Don’t get too excited about the title of this post, the sweetest mean mommy is still single. Are we together? Alright, moving on…
I was already in some sort of lock down by the time the Rona forced all of us inside. I work from home (or am I unemployed? It depends on who is asking). When the President announced the closure of schools as a measure to prevent the spread of the Corona virus, the only routine that was immediately affected was that of my school going daughters.
My little girls were shocked and sad. Life had started crawling back to normal after the hectic year we had had before. A year in which we had moved house twice as my finances fluctuated, and moved schools as many times. I had found reasonably affordable accommodation that was near their new school, our church and a short walk to the market and shops. I had just managed to pay off the final instalment of their fees too!
After the initial panic about the deadly monster potentially lurking in every droplet of saliva, snot and assorted other vectors, we soon settled down to our routine. I followed the advice not to follow the news. This was easy to do after I watched a news clip of a church full of coffins in Italy.
As soon as everyone started on with the new normal hullabaloo, I allowed myself to get caught up in the waves of those signing up for free online classes, webinars, Facebook live teachings and zoom zoom zoom everything. When the cost of buying internet bundles started competing with the monthly food budget, I quickly lost interest.
Zoom classes were stressful. Can you hear me? I cannot hear you teacher. (But we can all hear the baby crying in the background). Baby Daughter flatly refused to participate after her teacher showed pictures of malnourished children during a lesson about nutrition and food groups. That unmute button? She would stretch her tiny hands to mute it back when the teacher asked her a question. She did not wanna know.
I also realised that the new state of things that people were adjusting to, and panicking about, had been my life for quite a while. I had faced my own financial pandemic, social isolation and fight against fear filled nightmares for months before. I was now a veteran. What everyone was yapping about was my old normal. So I calmed down. I did not even panic buy dry rations. Or toilet paper. I could not afford it. Yes I hung my head in shame at all the sermons about Joseph and saving money for the lean years. But only for a short while.
I carried on with the delivery of my market food by a boda man. Nothing about him looked sanitised but oh well. Once in a long while I ordered junk food using online apps, just as I had been doing for a couple of years. Yes, hair salons were closed but I had someone come and plait the girls’ hair at home. Nothing new there either. I have always walked around with hand sanitising sprays, gels and wipes. And I prefer sitting alone in the corner of a quiet coffee shop to a noisy, loud and crowded bar. The living room couch at 2:00am is my favourite place. Without an office to go to every day, I did not feel that locked down.
The only thing I really missed was going to church. Hundreds of people raising their hands in worship together does something to me. I can’t explain it. Let me say it’s like hearing the sound of your mother’s key at the front door when she comes home from work. An exquisite feeling of lovely belonging.
Oh but we rubbed against each other in our small apartment. There was no chance to cool off after arguments and shouting matches by going our separate ways. Whatever projects I managed to bag where endlessly delayed because I cannot work when little people are using the unspent energy from not being at school to create chaos and protest chores.
It is only after a while, when acceptance set in that this was going to be a long season, that the irritation with my housemates abated somewhat and we found a way of enjoying each other’s constant inescapable company. The enforced closeness surprisingly became comforting and actually quite lovely.
I discovered new nuances to my children’s characters and found that I quite liked them. Don’t laugh. I love my children with a capital L but the busyness of life does not leave much room for experiencing them as real people. They are reduced to the one who leaves her clothes on the floor and the one who takes forever to finish her food.
I was really tickled to learn that Baby Daughter, now seven, likes personal development or self-help podcasts and audiobooks. “Mummy! Please put on Rachel Hollis,” she would urge me. “I want to listen to Big Magic this time!” was her choice on another occasion. “That man is obsessed with rich people!” she would complain about Secrets of the Millionaire Mind.
The older girl, twelve years old, doesn’t have the attention span for such things but I could hear her giggling at Shonda Rhimes’ story telling in the Year of Yes. “I am an old liar,” was her favorite line. When I saw the gleam in her eye, I had to warn her about using it as some sort of justification for her own fibs.
I discovered that the tweenager knows the net worth of all her favorite Hollywood stars. She closely tracks the number of subscribers of the YouTubers she follows. So when I discovered a new channel to watch, say about designing shipping container homes, or one on boho-style studio apartment makeovers she would not bother to join us to watch it unless it had hundreds of thousands of subscribers. I also learned that she has a knack for making tasty meals and snacks. The best thing though was us having enough time to work on our connection.
