Lockdown Loneliness

I know I am absolutely not alone in what I am about to talk about, and no doubt there are other stories out there more complex and well put together than mine, but this week has been a tough one. And because of that I want to say this and put it out there.

I am lonely.

I brought a lot of this on myself. I moved cross country with a 3 month old, leaving my family and support network behind, started a new job a few months later and then a worldwide pandemic hit. Which, in my defense, I couldn’t have predicted.

Now, don’t misunderstand me, I am not alone. I am in this lockdown world with my partner and our now toddler. But there is something unique about family ties, and celebrating the little man’s birthday this last week without the help of that family really brought the loneliness to a head.

The nephews who live closest are both teenagers, and I have spent many of their birthdays – and the day and night and sometimes week before – helping bake, decorate, facepaint. Just generally doing whatever needed to be done. And it has always been a team effort. And last week I realised how much I miss that team.

The night before his birthday I stayed up way past my usual bedtime decorating, blowing up balloons, putting confetti on the table and just generally making the place different. Making it special. He can’t see his family, he has no one to make a fuss over him but us, so I made a fuss.

When he woke the next morning – later than normal, thanks for that present buddy – we went into his room with balloons and he played in his cot, the biggest grin on his face as he giggled, bouncing the balloons around the room. Then we came downstairs to find more balloons in the hall, and birthday banners and even more balloons in the kitchen and sitting room. The kid didn’t know where to look. He was grinning and laughing from the moment he woke up. And that’s how it should be.

He had the best day. There were diggers and new books. Cards and parcels came through the letter box. A new sand pit to play in with his diggers which kept him entertained for most of the afternoon. A chocolate cake covered in diggers and chocolate gravel. Zoom calls with all the grandparents and aunts and uncles. He was the centre of attention. Exactly as it should be.

And then, when he finally went to bed, I was left with the aftermath. Chocolate cake crumbs mixed with confetti across the table and floor. More sand on the ground and in the house than in the sandpit. New toys and books strewn across every surface. A sink and countertops overflowing from ignoring the normal daily chores. And in that moment, looking at the mess left from a day of celebration, I felt completely alone and sadder than I have felt in a long time. The Dad has a regular standing Friday night online game session, and there had been a conversation the day before about him missing it but I told him no, play, once the kid was in bed the day was done. And even if he hadn’t played that night, I think the loneliness still would have hit. Because it’s a different kind of alone. I realised just how much having my sisters close by means to me.

So once the birthday boy had gone to bed and I had made a half hearted attempt at tidying up, I sent a message to one sister, and they happened to be together. So we video called and had a drink and a chat, just as we would have done if it weren’t for the lockdown and living in different counties. And it was lovely to see their faces and laugh and chat and just generally hang out, as much as we can, given the circumstances. And it was what I needed. I find even when I do call people to talk, no one has anything to actually talk about. So that night, having put the Birthday Boy to bed, for a change we had some topics – mostly digger and cake related – to talk about. But it felt close to normal.

Right now, I am doing my bit. I am wearing my mask and even though the restrictions have eased slightly I am staying home aside from essential travel. Because I don’t want to be the reason I can’t go see my family this summer. I don’t want to know that I could have done something differently. I need my kid to start mixing with people other than me and Dad. He needs to be around people who love him and not just once in a while through a screen. I need to sit and talk and laugh with a gin in my hand over normal things with the people I miss while he runs around with his cousins. I need to breathe. To relax, to let someone else take responsibility for him for a few hours. I need to taste the salt on my lips after a few hours at the beach. I want him to see that the sand goes on for miles, and to have him lose himself in the joy of digging holes on the shoreline.

I need my shoulders to come down from around my ears. I am lonely. I can’t wait not to be.

Second Lockdown Birthday

When we had your first birthday in Lockdown I kept thinking this is fine. You don’t know what’s going on anyway so having it just be the three of us is more disappointing for me than it is for you or Dad. I think Dad was secretly relieved.
At the time I said it’s fine. We’ll just have to go big next year.
Well here we are. Next year. You are two. And this is another lockdown birthday.

