kids playing outdoors in the garden (which luckily is a decent size). All in all things are going quite well- the kids seem to thoroughly enjoy being outdoors and they are so shattered as a result of all the outdoor pursuits that they are taking a 2 hour nap each afternoon and are still absolutely shattered by about 18.30 and ready to retire for the night. I am also pleased about the nice weather and am looking forward to reading books outside whilst the kids play. Erm, think again. After merely opening a book, it becomes apparent that the kids require constant attention, entertainment and policing. Edward attempts to eat a selection of pebbles (which, to my dismay are the perfect size to lodge in the windpipe of a one year old if swallowed “the wrong way” and this leads to a few “emergency evacuations of mouth”) dirt, and something resembling a small tree trunk. I am unable to divert my gaze for a millisecond, and alas, I am not able to read anything much more than half a word at a time. Another reminder that I must always keep both sets of eyes open (that being my usual face eyes and the ones that I have supposedly possessed on the back of my head ever since my eldest son took his first breath and I became expected to be able to look in every direction at once at all times) comes when I hear a sudden outburst of screaming and find that Edward has face planted the concrete floor as a result of falling down some, or possibly all, of the steps leading to the lawn from the patio (this is only three steps at the most but apparently this is not only a challenge for anyone after a fair few snifters but also a one year old under normal circumstances). My anal sphincter momentarily loosens until I realise that he has merely grazed his nose and that his teeth and face are thankfully still intact. The sudden appearance of a toothless toddler was not something I was ready to have to try and explain to my husband this early on in the isolation days.
The following day, I am being super vigilant with the boys in the garden to ensure that they don’t inhale any large pebbles behind my back or attempt to die spectacularly or permanently disfigure themselves by means of any of the other convenient-for-toddler-experimentation death traps within the garden. After a rocky start, during which Henry trips over part of the agility course my husband and I have set up in the garden and almost manages a full somersault in the air before crash landing flat on his back on the grass, I am relieved when I appear to have engaged them with a tennis ball near the back door- a location which is well away from pebbles, sticks, mud, other hazardous objects and potentially poisonous shrubbery. However, as I turn my back (yes, in hindsight this was stupid, I know) to retrieve a tennis ball that has been thrown slightly outside of the designated “safe zone” the kids have clearly spotted a bucket of coal sat beside one of the chairs on the patio. When I return from my short expedition to retrieve the ball, I discover them covered in coal to the point that they would not have looked out of place if they were centre stage during the rendition of “Chim Chiminee” in Mary Poppins where several filthy, soot-covered chimney sweeps prance about on the rooftops of Edwardian London. Immediately, my pulse rate goes through the roof and I sternly tell them that if they ever do this sort of thing again not only will they a) never again see sunlight, but b) I will package said coal up and mail it to “Santa Claus, North Pole” by first class recorded delivery and request that he place an abundance of the stuff in both of their stockings on Christmas Eve. When my husband gently reminds me that they are only toddlers and weren’t acting with vicious intent, we decide that a more fair and successful strategy to prevent a repeat of this in the future will be to put the coal away in the locked shed, where they will not be able to find and experiment with it. Following the coal ordeal, my husband recommends another of my “special gins” in order to calm my nerves.
Usually the boys eat all their meals in the week at nursery, and so we are only subject to the horrors of toddler mealtimes at the weekends (if you know, you know). With the boys being at home 24/7 I have noticed that there is a significant difference in their appetites. Edward eats literally everything, including stuff that is not edible (he attempts to eat his cutlery on a regular basis and once got covered in bird poo and even sampled a bit of that), whereas Henry has the appetite of a sparrow. One obvious ramification to Henry’s minuscule appetite is that he does not sleep through the night, whereas Edward does. This makes Edward my favourite child for some time during the early days of lockdown. Henry is constantly waking throughout the night and demanding milk- it is clear early on that he is a certified addict and is in desperate need of milk rehab. I also suspect that his poor appetite during the day is fuelled by said milk addiction. Whereas before when my husband and I were both working full time we would cut our losses, give in and give him milk to shut him up and allow us to get back to sleep, I have started to realise that I need to do something about this and that now is the ideal opportunity. I suddenly acknowledge that I have been functioning on continuously broken sleep for the best part of 2.5 years. After one particularly bad night during which my husband and I get less sleep than I imagine we would if we had consumed a litre of espresso and proceeded to get high on cocaine, I declare “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH- THIS CHILD IS GOING TO BE SLEEPING THROUGH THE NIGHT BY THE END OF THE WEEK IF IT’S THE LAST THING I ACHIEVE IN MY LIFE!” I will explain how I went about breaking this addiction a bit later on.
