• JUST Breathe


I am writing this from our guest loo. They, our five beautiful kids aged 16, 13, 12, nine and six, are unlikely to find me in here because the internet signal doesn’t reach this far. 

Be judgy if you must, but bear in mind that at the time of writing this, the opportunity to actually flee this house altogether was only allowed between 6am and 9am and with winter on the prowl, that proved to be a bit of a stretch. So here I am, hiding in this signal-less loo, with my laptop and… my hair bright blue!

No really, my hair is blue, and how that came to be is indicative of how most things have gone in lockdown with five kids. Always armed with good intentions, precision planning, mostly excellent execution and the will to show the world that I have, in fact, "got this”, on more occasions than not, my end result has involved me screaming, “You have got to be kidding me!”

A prime example is how adamant I was to follow the COVID-19 rules to the letter. Determined to make Cyril proud (in the early days of course), I denied the request from six year-old Gabriel and nine year-old Layla to play with the 11 year-old neighbour. I even hid the gate remotes so secret access would be impossible, only to discover that a ladder this side and a ladder that side was facilitating a game of (get this) Monopoly, which was being played over the wall.

You have got to be kidding me!

Fake $200 notes flew forward and back, with, I’m sure, COVID-19s hanging on for dear life. Now the neighbour practically lives with us and has even offered me a job at her soon-to-be new company, which she is starting with the lockdown money she made by giving her family massages. Side note: With my own business laying in viral tatters, I may just take her up on her offer.

Moving on… so inspired was I by the rebellious interest in Monopoly, and armed with good intentions and blah, blah, blah… you know the drill, I decided to take the lockdown opportunity to get the kids off screens and into card and board games - or ‘bored” games as they refer to them.

Chess, Backgammon, Pictionary, Top Trumps and Uno! - you need to yell that last one - were all on the menu and I dreamed of weeks of strategy sessions and healthy competition build-up with the kids trying to beat the master, me! Then, in week one, six year-old Gabriel check mated me.

You have got to be kidding me!

To make matters worse I bet money on that game to inspire interest and I now need to borrow R200 from the neighbour.

The older kids, Olivia (13), Mathew (12) and Pride( (16) were less open to ‘new-old’ things and I needed to trade a board game lesson for an appearance in one of their pointless Tik Tok videos. Post eight kilometre walk and pre shower, I was directed to say one word into the camera. Oh what did I care, nobody would see it anyway?! You have got to be kidding me! 32 000 views later, three ecstatic teens and a devastated me knowing that many, many, 32 000-many people saw me at my absolute worst. Talk about going viral!

"I felt defeated; but not a soul-destroying kind of defeat mind you, there’s only one thing that could cause that… homeschooling!"

I am teaching kids that are in Grade 11, Grade 8, Grade 7, Grade 4 and Grade 1. That means Shakespeare’s McBeth right down to “d*u*c*k” - which does not bloody spell   seagull. STOP LOOKING AT THE PICTURES AND GUESSING!

You have got to be kidding me!

My husband, who is looking a bit Yeti-like with his new lockdown beard and pony tail (which I have conflicting feelings about), is trying to help with homeschooling and bless his heart he is trying. But after one full hour of the Kathy and Mark reader, I’m pretty sure he broke the lawn mower on purpose so he would have an “emergency” to attend to.

Where does that leave me? Lumbered with homeschooling of five kids, and trying to float a drowning business, while trying to control my excessive eating and taking online yoga classes from a little Thai lady in Knysna. I secretly, and perhaps selfishly, hold my stress against Yeti-husband who is actually doing all the cooking while piecing together the shards of his own shattered catering business, and while also having to fix the lawn mower! 

We don’t fight openly but when we have quiet moments to ourselves, we use the time constructively to send each other passive-aggressive WhatsApp messages that start with the words ‘I love you” and end with words like ‘divorce’ and ‘cyanide’. But then, because I cannot flee this place (for reasons mentioned above), I end up watching Yeti-husband as he interacts with our kids - did I mention we have five?!

I’ve watched him set up a campsite in the garden, which the kids slept in for five nights straight (and which killed my grass). I watched him build a birthday obstacle course around the house consisting of flour bowls and rope bridges across the pool. I’ve watched him blow out 18 egg yolks from the shells to prepare for an Easter painting fest (because the Bunny was unable to bring the usual 100 000 easter eggs this year because of COVID-19 restrictions.) [Verrydt Boys & Verrydt Girls]

And then I have watched him have early morning tea parties with Layla (9) beside the grave (that he dug) of our recently departed family cat - just to manage his daughter’s sadness and anxiety.

"And as I watch him I realise… that I will definitely need to book him into Sorbet Man because no razor will ever make its way through that facial hair!"

All ‘you have got to be kidding’ aside, I know what a lucky girl I am. Yes we have broken businesses and we are so stressed we can’t even drink straight, but I recognise lockdown for the gift that it is. I feel guilty even calling it a gift and I’m not insensitive to the hundreds of thousand of people who have lost their jobs and the millions of people who go to bed hungry, but all I can do is look for the blessings in this madness.

As a family we have slowed down and refocussed; we have talked; we have laughed ourselves to tears; we have cried ourselves to laughter; we have baked; we have dressed up in formal wear to attend our own braai; we have played games; we have planted food (and new grass where the tent was); and we have sat quietly in the comfortable silence of this awesome tribe. Our tribe, that we created. And nothing else actually matters.

Not even the fact that Gabriel (6) got into to my bath, while I was washing my hair, with his hands covered in blue food colouring.

You have got to be kidding me!

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