Truthfully, you still have no idea what’s going on, not really,  so the fact that nobody can visit for your birthday isn’t a problem for you. You can’t miss what you’ve never had. But it breaks my heart. I’ve been keeping the sorrow at bay with planning and optimism, but no amount of positivity is going to change what is going on in our world.

Your second birthday will once again be just the three of us. You, me and Dad. And I have kind of over compensated for what you are missing out on. I go big for birthdays anyway. At least I try to. A birthday is a celebration. Of life, of love, of joy. The fact you got another year older. The fact we are successfully raising a sweet, funny, silly little boy and doing so while stuck in a crazy world that doesn’t know up from down right now. A celebration of the best thing I’ve ever done, and a celebration of what helped me stay sane in lockdown. (Though that last one is debatable). So I have gone big. I chose a theme and I ran with it.  Dad watched me,  probably wondering what he has to build or how to get out of decorating, as I researched and planned. I discussed ideas with him but I think by now he knows me well enough to know that if I start with ‘I was thinking of doing; making; getting’ its easier to just agree and let me run. I’m gonna do it anyway.

Our theme is the theme of so many other birthday parties for 2 year old boys – construction. You love nothing more than watching the diggers and dumptrucks on the building site, and we are fortunate to live slap bang in the middle of several. Our daily walks consist of going between each of them in the hopes of seeing some action.  A digger digging, a dump truck dumping, and on rare exciting occasions, a cement truck delivering cement. So I have balloons in red, orange, yellow and black. I even have some shaped like dump trucks. Your cake is a construction site, complete with mini vehicles and chocolate rubble. There is bright yellow caution tape wrapped around your chair. And a new digger – with screwdriver so you can take it apart – is waiting for you to unwrap.

I hope you sense that this is a special day. That it is a day all about you and that you are loved beyond measure by not just us, but everyone in your life. All the cards dropping through the letterbox this week are making you smile, even if you don’t know what they are. You hear the clunk of the letterbox and get excited, running to see what’s there. And you are becoming a dab hand at getting cards out of envelopes. And at tearing tape from the boxes your parcels arrive in. Though the practice from all my online purchases may have helped you there.

It has been a strange year since your first Birthday, but one I wouldn’t change. We’ve gotten to spend so much time with you, just us. We get to see every minute of every day of yours. We are there for every new discovery, new word, new trick. We have been exceptionally lucky when it comes to the time we are getting to spend with you.

Without you this last year would have been tedious. Life with a toddler can be repetitive, as is lockdown life. But a life with you in it is never boring. You make me smile and laugh every day, and you are a joy to be with.

Happy Second Birthday my little man.

Mother’s Day The Second

Mother’s Day was almost two weeks ago, and it was my second Mothers day as an actual mother. And it’s strange because I feel like I have always been this iteration of myself. A little bit like there was no me before me as a mom. And I am not saying that he completes me or that I need him to feel whole. Just that I feel I spent a lot of time in my life trying to be someone I’m not. Trying to fit in. Trying so hard to be liked; to say the right thing; to be who others wanted or needed me to be. And it was only in recent years that I feel I stopped trying so hard. Or at least I’ve gotten better at recognising the types of people who bring that out in me. 

But since I became a mom I am more me. I am more like the person I used to be. My son doesn’t care about my job. He doesn’t care whether I am dressed to impress or if I look like I’ve rolled out of bed backwards. He just needs me to be me. He loves me no matter what. Because I’m his mom. He just wants me to show up, to be involved. 

Right now, he wants me to sit with him while he watches Hey Duggee. He wants me to take a turn using his new lawnmower. He wants to be up cooking and baking with me, even if all I’m doing is pouring a bowl of cereal. He wants me to colour with the green pencil.  No, the other green pencil. He wants to give me all the random bits of fluff and dirt he finds on the floor, that threaten to ruin his sparkling clean floor he spent the morning sweeping. Correction, I spent the morning sweeping. Under his supervision. 

