I need a haircut.
I was going to start this post about our (relative) success with potty training and progress into my thoughts on a continued lockdown. I will get to these topics, but first I’ve got a bit of real life to relive. You see, life’s complicated. It’s not always easy; it’s not always hard. It’s mostly somewhere in-between – that squidgy grey place people have a hard time defining – that makes up the majority of our days. Yesterday was one of those days.
I’d promised my husband I’d look after our daughter for the morning while he went to work to get a few things done. He left around 0830 and Beaner woke up a short time later. (Yes, I know we’ve gotten lucky with a toddler who sleeps for 13 hours each night.) Maybe I was still tired, maybe it was the four potty accidents in one hour after breakfast, maybe it was that I felt I wasn’t paying my daughter enough attention, but the morning was hard. I wanted to get a few easy chores done – put away some towels, vacuum the lounge, put out the recycling – and it seemed even that was too much to ask with a toddler in tow who wouldn’t stop peeing her pants. I grew frustrated, tried to hold it together until my husband came home, and then gave up. I texted him that it would be really nice if he could come back and help me. Which was a little disingenuous on my part, as I was already committed to being the parent who cleaned up after lunch, did one more potty sit, and got Beaner ready for her nap. Maybe I was emotionally exhausted from all the little fails in the morning. Maybe it was the culmination of a seven-month-deployment’s worth of being the sole caregiver. Maybe I woke up on the wrong side of the bed. I high-fived the childcare responsibilities to my husband and headed upstairs for a nap.
True to his committed self, my husband got our toddler when she started stirring, leaving me to sleep for a while longer. When I woke up, I felt better and much less frustrated. He, on the other hand, was full of the same frustration I had earlier. Except he was also frustrated at me for not being able to get as much done at work as I had promised him. Which made me feel incredibly guilty, like I was a terrible wife and mother. My head started screaming at me, “If you can’t even make it through a morning with one toddler, do you really think you can handle more kids?” It was a depressing thought. I’ve been a straight-A student, a three-season Varsity athlete, and a Marine combat helicopter pilot, not to mention I’ve survived flight school, SERE school, grad school, a move to a foreign country, and pregnancy and labor, yet I’m failing at being a loving wife and patient mother. This being-cooped-up-at-home-with-no-child-care thing is wearing me down. I was never cut out to be a full-time stay-at-home mom.
After we put the Bean down for the night, my husband and I talked about the day. Both of us were clearly upset and frustrated at what amounted to a normal day in the life of raising a toddler. We talked about trying different parenting methods – maybe we just need to care less about certain things? – and spinning a negative request into a positive one. We think she’s too young for time out, but she certainly knows how to press our buttons. She looks at us, grins like an imp, and continues to do the thing we’ve asked her nicely to stop doing. Or she’ll simply flop on the ground, her legs turned into spaghetti noodles, and giggle at our attempts to coax her back up. We’ve tried ignoring her and waiting, we’ve tried picking her up and standing her on her feet, and we’ve tried carrying her to her next destination. All of them feel wrong when they don’t work. She’s full-on when she’s awake and one of us always has to have an eye on her. It’s exhausting. It’s no wonder I felt balanced in my work-parent equation when I could put her into nursery 30 hours a week. It’s no wonder I’m crossing my fingers nurseries will reopen next week. I bet I’m not the only one wishing this.
But on to my updates. It’s been five weeks since lockdown started and one month since we decided to start potty training. Let’s just say I’m ready to get out of the house. It’s not that Beaner’s not been progressing – she’s done so well she’s been upgraded to wearing pants (trousers) over her pants (underwear) – it’s quite the opposite. I’m ready to take her out to lunch somewhere, or visit a friend, or even walk at the local National Trust site. My last post had us sitting her on the toilet every fifteen minutes. We’re now waiting 45 minutes, sometimes a whole hour. Sure, the timing’s been wrong sometimes and that’s incredibly frustrating (reference: yesterday), but she knows what she’s doing and she normally waits until her bare bottom hits the seat. And we’ve even made inroads into the poo front. By my count, we’re two-thirds of the way there: she knows what poo is (“Poo! Poooo!”) and she knows she’s done a poo (frantically making the “poop” hand gesture, which looks a lot like “bean,” “nut,” “help,” “tractor,” and many others). It’s just the having to go sensation we’re working on. I have hope it’ll click like the pee suddenly did fifteen days into our journey.
Meanwhile, the plebs are getting restless. I decided to risk a grocery trip to our local supermarket, Tesco, Wednesday night. Bean was down, dinner was done, and I figured most people wouldn’t be motivated enough to trolley around at nearly nine o’clock at night looking for Cheerios and trash bags amid a stupid one-way aisle system. I was right. The store was nearly empty. Finally, I thought, I found the perfect time to get my shopping done. Wrong. I can forgive the blatant disregard of the one-way system; I thought it was overkill from the get-go. But despite all the space in the world, I had people continually veering into my six-foot Covid-free bubble. This was taking the piss.
I’m not worried about catching Covid-19. I’m pretty sure I’ve already had it, and I’m not what you would call a good candidate for “vulnerable person” status anyway. I don’t wear a mask, I don’t wear gloves, and I’m not scared of this virus. I do carry hand sanitizer and wet wipes, and I limit the amount of time I’m out and about. I am cognizant of who I’ve been around and I wash my hands more often now. I try to give people their requisite two meter berth. But hell if I wasn’t bombarded by too-close Tesco shoppers grabbing shit off the shelves right in front of me. I turned around to one particularly clueless woman, said “sorry” (holy hell, I’m becoming more British every day) even though she invaded my space, and then let loose an under-my-breath tirade about social distancing and this sure doesn’t look like six feet. It would have been funny had she not been such a fuckwit.
My Tesco escapade taught me that nearly everyone’s getting tired of lockdown. More and more European countries are relaxing their restrictions; even some States are opening back up. I know it depends on each situation, but I feel the UK went overboard on safety, which is not surprising given the “nanny state” running of this country. We have flattened the curve. We haven’t overwhelmed the NHS or ICUs or hospital beds. There’s talk of underutilization of these assets; that people weren’t showing up for cancer screening, organ transplants, or chemotherapy because they were either afraid of catching Covid-19 or thought they were helping by staying away for the short term. We’re now hearing about the toll on people who genuinely should have gone to the hospital. I feel the economic impact is going to be more of the same: “Oh, shit. We should have reopened a few things a bit earlier.” Maybe I’m too callous in my observations, maybe I’m too white, young, healthy, middle-class, or educated, but this isn’t Ebola we’re talking about. And although we as a world have done a great job of coming together to restrict the spread of this disease by curtailing people’s freedoms (another discussion entirely), we must surely realize these are only temporary measures. We will face another coronavirus or similar infection again. We are certainly all connected in our global lives. I feel this is just the beginning of a new normal.
Hang in there.