At the end of the initial 14 days of isolation (which we were all doing thanks to Henry’s cough and fever), James is able to head back to work, leaving me shielded at home with the two kids. I have had to move into the spare room and will have to stay there until this is over since he will be working in a Covid-19 environment and the risk of me sleeping in the same room as him and being in closer than necessary proximity to a potential disease vector is too risky, we have decided. I therefore choose to take this unexpected opportunity to make this room very much my own. I replace the (in my opinion) boring white bedsheets with mint green and gold bedding and cushions. I purchase some white rose fairy lights online to put around the mirror and I also make the room appear “more lived in” (in other words I trash the place because my husband is a neat freak and will not allow me to even leave a used coffee cup on my bedside table for 5 minutes usually). When I’m done the room is in a worse state than my best friend Sonya’s was at med school, and believe me when I tell you, Sonya’s room at med school was Goddamn terrible*. Since my husband can now not enter the room, I know this will cause him a great deal of pain, but it is worth it, I’ve decided, if only to see the look of utter helplessness and despair on his face until I get bored of this and tidy it (as, although I’m not in my husband’s league when it comes to being a neat freak, I’m not actually that messy, despite what he will tell you).
The first night that I spend alone in my new temporary bedroom, I have the baby monitor plugged in beside the bed. Henry does his first wake up for milk at around midnight. “Milk, Mummy. All gone Mummy” (hint hint I want more milk) is all I hear repeatedly. He then gets gradually more and more cross at the fact that no one has arrived with his order of milk. I do my best to ignore him, but I can’t exactly get back to sleep with him bellowing over the monitor in my ear. Rather than do my usual and give in, I make the brutal decision to turn the monitor off and roll over and go back to sleep. The next thing I know, it is morning and the house is eerily quiet. I go to check on the boys and they are both sound asleep. Excellent, I think to myself, perhaps this just might work after all. After that, Henry never wakes up asking for milk in the night again- so it does work- and faster than I anticipate. First positive of all this- I have cracked the nights and got them both sleeping through; not-so-controlled crying and tough love appears to have been the answer I was looking for the whole time. Maybe some people would disagree with this approach, but I was at my wit’s end and it worked for me. (NB the plan backfires merely weeks later when Henry begins to wake in the night to go to the toilet and so I have to get up at various points to take him anyway- drat).
One drawback to Edward’s insanely huge appetite is that he is very regular with his bowel movements. Sadly for me, he seems to especially enjoy evacuating his rectum whilst he is in the bath with his brother. This generally leads to both of them being covered with a tidal wave of turd just as I am about to get their (finally!) clean selves out of the bath. I then have to hose them down with the shower (which Henry especially hates). In fact, Edward crapping in the bath has become so expected that it has now become a race against time to get both boys bathed before the inevitable explosion happens. I am now so good and quick at this that if Usain Bolt were to attempt to race me, he’d look like an incompetent tortoise in comparison to my eminently more practised self.
At the opposite end of the defecating spectrum, sits Henry, Edward’s frequently constipated older brother. Henry does not like opening his bowels and so has unfortunately got into a bit of a vicious cycle of holding it in then finding it painful and so on and so forth. When it finally comes to him giving in and deciding he has no other option but to go for it, he often sounds much like a labouring woman as he strains for a result. I find myself holding his hands as he sits on the toilet and saying “push, go on PUSH! Henry you can do this!” much like the midwives said to me as I was in the final stages of delivering my kids. If Henry hasn’t been for a number 2 for a few days, my husband jokingly says to me “he hasn’t been for a sh*t for a few days, so the baby is due.” Joking aside, this has been a problem for Henry as the whole debacle clearly upsets him a lot. As a result, my husband and I contact the GP in order to obtain some gentle laxatives to try and help him with his stools. These seem to work quite nicely to begin with and he is certainly finding the whole thing less traumatic. Of course, it wouldn’t be normal in our household if nothing backfired or went awry following an apparent success such as this.
I soon learn that Henry will not drink his laxatives in water as he can obviously taste that something has been added. Therefore, I execute the cunning plan of trying to disguise the taste by dissolving it in orange juice. This initially works a treat and the sucker downs it in one virtually every time. He is, as a result, starting to find the whole experience of defecation much easier than before. The plan backfires, however, one leisurely Sunday when I am least expecting it.