He looks to me when he’s excited about something, to confirm what he’s heard and to share in his excitement. It’s difficult to get excited about every bin truck and digger and tractor and plane, but I do it. I do it because he is excited about it. Because for him, this isn’t the 1 millionth plane that has flown overhead or the same tractor we’ve seen every day this month. For him this is all still new and exciting and fascinating. I try to remember that he is an explorer and adventurer, that every single thing he encounters is new, and if he happens to encounter it a second or third time, that is just as exciting because look! Here’s proof that I didn’t imagine it. That this thing is real and it exists and there is more than one. 

Mother’s Day is always portrayed as a day where Mother’s get the day off. And while I would love a day to myself – to rest, to read, to listen to my music so loud it can be heard three doors away – having an almost 2 year old meant that was never going to happen. He took the meaning of Mother’s Day to be that he needed to be with me, on me, beside me at all times. I couldn’t leave the room without him following me. Although I gather this is quite normal for his age I found it funny that one of the first days he really showed this deeply intense need to be near me was Mothers day.

I spent too much time before this trying to be who others needed me to be, who I thought I had to be to fit in. And now I am still trying to be who someone else needs me to be, but this one is easier. This time it comes more naturally to me. Because all this person needs me to be is me. To be me and to love him. To play and to sing and to laugh with him. And all of that I do willingly. Even on days where he wants me to be that person at 5am, I am willing. He is helping me remember what it is I like about myself. Those things when you’re a kid that get squashed and silenced as we grow up.

The silliness. The craziness. The desire to read and read and read. To climb and clamber and explore. To sing loudly and dance around the kitchen. To bake a chocolate cake just because its a rainy day and we have the ingredients.

He is helping me find the me that I used to love. I’ve missed her.

Dear Hull

Originally posted on Facebook in March 2020

Dear Hull,

Lately I’m missing you. I’m thinking about my favourite times, my favourite places.

The Top Deck in Princes Quay, before it made way for yet another cinema. The hours upon hours spent in Sun Café studying, reading, writing essays, but mostly drinking tea and having chats. Sharkeys and the gorgeous cocktails. Being introduced to Spiders and realising what had been missing from my weekends. Discovering Asda (we didn’t have it in Ireland). Fudge Cafe. Sleepers. Larkins bar. Larkin! Arthur Miller and our tiny class in the library. That library and the fabulous view. The beginning of my promising but never fulfilled career as a tour guide, showing prospective students the campus but selling that view!

Newland Ave and all it had to offer. I must have walked you a thousand times or more. Ever changing, ever constant. The tight little beauty box store where I purchased a box that would give me the worst hair colour I have ever had! (I mean it was orange). And then bought a second box to fix it. The Queens pub, always saying I’d go more and rarely making it.
Princes Ave and its bars and restaurants. Dukes! The weirdly wonderful shop at the end of my road that sold all sorts of gifts, cards, odds and ends(the name escapes me, and it is long gone). Pearson Park and the untold joy of finding George the iguana living there, and seeing a real life axolotl for the first time. Afternoons spent sitting in the sunshine.

The International Office and the International Students Association. Best decision I made first year was becoming an active member.
Planet Coffee. Hull Fair.
The Bee Lady! (is she still going?)
Hull New Theatre and feeling extravagant when I could afford a ticket for a show.

The Humber Bridge and the joy I felt every time I saw it from the train, knowing I was so close to being back in my adopted home.

The random giant TV in the city centre – if anyone could ever enlighten me as to its original purpose I’d be ever grateful. Great meeting point though.

Newland Fisheries – oh my god best chips in Hull by a mile!

But mostly, and importantly, I feel nostalgic for the people, the community, the spirit and the life. The chatting for hours about everything and nothing. The shared experiences. Introducing people to movies I love (Oscar anyone?). The many, many nights spent in sanctuary bar singing karaoke. The Old Grey Mare, our regular Thursday dinner before Sanctuary. The random road trips (Spurn head?). The hundreds of games of pool.  Dancing the night away in Asylum with DJ Ferby playing the tunes! The friendships. The dramas! The stories that unfolded on the long walk home.

Why the sudden burst of nostalgia? My life has changed considerably over the last 18 months, all for good, but it’s got me thinking. And just because we may not be in contact and I may not be able to visit doesn’t mean you are not in my thoughts. And I suppose I wanted to let you know you are always a part of me.

