The return to school lifted spirits and it’s proving somewhat contagious

No longer am I cranky, overwhelmed, sleep-deprived and guilt-laden Mum

“The floor is lava, Mum!” my two littles screamed as I arrived into the sittingroom one morning last week. Once I’d recovered from the bejaysus being scared out of me by the roars, I instinctively scanned the floor, just in case.

Because in this house there’s no telling what you might find there.

The two continued with their leaps from sofa to sofa squealing with delight and not at all paying any attention to me as I attempted to usher them away from their treacherous surroundings and up the stairs to brush their teeth before we left for school. There has been a marked improvement in their form since their return and it’s proving somewhat contagious.

It was like a weight lifted when they returned two weeks ago. Not it in its entirety and not just in terms of homeschooling pressures, because there were still plenty seated around the diningroom table competing for wifi and elbow space, but because the last few months have been an utterly unnatural situation for them. Like birds who had their wings clipped they were confined mostly to indoors, their only escape was walks they didn’t want to take, cut off from their friends, extended family, teachers, routine, outlets and all the things that children enjoy.


And I was like a pressure cooker. Attempting to juggle it all and berating myself for failing miserably. I wasn’t fun Mum. I was cranky, frustrated, overwhelmed, sleep-deprived and guilt-laden Mum who couldn’t manage to cherish this time that Twitter kept telling me I would never get back.

Guilt eases

There were deadlines to be met and so many children who just weren’t into the homeschooling this time – which was most unfortunate as the clear message was that the curriculum was continuing. But this week two more return to the fold and their education couldn’t be further from my mind. They have counted down the days, watched enviously as younger siblings scampered down the road to school and even shed a tear or two as the fear that it might not actually happen for them took over.

This week, as the older primary schoolchildren return, a little more of my guilt eases. The logical part of my brain reminds myself that there was little I could do about the school closures which lasted much longer than those initial extra two days added to the Christmas holidays, but the part which knew their wellbeing, needs and rights were compromised struggled with the inability to do anything about it.

The last two weeks have been filled with stories of new jolly phonics sounds, games in yard and tales of who is unbeatable at ultimate tag. There have been happy faces at drop off, bear hugs at collection time and tired, cranky small children at bedtime – cranky by virtue of the need to adapt to normal once again, as opposed to the lack of stimulation and interaction the previous few months have brought. I look forward to having a few more cranky dudes come bedtime as the week progresses.


And I am feeling a lot more like me of old. Time to work with a little less pressure and a lot less guilt. I can be Mammy of old to most of them again – contrary and craic in equal measure. The priority when it came to the school return has always been about wellbeing for me. Education can catch up. But that’s easy for me to say. Pressurised though it may be, I can help them catch up, if necessary, in due course. But if education is the great leveller, then we as a society can’t ignore the consequence of its loss entirely, felt more by some than others as a result of school closures.

Four down, one who won’t make it back to college this year, and two more holding on, wondering if the post-Easter return will really happen. One mammy hoping eyes remain firmly on the prize as the weeks pass. Our teenagers are not back yet and they really need to be. Just because they’re older doesn’t mean they or their needs matter any less.

I feel I’m wishing my life away at the moment. Wishing the next stage was here, just to make sure it happens. But while we wait with a degree of unease, I’ll enjoy the smiles from the ones who have returned and return this week, for now jumping out of bed without much coaxing, eager to see their friends and teachers again, one keen to soak up every moment of his remaining last months in primary school.

And I’ll relish the feral, excited mornings dodging lava in the sittingroom. It beats the subdued resignation that had taken hold for a while.