I have fed the boys breakfast as usual and have just got them out of the high chairs and started the first of many lots of washing up that will need to be done throughout the day. A few minutes later, Edward (aka the poonami king) appears at the gate that separates the sitting area from the main kitchen, grinning from ear to ear saying “more, more, more.” I go to take what I initially assume to be his beaker from him in order to fill it up again. However, much to my horror, when I go to do so I discover that he is in fact brandishing the beaker, which, just a few moments previously, had been full of Henry’s laxative-laden juice. A sudden feeling of dread sweeps over me as I realise that Edward, whose bowel movements I struggle to keep on top of at the best of times, is now essentially a ticking time bomb full of excrement that is liable to explode at any given moment. This is one of the few occasions upon which I am relieved to be trapped in my house for the foreseeable future- these things are never good in public (again if you know, you know).
Later on that day, whilst the boys are watching a bit of tv before bed, I sit down on the sofa (which is smeared with squashed banana- nothing compliments it more than that of course) and nod off briefly. Whenever I make the unwise decision to sit down and “rest” my eyes, I nearly always find myself slipping into a coma deeper than that which would result from being walloped repeatedly over the head with a heavy-duty mallet whilst drunk on absinthe. However, my conscious level soon recovers as I am sat on, my hair is pulled repeatedly, a series of popular children’s books are thrown at me and I am poked, prodded and the word “MUMMY!” is bellowed at me almost continuously. As much as I love the kids, sometimes one just needs to be “left the f*ck alone” for five short minutes and at this particular time I find myself suddenly reminiscing fondly about the times when they were both newborn babies, unable to move or speak.
A few weeks into the lockdown, it is my husband’s birthday. Since we cannot offload the kids on Nanny for the night and go out for dinner together as we probably would normally try to do on such an occasion (listen, adult time is important from time to time, mostly to prevent otherwise inevitable insanity), we have to think of ways in which to celebrate within the confines of the property in a “responsible” manner given that the kids will still need an eye kept on them throughout the festivities. Luckily the weather is pleasant and we sit in the garden, bring a play pen out for the kids for them to “play” in (actually it is nothing but a trap in disguise so we can actually let our guards down slightly for once) and sip some celebratory champagne. We gradually get more and more pissed and decide to order a takeaway for dinner, because in my drunken state I have decided that I can’t be arsed to cook for once. Whilst awaiting the arrival of this hotly anticipated takeaway, we get the kids bathed and in bed, I have a cheeky nap in a bid to try and sleep off some of the champagne, and James catches up with some friends via video chat (the new way of socialising in light of the stringent social distancing measures we are having to adopt during the pandemic). By the time we have eaten, we are both pretty tipsy and jointly agree that it is probably wise to retire seeing as though we will most likely be required to be up at the crack of dawn singing this week’s 1000th rendition of Old MacDonald with the kids and it would be desirable to feel only slightly hungover as opposed to like death warmed up when the witching hour approaches. Just before we make our tracks upstairs, I go to add the dinner plates to the dishwasher with a view to setting it off over night. In my drunken state, I become outraged that my husband has loaded the dishwasher “incorrectly” and chastise him for this. I flick water from the tap in his direction and this rapidly escalates into a play fight. I attempt to retreat upstairs and he chases me into the master bedroom. Realising he must retaliate in response to the water flicking incident, he grabs the nearest weapon, which just so happens to be a tube of Durex lubricant. He pins me down and squirts what seems like the entire contents of the tube all over me. I manage to snatch it off him and manage to target him with the remainder of the stuff. Luckily, I have sobered up enough to realise that I probably should go to bed now and so I make my way to the spare room. As I crawl into bed I am grateful that I am sober enough to do this- had I woken up facedown on the bed in the master bedroom covered head to toe in lubricant, I’m not entirely sure what I would have thought the next morning. Fortunately, when I do awake the next day, I have a vague recollection of the play fight. My husband on the other hand, doesn’t remember a thing and is most likely freaking out at the possibility of a third child being on the way. I have fun tormenting him briefly about why there is an empty tube of lube on his bedside table, but eventually stop and tell him it was simply the nearest weapon to hand during a drunken play fight, which all began when I accused him of loading the dishwasher unsatisfactorily and flicked water in his face. Nothing untoward occurred during said play fight and it was all a bit of innocent drunken fun. He does not need to panic that there will be a third Burnett child before the lockdown is over. He breathes a worryingly big sigh of relief at this news- clearly a third child was certainly not on his birthday wish list.
It would be wrong to make out that the lockdown has so far consisted only of drunken play fights and funny mishaps. There have been some more heated rows. We are in an intense situation being in quarantine with two toddlers whilst my husband is working long hours on the frontlines of the NHS during an unprecedented pandemic, and it would almost be abnormal if we hadn’t got on each other’s nerves or argued at all at various points.