Lockdown Nostalgia

Lockdown has made me nostalgic. Almost a year ago I wrote a letter on facebook to my adopted city, my college home away from home, and I find myself drawn to the city again now. (I’ll add the original Dear Hull letter in a separate post). I merely wrote about the things I missed, though a few experiences creeped in there too.

The other night I was suddenly and without warning transported back to a moment in time. Sitting in an old mans pub in Old Town with work colleagues, the name of which was completely escaping me. But I knew exactly where it was. So at 11.15 at night I was lying in bed, the only light coming from my far too bright screen as I wandered the streets of Hull via Google maps looking for this elusive pub. And I found it, of course. Temporarily closed, as like everything else. The Burlington Tavern, for anyone wondering. Nice pub. It was down the street from my work place. And while I hated the job – sales, not for me, didn’t quite last 6 months – the people were wonderful. All a bit cracked. My kind of folk.

As with most work groups, there were a couple of groups within the group. There was the younger guys (and one guy who wanted to be younger) who would be out all weekend, drinking to excess and inevitably showing up late to work on a Monday morning. These guys would take to Lloyds or Weatherspoons on Friday after work and would stay there for the night. I would sometimes join them for a couple of drinks but would politely make my excuses and leave early on. Not my scene, thanks all the same.

Then there were the other crowd, made up of misfits and oddballs. And I say that lovingly, because they were the ones I felt most at ease with. And it was with these particular people that I would find myself sitting in The Burlington after work on a Friday. I didn’t go often, and I certainly was not a regular, but it was nice to sit and talk with people who were all doing a job because it was a merely a job, a means to an end. To talk with people of varying ages who were all in similar boats.

Talking about these after work drinks led the Dad to ask about the job I held after this one, and where did that crowd go for team bonding? Which led us on a merry wander of Bev Rerd, looking at memorable haunts, and some haunting memories.

For the uninitiated – so, most of you – Beverley Road (to give it its full and proper title), stretches from Hull City Centre and eventually pairs up with Cottingham Road, which is the University address. Bev Road was, and by the looks of it, still is, home to an array of pubs and student friendly eateries. I’d say restaurants but that would be overly generous.

I tended to stick to its trendier counterparts, Newland Ave and Princes Ave. Trendy and tailored to the students who crowded them for 9 months of the year. Full of shops and pubs and restaurants, forever changing yet forever constant.

I have been trying to decide why I am feeling so nostalgic lately. Is it simply the huge life changes crashing in on me? A baby, a move to a new city and a new job, all followed shortly after by a world wide pandemic can’t be good for consistency and life balance. Is it just the being a parent thing? I love him and wouldn’t change him, but that time in my life was so full of options and possibilities. Every day was an opportunity to meet a new person or try something different. I suppose that’s what university is all about.

Yes, university, college if you prefer, is about learning and study and forging a path for yourself through academia. But it’s also about forging a path for yourself in your personal life too. Finding out who you want to be, or as is maybe more important, who you don’t want to be. Try that sport or drink or activity and realise that no, Ultimate Frisbee is not your sport, Snakey B is as bad as it sounds and politics is definitely not your area of expertise. But look at that, you crossed three more things off your list.

Maybe I am nostalgic for the lost possibilities. For the what if’s, the sliding doors moments. There are no regrets – okay, maybe some – but there is always a little bit of curiosity.

Maybe I am missing human interaction. I was a bit of a social butterfly at university and now I can count on two hands the amount of people I am still in touch with from back then.

Recently, under another late night nostalgia bubble, reached out to an old University friend. One I hadn’t spoken to in a decade. I sent an email off into outer space thinking surely this is a non starter, this email address must be dead. But she replied a few days later. This was weeks ago and I still don’t know how I feel about hearing from her. But I was the one that initiated it so I can’t really back out now. But, thankfully I suppose, she is also a mum to a toddler so the emails are few and far between.

