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George's Lockdown Blog

Our Chair of Governors, George, has written a blog about lockdown life for her and her family which we would like to share with you:

Lockdown life

I am mum to three boys; Toby 11, Bo, 8, and Ren, 5. Toby has a severe learning disability from a rare genetic condition. We have a carefully constructed life that allows us all to do the things we need to develop, grow and stay sane, and it involves some very wonderful people and organisations that are invaluable to us.

As Covid hit, schools closed and our childminder started shielding, that structure that supports us vanished. I panicked, having no idea how John and I would be able to provide any sort of education to our three children, keep us all fed and healthy, and work, without help or respite.

As well as mum and civil servant, I am also the Chair of Governors of Toby’s special school, Riverside. I am not sure that I have ever faced a more difficult professional decision than the one we took to close the school to all but key workers’ children and those we deemed were most vulnerable at home. Walking into school on the morning of Friday 20th March to tell staff that we were closing, whilst being acutely aware of what a huge impact that would have on each of our 280+ families, was incredibly hard and I have never felt more like a small child in grown up clothes.

But it turns out we weren’t on our own, we could cope, and we have done, mostly.

Toby needs help dressing, eating, toileting, cleaning himself and turning on Mr Tumble (constantly). He is also the kindest person I know, has a wicked sense of humour, and loves emptying the dishwasher! This ‘hobby’ has been invaluable during lockdown we’ve been running the dishwasher 3 times a day every day to cope with the 15 meals and multiple snacks that need preparing. Toby doesn’t like being on his own and if he could spend all 24 hours of the day touching me or John he would. He checks on me if I spend too long on the loo, follows me round the house, and asks me the same three questions, all day, everyday.

He also has two brothers who adore him and each other, fight like cats and dogs, think life is grossly unfair that Tobes gets more iPad time than them, and are addicted to YouTube and Netflix.

We have survived, and sometimes thrived, through support from so many people in so many ways.

Toby’s two sets of grandparents have divided the week between them, so that each day he’s had an hour on facetime with one of them. They’ve watched videos sent home from school and adapted methods to their varying ‘teaching’ styles to help him learn sounds, numbers and colours – and he absolutely LOVES it. And it means that we can devote some guilt-free time to pulling teeth/home schooling Bo and Ren.

The Riverside community has also been incredible and made me so proud. Toby has weekly zoom cooking classes teaching both him and John how to bake – with some interesting results... Seeing Toby blush with excitement at videos call with class mates, that he has never seen out of school has been lovely. And Katie’s performance of The Very Hungary Caterpillar will never be forgotten for it’s sheer brilliance.

My amazing netball team have done a quiz every single day of lockdown (16 weeks and counting now). Zoom discos, pass the loo roll videos and online escape rooms have kept us in touch even though we can’t play the sport we love. And there is always inane chat on the whatsapp to distract if I’m having a day where I need to lock myself in the toilet and cry.

And whilst the juggle of work with everything else in my life has been incredibly difficult, my job, working at the Department for Education, has also been a source of sanity. I love what I do, most of the time, and am very fortunate. I am half of a jobshare, which means I’m in the unique position of having someone who knows EXACTLY what is great, and what is frustrating about my job, because it is also her job. We’ve been jobsharing for 9 years, we have each other’s back, and she is a huge source of strength for me.

And in our down time, when we’re not juggling everything else, my husband and I have a found and new and unexpected hobby during lockdown. We spend our Friday nights doing online painting classes whilst drinking wine. A blissful couple of hours when we lose ourselves in grapes and whatever mess we have created. This most certainly would not have happened in the ‘old normal’.

As we emerge from lockdown we’ve been reflecting on what we have learnt and can take away from the last 16 weeks:

  • I still find change in my personal life terrifying, but actually, once the dust settles and I can remember to breathe, we are able to get through whatever ‘it’ is.
  • The relationships that you have invested in will see you though a crisis, and there may be new ones that surprise you.
  • Most people are really kind and want to help.
  • Try really hard not to judge. The woman who shrieks at Toby that he’s too close to her when she walks into him is probably terrified for herself or someone she loves. We are all scared.

Having said all that, I am really looking forward to all three boys going back to real school in September and waving goodbye to home-schooling forever!