A couple of things over the last few weeks have reminded me about this blog and sent me back to re-read old posts.
It’s so lovely, after several years away, to revisit snippets of a period that now seems a lifetime ago. Not only are the small children I wrote about no longer any such thing, with hormones and height replacing tantrums and toys, but I’m in my second job, third house and twenty second month of not drinking since I last blogged regularly.
And then, of course, there’s the fact that it would all probably feel unrecognisable even if I’d written it last year, given how 2020 has panned out so far.
It’s made me realise, in that Thought for the Day kind of way (I may have been away for ages, but trite – apparently – never dies) just how weird time has become. I’ve come to appreciate that the daily routine of up and out (and roundabout), were to me somewhat as the corset was to the Victorians: constricting and uncomfortable, sure, but also conferring an illusion of form to what would otherwise be prone to shapelessness.
People say that this unoccupied time has been a gift, and it absolutely has, but I’ve been an ungrateful recipient. I’ve been forced to acknowledge, yet again, that left with days to pattern as I will, the results aren’t impressive. Trying each morning to provide structure and purpose for everyone from scratch, in the absence of anyone telling us what to do or anywhere we have to be, requires piecing together a mosaic of a million unspoken efforts – and I am not very good at it.
Today and tomorrow mark the end of this school year for us. So far, the only thing which has borne any resemblance to what I’m not yet ready to call the old normal has been the issuing of reports which, in the case of secondary school, have been all about once unfamiliar concepts like Teams and distance learning, while primary has had the admirable honesty to admit that I am far more likely to know how my child has fared since March than they are. And that’s it, year done.
It’s brought it home to me how much, especially with children, our lives are calibrated against the seasonality of the (school) year. There are the small weekly patterns, but then the bigger markers of Halloween and Christmas shows; parents’ evening and the Easter service; sports day and end of term discos and the summer fete. Holidays punctuate the months, signifying a break which may or may not amount to much more than the simple absence of school, but carving the year into domino-sized chunks which knock each other along seemingly without input from us.
There’s been none of that since March. The days have taken on a sameness and a speed which is hard to reconcile with the busy drag of Normal. At the beginning of lockdown, the first signs of spring were tiny reasons for hope, reminders that things renew and return. Now, four months later, with the weather decidedly unhelpful, holidays cancelled and weeks of working from home with bored and mildly neglected children on the cards, the tiny whispers of autumn feel more like a threat. It’s hard, in the absence of the usual last few weeks of grubby polo shirts and school trousers flapping inches above the ankle, to reconcile myself to the fact that this summer is already well under way, and that the new term, with all its challenges underlying the welcome return to school, is really not that far off.
I think subconsciously I’ve been imagining that we’d get injury time added on at the end of all this, whenever that might be, to make up for all the missed milestones. And of course, we won’t – the children are exactly as much older as they would have been under normal circumstances, exactly as much closer towards all of the nexts and the news that they have to go through as they grow up, although some of them will have to happen differently, at least for now. Life is never a given, we know this, and yet expecting to be able to mark off the passage of time in a way that feels familiar to us is no a privilege no less real for having been utterly taken for granted.