I miss people. I miss talking to people, getting to know them. Sitting over a tea or a drink and having nowhere to be and nobody relying on me and just being. Existing. Enjoying the moment. I think partially that’s why I am writing again. To exist. To be present and enjoy the moment. To remind me who I am again. Because being his mum is amazing and wonderful, but it is not all I am. I feel like the she of my uni days has been lost somewhere. But I’m here, trying to find her again.

Original Dear Hull letter can be found here – https://mommymostly.com/2021/02/24/dear-hull/


*not us in the picture, just liked the leaning into the cot. He looks a lot more comfortable than I usually feel.

Most of this was written on my phone, in the dark, in mid November. I’ve since added to it and thought more about it. Still true now, I was leaning into his cot again last night.

I’m standing in the dark, one slipper on, one off, leaning into my son’s cot, rubbing his back and dreaming about someone else rubbing mine. It hurts. I’ve been standing here for I don’t know how long. Long enough to decide to take out my phone and type one handed. But the thing is, I will continue to do this any time he needs it, backache be damned, because that’s just what you do isn’t it?

My biggest problem currently is how to lean in comfortably. I’m quite short so sitting on the chair I have next to his cot for feeding and cuddles isn’t an option because then the the cot just digs into my armpit and my fingertips just about reach his back. Assuming he’s on the edge of the cot closest to me. If he’s against the wall its a non starter.

I don’t want to sound like a broken record and talk about his sleeping habits again but I’m gonna. He is getting so much better. His daytime naps are a dream – 99% of the time anyway – but at night is when the issues begin. We do exactly the same thing at night as we do during the day but it just doesn’t seem to work for him as well. But, once he is asleep he stays that way, pretty solidly, for most of the night. He will wake once, maybe twice and usually not for long. But how he falls asleep has changed. If he is awake going into the cot someone (me!) has to sit with him, rub his back, generally just be there and be a comfort to him. We have managed on a few occasions to leave the room while he’s awake and he will fall asleep himself. But, more often than not, if we leave the room he either screams bloody murder or lies there and taps the mattress or plays with his teddy or moves around the bed like a gymnast in training. None of which helps him sleep. But me being there and rubbing his back or his head, that seems to help him sleep.

All I want for him – and me – is a good nights sleep, a good rest, to be able to have a full action packed day the next day and not miss out. Not that a lack of sleep seems to bother him too much. He is still raring to go once he wakes up, whether that’s after 10 minutes or 10 hours. I on the other hand, I’d prefer the 10 hours please.

We’ve had a few days now where he has fallen asleep for his mid day nap only to wake 15 or 20 minutes later and abjectly refuse to go back to sleep. He’s had a power nap and is ready to rock and roll and destroy. We, the parental team, are not fans of these days and are looking to the day when he rejects naps altogether with fear and nervousness. What are we going to do with a child who is up from 7 til 7 with no stopping in between?

He is like a little ball of energy. It’s almost like he doesn’t need the sleep. I keep comparing him to Taz, remember him? The cartoon Tasmanian devil who would spin and cause destruction in his wake, never stopping to check or even notice the mess he left behind. That’s our kid. We use nap time to try to regain some attempt at our house looking normal and catching up on chores.

I have to be thankful for Covid for one thing, at least no one is calling to the house to visit! If they were I think it would have to come with a disclaimer – Please Note! This household contains a rambunctious toddler. Please secure any loose or delicate items upon entering, including arms and feet, that you do not wish to have torn, thrown or tasted. Also, those of a ticklish nature, do not initiate tickles. This toddler gives as good as he gets.

New Year’s Eve Letter

Dear R,

This is our second Christmas as a family of 3. And what a strange time its been since our first one. I would love to write this and not have to use the c word. I would love to write this and talk about the friends you made at creche and at the child minders. I would love to write this and talk about the day trips we took, the places we went; the visits we had with Granny and Grandad, your aunts and uncles and cousins.

I would love to write this and talk about the experiences we had together, where we went, what we saw. I would love to talk about your first trip to England to see your grandparents there and meet your extended family. I’d love to write about how you fared, if we went by plane or boat or whatever mode we decided to take. But I can’t because of the year it’s been.

