Like many things in the last year, my lessons from lockdown have been unexpected.
When the British Prime Minister announced that we must stay at home from 23 March 2020, due to Covid-19, I was worried. My little adventurer has always been a very busy, outdoor child and we spent much of our time away from the house. Whether that was attending different groups or visiting parks and nature reserves.
So when lockdown was announced, my first thought was ‘what will we do all day?’ I remember panicking and looking up activities online, writing out timetables the night before, anxious that our days be filled.
However, as time went on and we learnt to embrace those long, slow days of spring, new routines began to evolve. We started to enjoy spending more time at home, we developed the art of slow play and realised that it’s okay to feel bored at times. It’s not our responsibility to fill every moment of our children’s day and actually, it’s in those pockets of boredom that their imaginations are free to explore and create.
For us as a family, what became one of the most important elements of our routine was our daily walk. During that first lockdown there were quite strict rules about what you could do during your daily exercise, including that it must be close to home and take no more than an hour.
With a two-year-old in tow this meant that our options were pretty limited, so we began a daily walk around the block. Where we live is quite an urban area, so I must admit to feeling slightly jealous of people on social media who had rolling hills to explore and windswept beaches to stomp their emotions out on. Meanwhile we walked along main roads and busy cul-de-sacs.
But what we began to notice as we repeated the route each day was the pockets of nature that are everywhere once you start to open your eyes.
The arrival of spring
Our walks began at the start of spring, when the daffodils and snowdrops were still proudly claiming the first spots in the gardens we passed. These were followed weeks later by bright bluebells and colourful tulips. I’d comment on them to the little adventurer as we passed, but didn’t really stop to consider how much notice she was taking. However one day she started to tell me “now we’re coming to the garden with the red tulips, then it will be the white tulips next.” Suddenly I realised what a unique view of nature we were experiencing. When else in our lives had we had the opportunity to see it on such a micro level?
As spring wore on blossom began to burst out everywhere. Our favourite tree, a huge magnolia on the corner of our street, took centre stage. It was impossible to pass by without stopping to admire it. The irony was not lost on me that we had travelled across the globe to witness the cherry blossom season in Japan, but had never really taken the time to appreciate our own little beautiful corner of the world.
Spring turned into summer and the wisteria on our neighbour’s house bloomed. We stopped regularly to peer over the fence, envious that we could never quite replicate it with our own.
As the months passed, it no longer seemed to matter that we walked through such built up areas. It really did feel as though we had our own private nature reserves.
One day my little adventurer, wearing a yellow dress, stood knee-deep in a bank of buttercups. “I’ve never seen so many buttercups mama!” she shouted, eyes shining, completely oblivious to the main road they were growing alongside.
As the days ticked by and the gardens and grass verges changed minutely, so did my body, as my stomach began to swell as our baby grew inside me.
The waiting game
Summer arrived and the days became sweltering. I went a week past my due date, than 10 days, then 12. Walking became more difficult, but we continued with our short little stroll, bumping into neighbours and having the same conversations: “No, no baby yet.” We played our own waiting game.
Then suddenly our second little adventurer arrived into the world in the most chaotic and scary way. For two whole weeks our lives became about hospitals. Gone was the blossom, the flowers and the trees. Our days became filled with bleeping machines, artificially lit wards and confusing meetings with consultants as we struggled to understand what had happened to our boy.
Then just as suddenly it was over. The nightmare ended as quickly as it had begun and we were home. Safe. The first walk we did as a family of four around the block felt surreal. To see that time hadn’t stopped while we’d been away, nature had carried on in our absence.
And time marched on. As autumn arrived we wrapped the baby in layers and he witnessed the first of the leaves begin to fall. We watched the colourful show as green turned to red, orange and yellow. We kicked and scrunched our way through the dead brown leaves beneath our feet. Until finally, the last ones fell and winter arrived.
These last few months have felt long and hard. We did the same walks, but they no longer held the same charm. It was difficult to muster up the enthusiasm day after day: “Come on, let’s go for a walk!” Trying to find the silver linings in the grey days.
Until slowly, slowly, they began to arrive. Was that a bud? Did you see that green shoot poking through? And then finally, finally, spring returned in all of her glory. Now there is a new waiting game in our house. We are eagerly anticipating the arrival of the magnolia once again.
Our lessons from lockdown have been many and varied. Some things I hope never to have to repeat, other lessons I’m sure we will quickly forget. But I hope our reconnection to nature is something we will never lose.
Have you learnt any lessons from lockdown?