Small Daughter did not have an easy start in life and even all these years later, the long arm of past hurts still reaches out to grab her and cause chaos in all our lives. Being with each other all the time allowed me to practice the concepts I had learned in a book about Connected Parenting.
The authors call for an approach to parenting children from “hard places” that addresses the root causes of their often times difficult behavior. To counteract their attachment issues with coaching rather than punishment, explaining rather than shaming, understanding rather than taking things personally.
With all that time together, I had enough time to give her in depth explanations about the impact of her early tough times and what we could both do to overcome the defense mechanisms she had had to develop in order to survive. Instead of trying to fit in with everyone and everything, I slowly started to show her that she was unique and could admit to not liking or understanding something.
The five steps forward sometimes came with ten steps backwards but I learned to seek God’s help in specific ways. “Father, I don’t know how to explain why I am making certain choices for her, please give me the words that will penetrate her distrust and fear.”
Small Daughter was entering the teen years and she was excited, imagining all sorts of access to things previously out of reach when she turned 13. The mood swings appeared for a while but her sister and I managed to embarrass her out of them. Trust a pesky seven year old to trick you into a hug when all you want to do is hide in the bedroom. And to make up little songs about how she enjoys annoying big sisters.
At one point their bickering stressed me out, but I must say I was impressed the time they held a meeting and came to me to announce a cessation of hostilities. Less squabbling meant more time and space for mummy to work and earn money for YoKuku chicken burger patties. And rent of course.
Baby Daughter, on her part, grew so much physically that she was left with only a handful of clothes to wear. When you are not being rushed off to school very early in the morning, and your extremely slow chewing is no longer interrupted by the end-of-lunch bell, you will get much more food inside you.
She was ushered into the world of deodorants and I went off to buy the biggest size in those packs of kiddie panties with Disney cartoon characters. After the 13-14 age range, no more Elsa underwear it seems. As usual I wondered at the different ways God had distributed gluteal muscles to his creation. The 7-8 year old size could hardly go past her knees.
At the start of the pandemic panic Big Daughter called me and said, “There is a job for a Covid-19 Tester at an Elder Care facility. I am going to apply.” “No way!” I said, using my tough African mother tone and frantically using google to check the Corona virus stats in her far away city. When her house mate got exposed and they had to go into quarantine, I knew my anxiety would get out of hand.
My mind tried to take the old train that leads it to imaginary funeral arrangements and a life devoid of philosophical debates with my brilliant first child. I refused it to get on board. I decided to practice using that muscle that many defiantly independent single mothers like me rarely like to flex – asking for help.
Members of my church fellowship group joined me in prayer and declared my daughter’s household free of disease and my heart free of fear. This was just one of the opportunities that this period provided, for me to practice asking for and receiving help without the shame and second guessing that typically plagues me when I do it.
The lockdown also introduced something I had been yearning for. I joined a writing mastermind! Yes, with daily word count targets and accountability photos taken in the wee hours of the morning. Many months later, I am still working on my overall target but the excitement of finally tackling a book length project beats the frustration of my slow progress. Best of all, after a year or so of calling myself a writer, I am actually doing exactly that. I steal an hour or two here and there and allow myself the thrill and therapeutic relief of getting lost in the enchantment of words.
With the world forced to a standstill, there was more time and space for introspection, for focusing on what really matters. There was time to examine the motives for the dreams that I chase and the mental and spiritual space to seek God’s counsel, and to glorify Him for his infinite loving-kindness. I saw a level of kindness extended to me that was delightful in its unexpectedness. And of course, a global pandemic that brought even superpowers to a standstill was surely an opportunity to reflect on the mystery of the Divine.
I even got hooked to a web film series about a Jesus who laughs in delight when he performs miracles, carves wooden toys for children and exchanges meaningful, love filled looks with his mother. He has a disciple with Asperger’s syndrome who cannot understand sarcasm and has OCD. When I saw the scene of an African woman leading her friends to break through a roof to make sure their disabled friend gets to Jesus’ healing power, I teared up as Jesus looked up and said “Your faith is beautiful.”
When I looked out for it, there was plenty of lockdown love to behold and my faith remained beautiful.