But I can talk about how we had endless days together just the three of us at home. I can talk about the confidence you’ve built, how spending time with me and Dad has helped you become independent and brave and oh so silly. I can talk about the bond you and Dad have, one that you never would have had if it weren’t for covid. You two have had months at home together and you are both the better for it.

I can talk about the fact that when you wake up at night it hasn’t been too much of a big deal, because working from home isn’t quite as taxing as working in the office.

I would love to be able to tell you that your first birthday was a huge affair,  with family and cake and bunting and gifts. But in reality,  it was a small cake with your family all on a Zoom call singing to you and talking over each other.

You may not have had the opportunity to make friends at a creche or with a childminder,  but spending all this time at home gave us the opportunity to know our neighbours, and you now want to see Ge-ge (George) anytime we walk past his house.

We may not have been able to take as many trips as we would have liked, but you don’t know any different. A walk around the neighbourhood is as exciting for you as anything else. And if we walk past the construction site, your day is made. The builders know you now and wave and beep their horns when they see you. You haven’t quite worked up to waving back yet, but you will. I am sure of it.

You haven’t many clear words yet, but you definitely take after me and could talk the ear off anyone willing to give you the chance.

The difference is you would buy and sell them before they know its been done.

We all three will see this year out tucked up asleep in our beds (I hope), and tomorrow will be no different for us than any other day. We will play and read and laugh and try convince you that there are toys you can play with besides the hoover.

You have made what could have been an awful year a wonderful one, and I will look back on 2020 fondly, because you have been in every moment. And any moment spent with you is a joyous one. I cannot wait to see what 2021 holds for us. And for you, I hope it is full of wonder and excitement and all the diggers you could wish for.

Love, Mum Xxx

Talking of Teeth

We moved house just before Covid hit our shores, and we couldn’t have landed in a better place. Our neighbourhood is lovely, fairly new, and full of families with young kids. A great place to spend lockdown. Kids playing outside; mums having socially distant drinks on the green; dads sitting in garden chairs watching the kids run around. It was wonderful. I say was because that was Lockdown The First. Back in April and May, with unseasonably good weather that spread into a beautiful summer.

But now the days are colder, damper, darker. Lockdown The Second has come with different rules and socially distant drinks are a no-go, even if we felt like braving the weather.

Before Lockdown The Second hit, I had brought the little man on a couple of play dates with a neighbour. Partly for him, partly for me. The boys are only a few months different in age, R being the older, and it was great to see them interact and try figure each other out. He hasn’t been around other small kids since March, when we last saw the childminder, so any interaction with another child is a bonus right now. And me getting to have tea and interact with another mom? Double bonus.

He has been stuck in the house with just me and Dad for months, he needs to learn and grow socially. Something that won’t happen if he stays stuck inside with us. So this was a gateway, a way of easing him in. But then we could no longer go into other people’s homes unless you were in their bubble. So instead neighbour mom and I have sent the occasional text to say ‘going for a walk’. We’ve only managed to co-ordinate time wise once or twice but its been lovely. We keep our distance, the boys eye each other up and we chat. But with the absence of any kind of real life, our chats are very much about Mom Life. How the boys are sleeping, what they’re eating, how many teeth they have now. It’s a compare and contrast exercise and one I don’t like taking part in.

I am doing my utmost not to compare him to other kids. Not to look up what ‘should’ he be doing by now. But without anything else to talk about that’s where our conversations inevitably lead.

The part of chat that sticks out in my mind was the one about teeth. Specifically the brushing of them. I mentioned how we were late coming out because we had to brush our teeth, and put our shoes on and get our hat and so on. And this other mum heard the brushing teeth and we went from there onto how often? Toothpaste? But the public health nurse said we should do this. And I read the other. And poor kid, his poor teeth. And yes when it comes to teeth there is probably a hard and fast rule, unlike so many other areas of parenting, but it is really difficult to get a clear answer. No, in truth, its difficult to remember to look up and ask the right question when you have five minutes quiet time. I always think ‘Oh I’ll look that up later’, in an attempt to not be on my phone constantly and to try give what I want to look up my full attention. Then later rolls around, I have a few minutes calm and quiet and my mind goes utterly blank. I can not remember what on earth I wanted to find out. So I keep going, just keep swimming, and do things the best I can right now.

