I have just come in from a walk around the garden with himself. Lambs bleating and horses’ hooves thundering in the fields next to us. Bindweed, my nemesis, beckoning me to linger longer looting the weeds from their well rooted beds.
Such is the typical evening of our Lockdown 2020 lifestyle here @ChezWise in Cloon village. #HomeSweetHome
We moved into our brand-new home exactly a year ago (June 2019). We ordered one of those flatpack Scandinavian homes from https://www.scanhome.ie/ and I have to say, it was unequivocally the best decision ever. Since moving home to Ireland in 2008, after a 15 yr stint in America, we had been renting for 11 yrs. I had come to terms with renting for the rest of our lives, until our landlord told us he was selling his house. This was the 2nd time that had happened in 10 yrs. The 1st lease was a long term lease (5 yrs with option to renew) and upon ‘renewal’ the landlord sold the house, and here we were in the next house, another 5yr lease with option to renew and same thing – the landlord decided he was selling his house.
I was fine renting. I was NOT FINE letting someone else decide when it was time for me to move on and find a new home. So, we had a family pow-wow with the Mammy and my siblings to see if we could try for planning permission on a piece of land Mum had bought shortly after Dad had passed away (Dec 1999). She was denied planning permission (twice!) because she did not have a housing need, so the land was just sitting there idle. In Cloon village. Home.
Late October, with the Mammy and one of my brothers, we had a pre-planning meeting with Galway County Council, and as soon as they heard it was a flat-pack Scandinavian Home, they did not need to see or hear much more. These houses are bland to look at, to be honest. White rendered exterior, a few nice big windows and most of them are fairly boilerplate in style and design.
The budget was set, the windows ordered (and paid for) all before planning was granted. We (himself, myself, the two teens, dog and cat) had to move out of our rented home and into a converted horse shed for 6 months .. with only one bathroom (#FirstWorldProblems – I know!). Granny, bless her cotton socks, also got her eviction notice to move out 4 months before the house was due to arrive, so she lived ‘on-site’ in my sister’s camper van.
The weeks flew by. The house arrived from Sweden on Feb19th 2019 and we all moved in, lock, stock and barrel, on June 19th. Not a thing out of place – a fully intact, beautiful passive home – turnkey and all under budget.
Thank god this occurred last year, I think I would be writing from the sanitorium somewhere of we had been held up in Covid-Construction 2020. This house, our lovely modest home, has been our sanity during lockdown.
Sitting on just about one acre of land, I am back home in the village where I was reared. These roads, every nook and cranny of them, know my footsteps. The bog still bustles with busy neighbours from early in the Springtime making haste while the sun shines. The mushrooms still pop at the same time in the morning of July, early dawn, and I am ready to grab them. The neighbours all stop, wave, chat and are genuinely delighted to see me, Mum, my husband and children all settled back into the village.
Like my father was before me, and probably one of his traits I am most happy to have, I am an early riser. Covid has given us all the gift of time. I have been spending the early mornings rambling around the garden, fighting a never-ending battle with BindWeed with one hand, while gripping a mug of my deep dark coffee in the other. The neighbouring farmer has gifted me a field full of Ewes and their babies, who ironically LOVE the BindWeed. The mornings are less eventful now, as I just wander around inspecting the beer traps on the Dahlias and smirk smugly where the BindWeed once was; knowing lambs are the trick to eradicate it has been life changing.
Himself, finding himself ‘furloughed’ at the start of Covid, has settled into the humdrum existence of co-existing with two (terrible) teens.
I am not sure a day has gone by where we have not wandered around the garden after dinner, clutching our wine glasses, wondering what in the name of god were we thinking when we decided to have kids. I have nodded knowingly in the direction of other parents who have confided in me that they too are at the end of their teenage-tether, trying to get theirs
(a) out of bed and
(b) to do something (ok, anything) without causing or instigating Word War III.
