Week one of homeschooling has ended and, although there were moments when we all felt the pretence of what we were doing, we survived.

I admit that my school shifts are largely based on mopping up tasks Husband has already overseen before herding the kids outside to help weed the garden. Kids have taken to hedge diving instead, which I let slide because these are strange times.

In positive news, my uncle who had Covid-19, is on the mend. But, as the virus creeps closer to home, my friend’s husband is struggling to breathe. She’s lost count of the times her fingers have hovered over ‘999’, only pausing because she doesn’t want to needlessly overburden services. Under normal circumstances, he would be in A&E. No question.

But these are anything except normal times. It probably isn’t that normal to have bought a blood oxygen home testing kit, but my friend has never been more thankful she did. So while he’s in bed sweating, sleeping and shallow breathing, she’s looking after her children, nipping upstairs on the hour to check his blood oxygen and deliver the things sick people need: orange juice, paracetamol, cold flannels.

I feel a bit guilty that I can hear this and at the same time forget about coronavirus. This is both because I’m manically busy, but also because I’m not.

I’m busy working and administering no-screen threats to the kids. Busy cooking vast acres of dinner and cake. Busy with incoming video calls and texts. I admit to raging against social media pleas to use this time to a) learn yoga, b) master a new language or c) take up knitting. Who on earth has this alleged time? Coronavirus is an added burden, it’s not a bonus.

Plus it’s giving me anxiety dreams: lately I’ve been in dark and eerily empty city streets unable to find a way home.

Of course I know my 20 year old self would have time. My 70 year old self would definitely have time. In many ways I’m glad my 40-something year old self doesn’t have as much.

But then it’s the weekend and suddenly time is its own gift. Lists of tasks appear on the fridge. I think about making some bread. Then don’t. Husband is bristling with the thrill of progress. Yesterday, a delivery man turned up with a set of garage shelves, much to Husband’s ill-concealed delight.

Yesterday, Youngest, Middle and I sat in the shed making Picasso pictures. This was a school project, but also a chance to escape the house. Middle came with us under the pretence of wanting to help with his younger sister’s school project. Really, he had news: he had broken his Rubik’s cube PB on the 7×7. Once the shed door was shut, he took his chance and, with a captive audience, thrilled us with a detailed run-down of several new time-saving algorithms he’d memorised.

I didn’t know Eldest had heard me talking about my friend’s husband’s coronavirus. She’d seemed too absorbed in her recent hair dying experiment. But she asked a lot of questions. I could tell when I was doing a good job of allaying any fears: basically, as long as she understands her own Dad (and the rest of us) is safe at home, she’s okay.

I could also tell when I wasn’t doing so well. She knows children are not immune just because of their age and no matter how much I talked about the minuscule chance she has of getting it, the chance of getting it was all she heard.

Youngest, however, will be the reason the wheels fall off next week. Tantrums are increasing in frequency. And pitch frequency. Screams of “My life is SO idiot” echo through the house and she is regularly finding sanctuary behind the curtain.

Me: You okay in there?
Youngest: GO AWAY!
Me: Come and have a cuddle
Me: What happened?
Youngest: SSSHHHHH
Me: Shall we make a doll’s house?
<scrambles out>
Youngest: I’m having the best scissors and you must sit there and not help anyone else or make tea. Just sit still and HELP ME do cutting or I’m doing more screaming which makes you get a headache.”

We abandoned the school phonics curriculum there and then. We made a doll’s house from a cardboard box. It was a bit rubbish, but the hedge diving later made up for it.

Roll on Week 2.

See Coronavirus: Diary of a Working Mum: Day 1