And he’s not bothered how we brush his teeth, he just wants to chew the bristles and try get the toothpaste tube open and spread it all over the bathroom floor. I mean that’s what its for right?

Missing Christmas

I had kind of made a promise – more to myself than anyone else – that I would try steer clear of talking about Covid on here, as much as possible anyway. But I feel there is something I have to discuss and it involves the C word.

Actually, two C words.

Covid. And Christmas.

I am a big big fan of Christmas. Autumn and Winter are my favourite times of year, and as soon as the leaves start to change and the scarves start to come out of hibernation, I start to get excited. Now I will be the first to admit that Christmas, the lead up, the day, all does kind of stress me out a little. I get quite heightened and anxious. What to get people, will they like it, where will we spend the day, will everything go okay. Will someone say something stupid and offend someone else (been there, done that, still wearing the t-shirt of guilt and shame under my Christmas Jumper).

But, once the decorations and lights start to appear, the shop windows start to sparkle and the air gets that crisp chill, my smile starts to widen and I start to break out the glitter.

Yesterday was the first day that I had that flurry of excitement at seeing the lights and sparkle. I walked through the city for some errands after work and spotted the sign on the Brown Thomas window. It read –

We’ll keep you guessing while we’re Christmas Dressing

(I may be paraphrasing slightly). And I remembered hearing that their Christmas Shop was open so I took myself up to their top floor and saw lights! Trees! Sparkles! Decorations! Baubles! Santa! It made my heart lighter. I wandered around, looking at all the beautiful decorations I can’t have because I own the destructive model of Toddler. There was a whole section of Blush themed decorations. I wanted them all!

Christmas is coming! Blush themed decorations in Brown Thomas, Cork.

When I left and was walking through the city, it dawned on me that it is mid-October. The last few years the Christmas themed stuff has been arriving in shops earlier and earlier, with them being full of sparkle and red and white candy stripes from mid-September, competing for shelf space with the Halloween bits and pieces. There doesn’t seem to be as much emphasis this year. And I’ve thought the same with Halloween.

Obviously, Halloween can’t go ahead this year as normal. Trick or Treating isn’t exactly limiting your contacts. But I went looking for some new decorations. We can’t go house to house but we can at least make our house fun to look at and have a bit of a Halloween feel in the place. But the usual haunts I would visit for decorations were lacking. One store at the end of August/early September had a small but gorgeous selection of decorations and I thought, I’ll come back for those on payday. I did and they were no where to be seen. All sold out. And have not been replaced. All that was left was the tacky plastic stuff which, lets be honest, wasn’t going to fit in with my planned decor. Yeah I know, Halloween is tacky and plastic but for one more year let me try be slightly fancier. At least until I have to bend to the demands of the Toddler.

I’ve been on the lookout since and short of ordering online, which I was trying to avoid, I haven’t been able to find anything suitable. It’s almost like the shops have decided its a non-event this year and are doing the bare minimum to get by.

I do feel for the shop owners and workers who rely on this time of year for most of their sales. Christmas is going to be a largely online affair I would guess, and if the Boxed Christmas Card selection is anything to go by, what is available in store is going to feel a bit like they are just emptying the stock room of last years crap and trying to get rid and make space. Like we all did at the start of this pandemic when we thought we’d be at home for a few weeks, a month tops. A clear-out is a great idea! Until we fill all the gaps and spaces we made with more junk bought online at weird hours.

Our original Christmas plan has been largely thrown out the window. We can’t travel to the UK and the Grandparents there can’t visit us. Plan B was to travel cross country to be with the Irish Grandparents but that is currently looking unlikely too. It is very possible that this Christmas it could just be the three of us, and I’m really not sure how I feel about it. All the sparkle and hot chocolate in the world can’t make up for the lack of the people you call family; the laughter; the chaos (we’re a big bunch, its always kind of chaotic). I know in a couple of years when he’s older a quiet Christmas at home with just us will be what is on my Christmas list, but now while he is still so small and the aunts, uncles and cousins are still joyfully willing to take him for an hour, I fear that having it be Just Us will mean it doesn’t feel any different. It’s just going to be another regular day at home. With no one to visit, no one dropping by for a cup or tea or something stronger at 11 in the morning, no mad giggling over silly gifts and piles of wrapping paper, I fear it will feel anti-climactic.

