120 school hours, 68 work hours, 6 football training sessions, 3 football matches and a swimming lesson – a week – I’m not sure we knew each other anymore. They talk about ‘passing ships in the night’ but we’d become more like satellites zooming light years apart in space. So, on 23rd March 2020, when Boris told us all to spend the foreseeable with each other, a collision of satellites was only a matter of time.
Initially it was all good fun – I got the colouring pencils out and colour-coded our days and home-learning timetable. The home learning lasted 1 day and 3 hours – 3 kids, 3 different year groups and 333 excuses as to why they needed my input later, I chucked a load of CGP revision books at them in the hope knowledge might osmose into their Fortnite addled brains.
In between the home learning, uncertainty of our income, wondering where the next bag of pasta would come from and if there’d be enough loo roll left once I made it into Tesco – there were good times. For the first time in years we’d head out as a whole family for our government prescribed, daily dose of exercise. So euphoric was I in our new found familial camaraderie I compiled an Instagram highlight entitled ‘We *heart* lockdown’ – and for moments in our day, this was true.
But bubbling underneath the bike rides, cobbled pasta dishes, veggie plots, late mornings and colour-coded life stuck to the fridge, was the fact that something just wasn’t right. We were used to being out – out of the house, out of each other’s hair and out of touch with what was actually going on with each other. Being faced with all our family’s ‘isms and scisms’ started to create major cracks.
My reality, for a long time, had been to ‘manage’ H’s issues – attend the meetings on my own, take the phone calls during the working day and keep the disruption to a minimum when Mr OG was home by carefully shimmying on those egg shells. Living with H can be incredibly difficult at times, even for his own mother, so I was only too well aware how impossible the full-force of H would be for someone that cared but, to be blunt, wasn’t related.
H’s language, outbursts, uncompromising nature, refusal to engage in household jobs or life, inability to share (be it space or objects) and general prickly demeanor, were all exacerbated by lockdown life along with a sudden rush of teenage hormones – he was a perfect storm of anxiety driven anger whirling round the house we were all caged in.
Mr OG was now around 24/7 witnessing not only Hugo in full force, but what could be perceived as my complicit parenting. To the naked eye, it might appear that I just let me ‘naughty boy’ ‘get away with it’ – the reality is, it’s a finely choreographed dance around a neuro-diverse child, just to get from one end of the day to the other.
It was April 19th when we entered the eye of the storm. On our daily trip to our local common, Bruno dared to move Hugo’s bike – metal stakes were wielded, punches and kicks were thrown. The only person available who had the strength to offer damage limitation was Mr OG. He was on the receiving end of violence and repeated words that rhyme with ‘runt’. I’d asked for his help in calming the situation, and then, I berated him for being too hard, too strong, too involved. We broke.
It should be pointed out at this stage, there were many other friction points that led to this day – annoying habits, buried resentments, taking each other for granted, and even a global pandemic. But, the firework finale of expletives and violence stands out in spectacular form.
I, along with the boys, moved in with my mum – sobs and heartache were poured into copious cups of tea. We lived out of bags and slept on mattresses on the floor. We shared beds, bedrooms and bathrooms. But in the squash and the squeeze there was the space we all needed – even Mr OG. We all needed space to grow and understand the people we now were in lockdown. The people we’d become over the last 7 years of ‘us’.
3.5 months passed and we learned that while things hadn’t been right, we loved each other enough to make changes.
I understand I have to let Mr OG in on the what, whys and when of how Hugo just is.
I had to understand that Hugo will always be Hugo, but bigger, so he needed his own space – hello garden cabin.
We have to talk, disagree, and compromise.
We’ve been practicing our learnings now for a month, living together again, under what feels like a more collaborative approach to blended family life. We’re finding ways for everyone to have their own space in our spatially limited home.
In two weeks the boys head back to school again, that will undoubtedly bring new (and old) challenges back to the fore, as well as some lovely time at home alone again – but whatever it brings, we’ll deal with it together, just please don’t lock us all in again!