The Long Lockdown

The first lockdown in March felt like an extended snow day, bright and still, with life unexpectedly different, on pause. It was a chance to step out of our busy lives and reconnect within our little family, to play games and watch movies, to snuggle in.

That initial sense of escape didn’t last very long. The blizzard settled in and expectations piled up like snow. It quickly became clear that we weren’t doing very well at meeting them all. My brilliant son with ADHD was struggling even before lockdown with the sheer volume of language learning – at the gymnasium level they learn Greek, Latin, French, German and English. In lockdown it became a disaster. His shortage of executive function meant that he retreated into sneaking YouTube videos at every possible moment, rather than completing his schoolwork. My daughter, then in Group 6/Grade 4, slipped into her own world of avoidance of work she found boring, but she did it quietly, so we didn’t notice for too long, caught up in our own worlds. When we did notice, she flatly refused to do anything. My husband, a workaholic at the best of times, proved also to be one at the worst of times. And I, I just tried to keep everything going, despite my own problems with getting distracted. I succeeded in keeping everyone fed and taken care of but made no progress on the goal I’d named in a January goal setting session: working effectively.

But then, finally, the figurative blizzard ended, the kids could return to school and some sense of normalcy returned. My son managed to (barely) pass his year and my daughter was happy to see her friends at school again. We bought a bigger camper and managed to go on a trip for the summer, important for a family addicted to travel. The new school year started and it felt like the end was in sight. We still worked at home and had meetings on the computer instead of traipsing throughout the land, but at least we had reclaimed the physical and mental space the kids had taken up in our workspace. This was like a winter we could deal with – mobility limited, but bright and sunnily sparkling, with spring hovering just around the corner.

For us, the next big blizzard hit early and out of the blue, in the first week of November, when my son and I tested positive for Covid-19. The two of us isolated on one floor of the house, dependent on food being brought up to us by my husband and daughter. They had to quarantine for 10 days but didn’t get the virus and could rejoin the world. It took my son and I a month to emerge again. For the most part our symptoms were mild, very little energy and lots of sleep, especially the first two weeks. Both of us, however, had one lingering symptom, a sore throat, so we stayed in isolation waiting for it to feel better. I also didn’t realize how foggy my brain still was. At the end of the month, I felt my mental acuity come back. It felt like suddenly cleaning dirty eyeglasses and seeing the world sharply again, becoming aware of how foggy it had been. And on 4 December, the health authority finally said we could go out, so we traipsed back out into the world with joy.

We got all of a week of freedom before the second lockdown in the Netherlands started. But now, instead of the feeling of a snow day, this lockdown felt like we were in the middle of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s The Long Winter: endless blizzards, with no end or supplies in sight, especially after the Christmas vacation. Lockdown became something to be grimly endured, like Laura’s twisting straw and grinding the daily grain. We slipped back to the behaviours from the end of the previous one: my son avoiding schoolwork through sneaking on YouTube, my daughter refusing to do it with all the drama of impending puberty, and my husband working all the time. Added to all of this was the news that my beloved stepfather was slipping into another reality as his Parkinson’s progresses and that I may not be able to get to see him before his mind is gone: Canada has a strict two-week quarantine and I can’t leave my family for a month during lockdown or take the risk of being stranded.

As the weeks have passed though, we’ve reached a bit of a new equilibrium. My son has been given the chance to be supervised in his classes at school, which has at least cut down on his avoidance, though not eliminated it. My daughter, though still prone to drama, has at least accepted that her work needs to be done. My husband is still working too much, but the end is in sight for a couple of projects and we’re starting to focus on taking our company in a new direction. I’m making progress on working effectively, but it’s still a challenge. But it still feels like the endless grey of snow and slush that has stayed too long, a winter that won’t go away, a spring that won’t come. The only thing that keeps me sane is making plans for when the flowers bloom.