Opinion with Matthew Munson: Family life in lockdown

Bryan opts for the Christmas jumper

Snow. Rain. Freezing cold temperatures. Lockdown. Don’t those words just bring joy to your heart? No, mine neither.

During a flurry of snow, Bryan even dug out his Christmas jumper to keep warm; my instructions to “put a jumper on” were clearly nebulous enough.

At times of cold, wet, and chill, it’s important to find joy in other moments – even microcosms if that’s where they are. It’s hard to describe a week in lockdown when it’s mostly made up of individual days that are very similar – but we still feel content.

At the moment, Bryan goes to school Monday to Thursday, so the rest of the time is usually taken up with talking about his day, feeding him, encouraging him to read … and then sleep. What happened there? But the days seem to fly by.

On a Friday, Bryan does home-learning with me; I work him hard in the morning with his schoolwork, we play together at lunch, and then he gets to talk to his siblings over Facetime in the afternoon. It is a pleasure to hear them laughing together; he misses them terribly, of course, but we have a wonderful relationship with their parents and they are given some brilliant opportunities to share time. Every Friday during lockdown has become a family day, and I see the joy in his face – that makes it all worthwhile.

Being a parent is never easy, and being a single parent makes it even more intense at times; you have to try and be the fun parent, the disciplinarian, and the peacemaker. I am a fairly stubborn sort, and so is Bryan, so it is down to me to try and set an example – especially when there is no-one else around to counterbalance our personality dynamics. I need to watch that stubborn dynamic carefully as he grows up and ensure that it doesn’t come out in too many arguments – one can but hope.

I’m only 39 physically (mentally, I’m 12), but my body is falling apart, which makes it harder to be active as much as my son when he wants to be on the go all the time. Just this week, I sneezed funny or slept awkwardly or something and had pulled muscles all across my right shoulder and chest. Let me repeat the salient fact; I’m 39, for heaven’s sake, but my body is no longer cooperating, and with a child to look after, that is not fun.

Weeks go by quickly enough during lockdown; we miss things that we can do in a “normal” week – going down the arcades, going out for lunch, going to the cinema – but we’ve learnt so many new things. I’ve seen Bryan come alive in the last year in some ways; he has discovered new hobbies (art, learning about myths, nature walks) that I wonder would we have discovered so soon, and I can help him with other things. School has been amazing for his emotional states, which are complex, deep, and thoughtful – I am incredibly grateful they have been there for him … for us as a family. We have needed the extra support, and they have given it.

Cold? Yes. Wet? Yes. A bit chilly? Yes. Lockdown frustrations? Absolutely. But I’m not going to be one to complain; we have got time together, I am working differently this time, and we have been through this before. I can’t wait for sunnier days and for pandemic to disappear, but life now is pretty good in our little bubble. We’re all different, of course, and I empathise with people who are struggling; if Bryan and I can do anything to help, then we will, and I will help my son be as resilient as possible. After all, it’s not every year you live through events people will be studying in history classes thirty years from now.