I forgot my Covid-times manners. I am a hugger at the best of times

My well-used-to-me friends didn’t run screaming after I launched myself at them

‘Don’t burn the candle at both ends.’

‘Don’t burn the candle at both ends.’

 

I went out out last week. In normal times, perhaps this wouldn’t have been such a big deal – though “what’s rare is wonderful” still applied – but in the pandemic era I’d been counting down the days after what had been an especially long week.

I was on a roll. It was the second time that same week I’d met with a friend I hadn’t seen for the longest time and in the excitement I forgot my Covid-times manners. I am a hugger at the best of times (you have been warned) and in the worst of times I had found keeping a distance almost socially awkward.

Thankfully, my well-used-to-me friends didn’t run screaming after I launched myself at them and happy chats and catch-ups followed and flowed – as did the wine for the second one – in the manner that only in-person catch-ups can. It was gloriously normal and much needed. I was on a high for days afterwards.

But it had taken enormous effort just to find the time to make them happen.

“Don’t burn the candle at both ends. You can’t pour from an empty pot. Be sure to make time for yourself.”

Of course, those days pass, and those non-sleeping babies eventually sleep

They’re all things us mothers have heard from the get go. “Sleep when the baby sleeps” was the beginning of it. Well-meaning advice and there’s lots to be said for it, but it presumes that your baby is not sleep resistant, succumbing only to slumber when you’re driving her around the Curragh at 3am, a most unsuitable time to sleep yourself. It also presumes you have no other children, or a job, have a dishwasher and laundry loader close to hand and you never want to want to leave the house again.

Of course, those days pass, and those non-sleeping babies eventually sleep, (I promise), though I won’t lie, they may be small children with unquenchable bedtime thirsts and opinions they’re not afraid to use, before that actually happens. But the busyness changes. I won’t pretend I’ll miss any elements of the “great slow down”. I hated every moment of the lockdowns and restrictions. Yes, not having to be pitch-side with the children several times a week was a welcome break for the first week or two. But the downsides well outweighed the positives and I willed the return of their activities as soon as possible.

And I am not the sort of person who walks for pleasure. I walk with a purpose, to get where I’m going, only like most people I was going nowhere for a long time, except round in circles in my 2km and 5km. Walks did not bring me joy over lockdown. Rather they were something I did to make sure rigor mortis didn’t set in.

I have four children playing team sports. That’s four different pitch sides at various locations around Dublin we need to be at each week. That’s without factoring in the numerous training sessions and the other activities they and my other children do. When you’ve Von Trapp sized proportions, just one or two activities each means the schedule fills up pretty quickly.

It’s not that I don’t value the variety of activities my children do. Quite the opposite. I’m very happy that they have the opportunity to do the things they love to do. In fact they’ve never been more important as school remains abnormal to the days of old. For mine it’s not only a chance to do the things they love, but to play with the friends they can’t play with at school – because of bubbles, pods and ongoing restrictions. I just wish our evenings weren’t under as much pressure time-wise.

Over the last few weeks, an increased number of parents have contacted me

But alas they are. So something’s got to give. At the moment, it’s my sleep. I’d prefer if it was their homework.

Over the last few weeks, an increased number of parents have contacted me with various worries relating to anxiety in their children around school. Not only is it challenging for the children, it’s distressing for the parents too to see their once happy at school children suddenly now fretful.

Others mentioned an increase in homework, suspecting a catch up drive. I’m not sure if that’s the case for all, or the intention, but I can relate and I can see the impacts. One small boy on a Sunday evening was upset going to bed, worried about the homework he’d get the following Tuesday and how he might fit it around karate. To me karate, and all that it offers him, is so much more important.

It’s been a long pandemic for children. Downtime and playtime is all the more important now, as is making sure we don’t underestimate the impacts of all they’ve been through. “You can’t pour from an empty pot” applies to them as well as us.

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