Opinion with Matthew Munson: A calmer ‘lockdown’ and tackling Christmas shopping

The latest journey for Matthew and Bryan

Back to school. I have a few hours each day to get things done, without the constant refrain of “Daaaaaaaaaaaaaady” or worrying that Bryan’s watching too much TV while I’m trying to get the ironing done. It’s nice being a parent, but it’s nice to have some time to myself.

As an introvert, it can be exhausting trying to parent an extrovert child. I am prone to bouts of introspection; he prefers to experience the world around him “in the moment”, but that’s part of what a child is all about. I have to be consistent in my own parenting style so that I don’t compromise my own personality, and flexible enough so that Bryan feels understood and loved without feeling that he can take over and be in charge of everything.

It’s been wonderfully peaceful this past week between 9am and 3pm, and I’m surprised at how little lockdown light – Mark 2 – has infiltrated our day-to-day routines. Bryan’s swimming and dance classes are off the table for a few weeks, and I can’t meet friends for a coffee or easily travel to work any more, but it’s not been overly stressful. Perhaps it’s because we’ve been here before, for a lot longer and with a lot more uncertainty, or perhaps we have the American election to distract this time around.

I tried to be very organised and rigorous during Lockdown 1. There were set lessons during the day, planned activities over the weekends, and opportunities to connect with his friends. But that didn’t work according to Plan A, so Plans B, C, and D were cycled through before I found something that worked – that was good for my mental health as well as Bryan’s. But we found something that worked, and it was lovely – after a fashion, given that my abilities as a teacher were very limited.

So this time around, things feel calmer; Bryan’s school is still open, which allows me to work during the day and catch up with other things. As a single parent, I can have a support bubble connected to our family, which helps the pressure valve of being one adult and one child living together – we need time apart as much as time together, and helps our mental health and connection. We are not worrying about the things we’re missing, but still appreciative we have the important connections that each of us values.

I’ve been starting a search for Bryan’s Christmas presents this week – online, of course, as I have absolutely no desire to pile into overcrowded shops during December. People will be trying to catch up on four weeks worth of buying far too much for the Christmas period, and I can’t bear the thought of being packed in like sardines during the manic frenzy we’ll inevitably see. I’ll stay as much out of the way as possible – and let’s see if I have to break my word.

Technology is making our lives so much easier; online buying is now routine and something of a life-saver in this current climate. Bryan is entirely immersed in this technological world because he was born into it, and he’s entirely comfortable with everything from Alexa to Zoom. That said, there will always be blips. He discovered “routines” on Alexa, where you can schedule a range of activities at a particular time.

After checking with me, he decided that he wanted to set up a routine for 3.42 every afternoon – for when he got home from school. He was confused – and somewhat disappointed – when it didn’t work; neither of us could find a problem, so we were forced to leave it there.

That is, until 3.42 the following morning, when my sleep was interrupted by Katy Perry’s “Roar” blaring out at some god-forsaken volume from Alexa – followed by the news. It seems that Alexa’s “routines” work exclusively on the 24 hour clock. We soon taught ourselves how to correct that particular problem, but the potential for another disturbed night managed to wake me up again without any alarms blaring – my own internal alarm clock seemed ready to leap into action. I’ve not caught up on my sleep since, but I suspect that is a common theme as a parent.