How are you doing?  Has life changed in the past couple of weeks or is lockdown much the same for you?  I’m enjoying school gate chats again, with two back for these last couple of weeks of school.

With one teen still at home, I (Rachel) am not yet back to my daily appointment with Dr Frasier Crane (back before all this I’d flick onto Channel 4 for a little light-hearted relief while I did a quick clear up before getting on with my day).  I accidentally switched on the TV while I was straightening the cushions this morning, and felt a pang of nostalgia for those mornings!  Instead, I’m avoiding daytime TV and watching teacher-narrated PowerPoints with my reluctant learner.  But I’m enjoying revisiting all this long-forgotten high-school stuff!  What do you miss about your old life?  

In truth, I am feeling frazzled. I’ve realised that I’ve been acting the role of the ‘buffer’ most of the time. Buffers are those things at the end of the train line, or at the back and front of the train. Wikipedia also calls a buffer a ‘bumper, bumping post, bumper block or stop block’.  They absorb the kinetic energy, stopping the train running off the tracks. A buffer is a ‘person or thing that reduces a shock or that forms a barrier between incompatible or antagonistic people or things’.  If you have a buffer in your life, what a blessing. If you are the buffer for your family, well done for all the sacrifices you’ve made over the past few months.

I’ve dropped everything to help with their work, squeezing mine in when I should be asleep, relaxing, or having some screen-free time. I’ve relearned how to find what x equals and how the present perfect works. I’ve found out how to do silly, hard sums without a calculator. And if I have to categorize any more 3D shapes I think I might use a bit of my own momentum to turn a nearby object into a 2D one.  

I’ve gone to great lengths to make sure they have nice meals, they access all the painful group Zoom chats (Zoom and 8-year-olds don’t mix), they get to (socially-distanced) meet their friends, etc.  I’ve continually reorganised the house, in the hope that transformation number 63 creates a more relaxed and simultaneously more productive space! I’ve witnessed my work desk resigning itself to a new career rehousing a tangled changing-cable medley, as every possible device is dusted off to access every manner of marginally useful online learning platforms.  

I’ve tried to be a friend when they are lonely and a teacher when they don’t get it.  And at the end of the day, I’ve been a grumpy mum – only just able to string a sentence together as I round them up to make the first ascent up the wooden hill to Bedfordshire (knowing there will be many more ascents and descents because what have they really done to be properly tired? And how can they get to sleep at a reasonable time when they keep lying in?) I’ve tried to arbitrate in dozens of garden arguments, or I’ve hidden in the bathroom with Instagram and earplugs, hoping it will all go away. I’ve stepped in to play with the one being left out, leaving mountains of washing to scale at midnight.  I’ve tried…, I’ve tried….

I’ve absorbed extra chores, sometimes letting them off, aware of the extra stress they are under. Early on in the whole thing, I bulk-bought biscuits online, aware they were non-essential, but not prepared to let them go cold turkey when they ran out!  Their wellbeing is at the back of my mind all the time.  I don’t want to grow entitled kids, but this whole experience has pulled so much of that entitlement rug from under their feet overnight.  No more trips, no more friends, no more parties, no more swimming, no more after-school clubs.  So, one step at a time.  

But I can’t fix everything, nor can I protect them for the seemingly relentless disappointments I hear about at each school pick up: no sports day (just some kind of sock Olympics – if it ever stops raining); no summer fair, no school play, no leaving party, no last school dinner. 

Each of their anxieties or upsets crashes into me at varying speeds, depending on the force behind the train of disappointment.  And now I’m feeling squashed, dented, and jaded!  The bumper-block that is me won’t hold out much longer.

Yes, this is an unashamed rant!  But I’m sure you could write a paragraph of your own about how you have been the buffer for the last four months.  You’ve shopped for people every week, admitting defeat when the desired item is still missing from your doorstep delivery. “No, they still don’t have Tunnocks Caramel Wafers and yes, I know the dark chocolate ones are not as good”.  (When I found out they had actually shut the factory during lockdown, I felt vindicated in that one area of my life – it wasn’t my fault!)  You’ve had to find extra hours in your already busy lives to care for the sick, help the neighbours, run the food delivery at church, or create endless quizzes to keep other peoples’ spirits up whilst crushing your own. Maybe you’ve worked extra hours, under increased stress.  Worst of all, you might have been bereaved, unable to grieve properly because of all the social-distancing and 10-person-only funerals.

What I want to say is, you are not alone, and we want to give you something to reinflate your buffers!  (I hope that is not an inuendo). For two hours, we want you to stop being a shock-absorber for everyone else.  Sign up to Activate Click and sit back and enjoy time with other smiling faces, with God, and without your family! 

Happily for us, in between homeschooling, the team is now able to meet up for a few hours instead of depending on technology to communicate.  Last week we had a bit of a run-through of our new virtual event. Rhiannon has spent many hours getting the videos, worship, slides and programme to run smoothly and all that is left is for you to join us!

We also made a few videos – all aiming to tell you more about Activate Click!  They’ll probably be appearing on social media in the next couple of weeks but if you’re here, not there, you can take a look now!  Don’t forget to book on – it will be a tonic to see all your smiling faces.

But in the meantime (and I’m speaking to myself here):

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.

1 Peter 5:7

Hopefully our online event will help refresh our focus and provide a view away from the oily mess of the bumper-stop.  

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