This week my inner toddler has a full-blown tantrum at the latest lockdown restrictions and has to be sent to the naughty step to calm down. The trouble is she doesn’t like these strange, new rules and she certainly doesn’t like the word ‘no’ or ‘can’t’.
I mean why can’t she play with her friends anymore? After all, the grown-ups around her get to hang out with theirs. The Nearly-Beloved goes to his Covid-proof office every day where he enjoys civilised conversations with colleagues. And even the teenager gets to exchange daily grunts with fellow adolescence-sufferers. But Toddler-Me is home alone tapping on the computer in the internet-ether with not even a zoom call to break up her routine. It’s got so lonely she’s gone and found herself an imaginary playmate to chat to during her coffee breaks.
By the time the boys come home, she’s desperate for some spoken interaction. But ‘When’s tea?’ and ‘Can I have a snack then?’ is the most that Grunting Teen offers before he disappears to his fetid cave. And for some reason, the Nearly Beloved seems more interested in his FB feed than recounting his day.
He zones out at tales of a solitary trip to the supermarket and the fascinating discussion instigated with the cashier about the political correctness of avocados. Such a pity a queue was forming…
And complaints that mental health is suffering due to lack of human contact are not taken seriously enough. The Nearly-Beloved points out, ‘You can still meet up outside,’ ignoring the fact that today’s forecast is 9C with freezing rain.
But there’s only so much rolling around on the floor and weeping a girl can do so I’ve had to give the toddler a talking to. ‘Time to focus on what you can do instead of what you can’t,’ says the Zen-enlightened version of me from that inner place of wisdom I rarely visit.
‘You can still get a takeaway with household members,’ she reminds us. Inner toddler rolls her eyes. What? With those two witty conversationalists? Zen-Me smiles serenely. ‘At least you won’t have to cook.’ This is very true. A chef-prepared dinner would definitely cheer us up. ‘And then you can donate some of your stockpile of tins to a foodbank,’ she continues. What a great idea. No more corned beef surprises for a while. Everyone will thank us for that.
The toddler wipes away her tears and nods hesitantly. Zen-me is on a roll now. ‘You don’t even have to move from the sofa. After all, it’s the time of year to snuggle up with a hot toddy in front of Strictly and Bake Off. Then you can organise a friends’ zoom get-together to discuss the contestants. Far more interesting than avocados.’
The toddler’s coming out of her paddy. Yes, there are things that she can do. But, wait a minute, On-line meet-ups just aren’t the same as face-to-face. Her lip starts trembling again. Luckily Zen-me has it all figured out. ‘Look, after all those substantial takeaways, and evenings snacking, you’ll be more than happy to go for companionable walks.’
The toddler needs more convincing. It might be warm and sunny in Zen-land. But this is Sheffield. In November. However, the road to enlightenment is layered with thermal underwear, thick sweaters and waterproof trousers. It turns out there’s no such thing as bad weather, just unsuitable clothing. And where there’s a will there’s always a way.
My inner toddler has finally calmed down and is busy drawing. With newly-found Buddha serenity, she reveals her picture of a wonky orange circle to remind us – if you can’t find the sun,then be the sun.
And when Grunting Teen and the Nearly Beloved appear, with stoic stomachs, for their evening meal, there’s no corned beef in their surprise. ‘I’ve donated all the tins,’ I tell them, ‘We’re getting a takeaway tonight.’ And the beams of delight on their faces light up our Corona darkness.