And those who have smallies, or even the golden-age kiddies aged 7-9 yrs old who LOVE their parents and just want to spend every waking moment with them, I see them, and I nod in their general direction wanting to scream ‘Ha!, just you wait until the hormones kick in and they hate you!’ but I say nothing.
I curl up quietly, alone, mourning the loss of ‘nice kids’ in this phase of my life and understand that being a teenager right now sucks. It sucks big time. And for those parents out there who have glorious relationships with your teenagers, well done. You are in the minority, so treasure it and carry on. No need to brag about it and bring us further to our knees.
In saying that, and because I have managed to keep myself ridiculously busy at work, first in the Contact Tracing Centre at GMIT (that is a whole other story), and now with the Return to Campus Committee, I get to escape every day. Sometimes only virtually, locked in a room with headphones on for TEAMS or ZOOM meetings, but at least 3 days per week ‘out of the house’ and on campus; it is BLISS.
Himself, on the other hand, who has worked in the food service industry his whole life, never saw this coming. He never thought he would receive this gift of TIME with TEENAGERS. (He sees it as a gift!).
The list of ‘jobs’ they have completed is quite lengthy and includes but is not limited to painting inside, and outside the house. Layering the front garden with horse manure and bog peat because our soil was shocking bad, and he does like growing flowers (for me) and veggies for the family. Sanding and painting the deck which is the size of a dancefloor (party anyone?), planting 50 bare-root Rosa Ragusas, some gorgeous black stemmed Hydrangeas, rebuilding of a 100 yr old wall and still needing help with this (anyone??), building a small bike shed out of pallets, laying cardboard on top of the souped-up-soil in the garden, then topping that with straw and woodchips to reveal a whole new ‘no dig garden’ experience. If you do not know about this, you should research Charles Dowding immediately – this is the way to go for the lowest maintenance garden we have ever had.
So how on earth did he get the teenagers to get out of bed every day and work alongside him? Well, it’s not like they were willing or happy to do it – yet they did (for him!). Every time he called them, and not typically before 11am, they would traipse down the stairs, usually complaining and moaning that they had been woken too early, hit the coffee pot hard and eat a Weetabix. He would give them the heads-up on what he wanted to accomplish for the day – typically not massive goals, just enough to get something done ‘before the rain’ or ‘after the rain’.
They would work their socks off, have a late lunch then disappear until he called them again when it was time to prep supper.
For weeks now, we have not really fed them. We have made sure there is ample food in the fridge and larder, but if they want hot meals, they can prep it themselves.
Occasionally, one of them might pipe up ‘oh, we can just eat whatever you are eating’ because they are too lazy or tired to do it themselves, but for the most part, them making their own meals, and cleaning up their own mess, has been the highlight of lockdown for us parents.
Initially, I was hesitant, thinking they might either (a) starve or (b) get rickets from the lack of nutrition as full on meals of ‘all white food’ (bread, pasta, cheese) seemed to be favoured.
But the longer we let them at it, the more they started to introduce slabs of robust and ruby Tomatoes, and curly Kale and mustard greens from the garden. They would fight over the Duck eggs Granny would share with us, knowing who’s turn it was to get one. They would choose his Sourdough slabs for their sandwiches, ignoring the sliced pans. The more freedom we gave, the less likely they were to make bad choices.
It’s hard guys n’ dolls. Lockdown 2020 is an experience none of us saw coming and to be honest, even though I fear another surge and another lockdown is imminent, I hope we never experience it again.
But we must navigate our way through this together. We must quit pretending everything is fantastic. It is ok to admit that this is bloody hard. Parents are expected to home-school their kids while working full time and still running a household,
Who knows what September will bring? All I know is, that the Teacher’s health matters as much as your health or mine, or the health of our extended families. And if we can’t put a system in place to protect those who teach and care for our kids 5 days a week, then we must wait.
Time is a gift. Time with our families is a bigger gift.
Time with Teenagers is a BLESSING (ha ha – I’m not crying, you are crying!).