Birthday In Lockdown

Here we are in the midst of surviving lockdown due to Covid-19. Despite both The Husband and I still going to work as normal* and the children still attending school, it has been a very strange few weeks. Are we still counting this in weeks? It’s nearly June, I think we can start counting in months now. But I’m not here to delve into the details of all the highs and lows and difficulties and pleasures we have faced during this time, I’ll just slide past that much like our PM sliding past any accountability for Dominic Cummings’ blatant breech of lockdown rules, to tell you that The Boy turns 8 tomorrow.

*normal, as in, every journey and action and minute of each day filled with oxygen-thieving anxiety, a sense of existential dread, a fear of inadvertently breaking some ill-defined rule, a fear of contracting the virus, a fear of spreading the virus, wishing I was home, so very glad at not having to stay at home, wishing the children didn’t have to still attend school, so very glad the children still get to attend school, feeling the need to achieve so much more on days off work, feeling the need to just be on days off work, feeling guilty for not achieving more, feeling guilty for not just being instead of doing. You know, that kind of normal.

Eight!? It doesn’t feel like eight years since he made his rather dramatic entrance into this world, yet at the same time it feels like at least eight years since Boxing Day, when he started the countdown to this milestone. We have had two pretty upsetting evenings of him sobbing over the fact that he can’t have a party with his school friends, or a family party at home like we usually do where all his grandparents and aunts and uncles make a huge fuss and he spends the day playing with his ever-growing tribe of cousins. This year there will be no hugging and gift-giving, no house full of noise and food and music, or a separate party with school and ballet friends to look forward to. Part of me was quite looking forward to the reduced expense and pressure, until his tears of anger and frustration at this virus hit us with quite an unexpected force, and I realised just how much these gatherings really mean to him. It’s not all about the presents – in fact it is barely about the presents at all, I had to ask him at least three times to write a birthday list for enquiring family members (it was easier to persuade him to do homework), and when he did it consisted of Lego, a couple of books, a video game and a cat – it is all about the people, being surrounded by his friends and his family who all mean the world to him. He has always been a very snugly, tactile, sensitive boy, and these last few weeks of distancing from everyone have really upset him.

So what do you do about a soon-to-be-eight-year-old, heartbroken at not being able to share the day with everyone he loves? You vow to make it the best birthday ever, bake his favourite lemon cake, secretly arrange for family to come by for a socially-distanced, time-tabled doorstep gathering, agree to having pancakes for both breakfast and lunch, and buy him a drum kit! An electric one with headphones, obviously, we’re upset for him but we’re not insane.

Meanwhile, the item right at the bottom of the brief birthday list that was part joke, part hopeful yet hopeless request, was snapped up by Granny, and tomorrow The Boy will be a cat dad. It was going to be a surprise for on the day, but then The Husband panicked and said we had to tell him early because if he reacts to the cat with his usual levels of excitement (the child has absolutely no idea how loud he is AT ALL TIMES) he will deafen the new moggy, scare it into hiding and even quite possibly kill it off before he has chance to find his litter tray. I’m pretty sure his exact words were “Tell him now so he can get all his excitement out before the cat arrives”. After almost ten years of parenting, he should know that it really doesn’t work that way. We told both children almost two weeks ago about our new arrival, and every day has started with a pre-dawn, shouted countdown of the number of days left until Cat Day And My Birthday. The excitement levels have not dropped. Every time the little ginger fluff is mentioned The Boy becomes catatonic (sorry). His arrival is imminent and I’m still not convinced a deafening or petrification of an innocent little animal isn’t going to happen.

So The Boy may be turning eight in the midst of a pandemic, he may be desperately missing his friends and cousins and his old life, but soon he will have a new furball friend to play with and take care of and a switch of focus. In fact I think a new focus and a new life will be good for all of us, and actually The Husband and I are more excited than the children for this cat to arrive, we just express our excitement in hushed tones. And when the anger and frustration at this horrible virus inevitably hit The Boy

again, not only will his dad and I be there to comfort him, but so will his new four legged friend. And if that still doesn’t quite cut it, he will be able to bang out his feelings on a drum kit. Silently. With headphones on.

Happy 8th Birthday, lovely soul.

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