Love (of learning) in the time of Coronavirus #5: The Hunger Games
"Mother wearily gets up to make the breakfast that she knows will be ignored until she takes it away."
INT. FAMILY SITTING ROOM – MORNING
A tired-looking woman is in deep conversation with a small child. The room around them is in complete disarray as though a small explosion has occurred, or a particularly careless burglar has been looking for something of any worth whatsoever in this room with no success.
SMALL GIRL: I want the pink plate
MOTHER: What about this lovely blue one?
MOTHER: But I’ve just sat down and…
BABY-NOT-BABY: NO! I want chocolate spread
MOTHER: OK, on your toast?
BABY-NOT-BABY: NO! On a spoon. On the pink plate
MOTHER: But the pink plate is dirty and I want to drink my coffee…
BABY-NOT-BABY: Please, Mummy? I love you.
Mother wearily gets up to make the breakfast that she knows will be ignored until she takes it away. Mother returns to the table and sits down. She sips her cold coffee. The Middle One enters the room knocking a pile of paperwork and a cup off the sideboard as he goes past. He doesn’t notice this and flops down at the table.
MIDDLE ONE: Mum? Can you make me some breakfast? I’m really tired
Mother puts her head into her hands and groans. The Baby-not-baby pats the Mother gently on the head slightly condescendingly.
Except that isn’t the end, as other parents know so well. We know that the breakfast made for the Baby-not-baby will be ignored, that endless snacks will be requested straight after the breakfast because she is “soooo hungry”, and that consequently she will not eat her lunch because she is full. Repeat for the afternoon. Repeat all night if it’s a bad one!
The lockdown seems to be having an odd effect on my smallest children, creating cycles of behaviours through which they are oscillating wildly. The Baby-not-baby has never been a sleeper, and although she’s just starting to sleep through some nights, these blissful gifts are punctuated by nights of nocturnal sleep-avoidance that even the Middle One never achieved (or perhaps I have just wiped those particular cherished moments from my memory?). The Middle One, who wears his heart on his sleeve, seems to be storing his emotions somewhere so close to the surface that they bubble away unpredictably, exploding regularly and spectacularly. And the Teen? She’s drifting along peacefully, getting on with her work and being generally helpful. Something isn’t right!
I know a lot of us will be getting so much ‘quality time’ with our loved ones that we are getting on every single last nerve that we each own. I know this is as true for them as it is for me. The deploying of endless tactics to get the Middle One to do some vaguely educational activity is so so wearing, but the feeling when he understands something new I’m explaining is extraordinary. And occasionally, the Baby-not-baby will sit still on my lap for a whole episode of Peter Rabbit, which is like a mini-holiday. And they are really cute when they’re asleep, I suppose.