One week my husband is on nights working from 11pm til 8am. This means we can at least eat together before he has to leave for work at approximately 10pm. Unfortunately, during this particular week, I have had to go on steroids for a brief period of time and as a result have been suffering with steroid-induced insomnia. Not to mention the fact that I am also absolutely WIRED in general because of them and therefore much less of a pushover in any sort of argument (not that I usually am anyway). After we have had dinner and he is preparing to leave for work, we end up having a heated argument over nothing much at all, but with tensions being high it all escalates quickly and things get blown vastly out of proportion.
A few days after this, when we have made up it becomes apparent that my husband is sick and is going to have to undergo testing for Covid-19. This involves him having to attend a drive through appointment in Wakefield and having swabs taken from his nose and throat. In the meantime we have to assume he has it and so he has to isolate in the master bedroom away from the rest of us pending his result. A few days later, we receive the news via email that he has indeed tested positive for Covid-19. Over text message, he apologises once again for his part in the heated argument a few days ago over nothing much at all and suggests that perhaps we shouldn’t make any sort of judgements over the state of our relationship from that incident. After all, it is now clear that I was wired on steroids and had raging PMS at the time and so was essentially a psychopath, whilst he was apparently incubating and coming down with a potentially deadly infectious disease. We agree we were both not in “the best state of mind” at the time given these now apparent confounding factors and decide to put it behind us and move on.
Following his positive test, my husband has now got to complete at least 7 days in isolation- possibly longer if he continues to have a fever past the 7 day mark. This is a very tiring 7 days for me because, not only am I continuing to solo parent the kids, I’m also having to prepare all of his meals and leave them outside his door and take drinks to him when needed (as he can’t really come downstairs and risk infecting the rest of the household). Essentially, I am making 6 meals a day- 3 for the kids and 3 for myself and James whilst taking other drinks and refreshments to whoever requests them in between all this. I am cooking so much that I feel like Gordon Ramsay, only I am nowhere near as good a cook and believe it or not, I am swearing far more frequently and passionately than he does in light of the utter chaos surrounding me as I attempt to complete usually simple household tasks. Furthermore, I have been given work to do from home. I am now responsible for organising staff Covid-19 testing within the anaesthetic and ICU department at work. Whenever a staff member or someone in their household gets sick with possible Covid-19 symptoms, they get in touch with me and I advise them as to whether or not a test is needed and if it is, I refer them. I then need to chase up results, advise them on how long they need to isolate for depending on results and symptoms and liaise with the rota planners about the staff in isolation so that they can then plan for appropriate cover.
On one particularly busy day whilst James is quarantined with Covid-19 and I am on the phone for most of the morning, I feel a bit like I’m on a sinking ship. I’m trying to concentrate on the work, make sure I pay enough attention to ensure the kids aren’t trying (and succeeding) to kill themselves behind my back, and keeping them entertained enough to allow me to get through the call. At one point, I am on a call and the kids are yelling “Mummy, Mummy, MUMMY” relentlessly in the background, desperately vying for my undivided attention, which I cannot give them. I have no choice but to continue hurling biscuits to the floor where they are circling my chair in order to keep them quiet. It is as though they are caged animals of some sort; lions in a den if you will, ravenous for fresh meat to be lobbed their way. The lions will simply have to be satisfied with biscuits for the time being.
Most days, by the time I have finished cooking, cleaning, working and sorting everyone else out, it is gone 11pm and I am exhausted. It feels as though everyone wants a piece of me and there aren’t enough pieces to go round. There are a few occasions upon which I just feel like crying because I am so knackered, but I have serious words with myself when this starts and tell myself I can do this and eventually things will change for the better. Plus there is no point in wallowing, since there is f*ck all I can do to change both the situation and the workload. One thing that is really helping me to believe my own encouraging words and to soldier on is gin, and lots of it.
Yet still, amidst all the trials and tribulations, there remain enjoyable times. Henry got a little remote controlled Land Rover car for his 2nd birthday back in September. On another sunny day, we get this out of the shed and the kids enjoy driving round the garden in it. It “breaks down” halfway through one of the many laps of the lawn (the battery just needs recharging really) and I declare we must call the AA at once to come to our rescue. Luckily it is just in time for lunch and so we abandon the broken-down vehicle (whilst awaiting the arrival of the AA!) and go inside for food. During lunch, Henry asks me to sing several nursery rhymes to him and Edward whilst they eat. His favourite nursery rhymes include Ba Ba Black Sheep and Old MacDonald had a Farm. He is in fact, so obsessed with both songs, that I fully expect one or the other to be selected for the first dance at his wedding. I’m not entirely sure which will win yet- I’ll keep you posted.