I will keep hoping that things will change; that Christmas will be back as shiny and sparkley as ever. And maybe I am just getting ahead of myself. It is only October after all. But whatever happens, whether I am here with just the toddler and the dad, or whether we get to be with the bigger clan, this is a year that we will be making the most of Christmas. Because being stuck in lockdown has shown me how much I love, need, appreciate and miss my little village. And I am quite lucky to have them.

So glitter! Glitter everywhere!!

A Free Evening

He woke at 5.30 this morning.  He does that a lot, but usually I can get him back to sleep.  Some cuddles while sucking on the boob and he usually drifts off and I can get another hour in bed, if I’m lucky.  But this morning it was not to be. After half an hour of cuddles, my little giggly man was more than ready for the day. Into my room for robe and slippers, past the soundly sleeping oblivious dad and then down the stairs. How he sleeps through the giggling and the chat is beyond me, super powers.

What this meant of course was that by 8.30 am the energizer baby had lost all his bounce and wanted to sleep. He didn’t. He dozed. Finally went to sleep late morning and slept for not nearly long enough.

What I am leading up to say is that by 6.15pm he was tucked up in bed fast asleep.  We had dinner together,  quietly, with some conversation and not many screens between us, and it was nice. And then the prospect of an entire evening to ourselves loomed large.

He took himself off to write,  something he is better at convincing himself to do than I am, and I sat. I watched some TV. I had tea and a muffin. And now it isn’t even 9 o’clock and I am at a loss.

I keep thinking of things I could do, or things I should do. And nothing appeals.  I try to recall what I did for fun for me before all this began and I can’t remember much other than sitting. 

I watch far too much TV and movies.

I could have a bath. But the time it takes to fill the tub plus the knowledge I could be needed to settle a crying toddler at a moments notice kind of add up to putting me off the idea.

I could read. I got a new book recently and am slowly….very slowly…. making my way through it. But my brain is a bit lacking today and I think I would end up not remembering most of what I read. So it would feel like wasted time.

I could sort through the dozens, if not hundreds of photos I have printed of him. I use a site that gives you 50 free prints a month, you just pay postage. And I have used it most months since he was born – 18 months ago.  That’s a lot of photos. An insurmountable task for another night.

A jigsaw was always a favourite in the before days. And I even have one I haven’t made yet. But it won’t be finished in one evening, and the only surface I could make it on is too low, within toddler reach, so there goes that idea. I’d be finding puzzle pieces in the bin, on the floor, in his toybox.  And some would probably be lost forever.  Maybe eaten.

It is so hard to find time that is solely mine. Time that isn’t carved out for something else. Time that I can do with how I wish. It is precious and rare and tonight I feel like I’ve squandered it. I feel on edge all the time. Knowing that he will usually only settle for me makes it so difficult to relax or have an evening off. If I was confident that he would go back to sleep by himself or for his dad then I could have that bath, make the phone call, go for the walk, but I feel like a hostage. On edge just waiting for the next cry. I love that he wants me. I love that I can make his crying stop, I can put a goofy smile on his face just by walking in the room, and I can help him relax. But I would also love to take a night off. Let someone else settle him. Let him let someone else in.

And for those of you talking to your screens right now, telling me that it gets better;  that its hard to see the positives when you’re in the middle of these tough nights and sleep deprived decision making; that the day will come when you get a full uninterrupted nights sleep, I say to you – I know.  I am exceedingly excited about the idea. I am very aware that this is all temporary and that he won’t always need me. That I won’t always be the solution to his problem.

And as much as I am looking forward to uninterrupted sleep, to a night off, to a bubble bath with no one knocking at the door for something, I am dreading how I will feel when he stops giving me that huge goofy grin just because I’ve walked in the room.