Lockdown has been such a stressful and difficult time for so many, with depressing news reports, changes to routine, and social isolation the order of the day. Disability blogger Gem Hubbard runs the YouTube channel Wheels No Heels, here she tells us how the first lockdown went for her and how she used her lifelong mantra of “adapt and blossom” to get through it.
March 2020 is a month I will never forget. We had an amazing trip to Australia planned to see my husband’s family who we have not seen for seven years, and my daughter was in her final year of primary school, working hard towards her SAT exams.
Slowly as the days passed us by, our lives began to change in ways we could never have predicted. Our cities became ghost towns, supermarkets began to look like the set of an apocalypse movie, and toilet roll was almost as valuable as gold.
I remember sitting at the kitchen table on 18th March, helping my daughter revise for her English exam, when all of a sudden, “ping, ping, ping”. Messages began to pop up on my Mummy Group Chat: “SAT’s cancelled along with GCSEs and A levels according to National Education Union.”
“My daughter’s in tears,” said one mum. “Wow, this is so scary,” said another. “I feel like I’m in a horror movie.” I looked at my daughter and explained what was happening.
Now I’m not going to lie, she wasn’t upset about having to miss out on exams, but she was devastated at all the end of school treats she would miss, like her residential trip away, end of year productions – all the things that were like a right of passage to graduating junior school. At this point, everything felt so uncertain, and the enormity of the situation began to sink in.
During the next five days, all the parents were fantastic and organised leavers’ hoodies for all the students – something that was so important to the children. The teachers organised a leavers’ ceremony for them, which was very emotional. When your child leaves primary school it’s a huge emotional milestone, so to have been robbed of four months of this time was deeply distressing for everyone.
I think I speak for us all when I say March 23rd 2020 is an evening I will never forget – the day Boris Johnson announced the first National Lockdown. “Stay at home.”
Just like that, we were all in lockdown. Our trip to Australia was cancelled. My husband was furloughed and my daughter was off school, but my life as a self-employed disabled person hadn’t changed that much. My daughter’s school was fantastic and put lessons up online. Being a very creative person, and someone who spent a lot of time off school due to my disability, I felt this was the time to try and have fun and make the best of this situation. I sat down, got myself organised, and dived in headfirst.
Day one of home school with Miss Gem
PE with Joe Wicks
Routine has always been important in our house, so that was something we tried to maintain. Well….I think we all started out with these great intentions, right? But by day three, it had all gone a bit askew. We began to question: “Why we are doing PE with Joe?” None of us enjoyed it, (don’t get me wrong he is amazing, but it just wasn’t for us). By lesson 3, my daughter was climbing the walls, distracted by even a fly crawling across the window, and the poor cat couldn’t even pop back through her cat flap without her jumping up to grab her! We all found it too intense, and no one was getting anywhere.
A mindset shift
I remember scrolling through Instagram and a post stood out to me: “We are all surviving. As long as our children are safe and happy, that’s what is important.” After seeing that, something clicked in me – this was so true. I’m not a primary school teacher. I’m a mother, and I’m also trying to do my own job. So I stopped trying to do everything and started to do what worked best for us.
We learned dance routines, instead of PE with Joe, we found that so much more fun. We went on many walks around the block with our dog, watching the season turn to spring. We did clay modelling and had epic water fights in the garden. The weather was fantastic, and it made a huge difference to what we could do. We enjoyed BBQs and watching movies. Of course, there was a little bit of English and Maths, but not as much pressure!
2020 devastated many lives. It was incredibly hard for so many. It took a lot from us as a family too, but it has also given me so much. It gave me an opportunity to slow down and be thankful for what I have, it taught me to enjoy the moment and not feel pressured into doing everything all at once. When I began to play to my strengths, our time began to blossom. After all, that’s what I have had to do my whole life, adapt, play to my strengths, and blossom.