This lunchtime involves a very drawn out rendition of Old MacDonald. Several animals are on Old MacDonald’s farm today. I happily sing about each of them, until he states that the next animal is a cock. Whereas I know this to be a completely innocent request from a 2.5 year old, the part of me that still has the sense of humour of a 17 year old boy can’t help but find this hilarious. I dissolve into fits of giggles halfway through the verse. Henry simply looks at me dumbfounded, declares the next animal to be a horse, and urges me to continue with the song.
When the kids finish their lunch, we put them to bed for a nap. My husband is off today and so we attempt to have some lunch together whilst the kids are asleep. About 10 minutes into the meal, we notice that there are still nursery rhymes playing incessantly in the background. We have become so used to them, that we haven’t even noticed that they are still on when they don’t need to be. Once the racket is turned off, we find ourselves wondering how we could avoid singing nursery rhymes for a little while, as we are so sick of them and feel some respite is needed. Before we know it, we are fantasising together about how each of the nursery rhymes might be rewritten so as to lead to their respective protagonist’s(s’) demise and therefore would exempt us from having to sing about them ever again. Our favourites include:
- Old MacDonald had a farm. On that farm he had a Siberian tiger, which unfortunately ate him and all of the other animals and so there is now no longer a farmer or any farm animals to sing about.
- Incy Wincy Spider went up the water spout, down came the rain and washed the spider out. The spider sadly drowned as a result of this and so was unable to climb the spout again.
- Little Miss Muffet sat on her tuffet. Along came a spider and sat down beside her, and she suffered a fatal cardiac arrest as a result of the shock and died and so no longer eats curds and whey. To find out what happened to the spider, see 2).
- It’s raining, it’s pouring, the old man is snoring. He went to bed and bumped his head and couldn’t get up in the morning. Because he was dead.
- Brother Jack, Brother Jack are you sleeping? No, he’s actually just dead.
- Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. Well, we don’t even need to make this one up, even the original writers acknowledged the fact that Humpty was f*cked when he fell from that wall.
Worryingly, my husband and I find ourselves giggling about all of this for several hours. Clearly this is an insight into how crazy lockdown is driving us- we are now musing excitedly about the death of virtually every nursery rhyme character ever invented.
Not long after I have put the kids to bed that night, Henry’s voice comes over the baby monitor- he is asking to go to the toilet. Of course, the laxatives would finally take full effect when he’s in bed and I’m in the middle of cooking, wouldn’t they? I take him to the toilet and he sits there, mucking about. Rather than doing his business like a considerate 2.5 year old and allowing me to get back to the kitchen, he chats incessantly, pretends to eat apples from an imaginary stash behind the potty and continuously tries to stand up and retrieve items from the bathroom cupboards. Whilst I am waiting for Henry to have a result on the potty, I figure I may as well experiment with a blemish fighting face mask that is in the cabinet. I apply this all over my face-it is a vibrant shade of green. Henry points to me and says “Mummy, you’re a dragon!” I reply that “too right I am a dragon, so you’d best not misbehave any longer, child.” Eventually, I get so exasperated that I look him in the eye and say “won’t you just do a f*cking sh*t?!” There are no prizes for guessing which two words top his list of most frequently uttered that week. This mishap does make me realise that the ONLY good thing about my mum being in a different country during this lockdown is that she is not here to tell me off for teaching my toddler yet more swear words. Eventually, Henry performs and I put him back to bed. In true toddler style, he ensures that I am not able to hold a grudge against him as, when I go to leave the room, he says “Mummy you’re gorgeous. I love you.” I go back to preparing the meal, feeling a mixture of flattered and also guilty that I was impatient with him- he is only 2 after all.
When I finally make it to bed that night, I decide to put a film on. This evening I have selected Titanic, which I have not seen in years. This only serves to make me seriously depressed when I realise that it would now probably be considered inappropriate for me to get with Jack Dawson because I am now much too old for him. In fact, I think, he now looks young enough for me to sing nursery rhymes to him. “F*ck that” I declare to myself under my breath. I switch the TV off and go to sleep in a desperate bid to be mentally prepared for whatever the next day in lockdown will bring!
*I mentioned earlier that my friend Sonya’s room was very messy at med school. It was, but I’d just like to point out that Sonya is now a fully qualified GP and lives in a very tidy flat- she is no longer messy and is a very eligible bachelorette. As a bonus, she is also great fun and very good looking.