As we progress through the stages of lockdown, our boys have now reached karate. It’s an advance on the WWE stage they went through last week, triggered by watching a film about a boy who discovers a magical mask that turns him into a wrestling superstar (The Main Event, if you’re interested), although it does suggest that we have a long way to go.
Lockdown started very differently. For the first week-and-a-half they were model students in our impromptu home school. They did exactly what we asked, were eager to learn and seemed to thrive on the routine. Perhaps they were in shock.
Since then, the harmonious play in the garden has been replaced by bickering, wrestling and now karate.
It was probably to be expected. Deprived of the physical contact with their friends – the playground games of bulldog, football and grandma (a cross between What’s the Time, Mr Wolf? and tig) – they are craving an outlet for their energies.
We take them out every day for our state-sanctioned exercise, but football, cricket and bike rides are a poor substitute.
Despite all our efforts to provide a routine, keep them occupied and make sure they stay in touch with their classmates, we know that the long-term impact of the lockdown is likely to be deeply traumatic.
Who knows what effect a prolonged separation from their friends and a sustained suspension of normality will have, except that it will be another adverse childhood experience they will have to cope with, on top of those they have already suffered?
And while we can soften the blow, we also need to help them work through the trauma, even if it is via the medium of karate.
Which leaves us with a dilemma: do we let them carry on tussling in the hope it will meet their needs, or step in, in the knowledge that otherwise one of them will eventually get hurt?
At the moment, we’re veering towards a more hands-off approach, in the belief that it will help them develop self-control and self-regulation, and that they’re unlikely to really hurt each other. (There may also be an element of leaving them to it so we can get on with the other stuff of life, such as making the tea, cleaning the house and searching for the next online delivery slot).
It’s also brought home to us how it would be a very different experience if we only had one child.
One of the reasons we were keen to adopt siblings is that they would always have someone to play with, as well as someone who shared their history. And although there are times when it’s been really hard work, on the whole it has worked out better than we could have expected.
While our boys have gold medals in bickering, they also have a very close, albeit complex, relationship. They love each other enormously, and while they fight, it rarely becomes physical and they’re full of remorse if they accidentally hurt each other.
We’re also lucky that they’re able to play on their own for long periods, with only light supervision. This is a relatively recent thing: when they were younger (they’re now 10 and 8), they needed fairly constant input from one or both of us.
It’s hard to imagine what it would be like now if we only had one child, or if our children were younger, of if they were unable to play together at all. Not always harder, but very different.
We can honestly say there has never been a moment when we’ve regretted adopting two children, but right now it seems even more the right decision than normal. We’re just hoping they soon move from karate onto the macramé stage.