There is something looming on the horizon. It’s in the shape of the local primary school, where my son starts in September.
“I am dreading him starting school,” I confide to a friend last week.
“Oh God, me too,” she nods. “It’s like my little baby is finally growing up.”
I immediately strike her off my Christmas card list for saying something quite so nauseating.
It always makes me laugh (and when I say laugh, I mean chew my own ears off in frustration) when I hear parents bemoaning the fact that their little princess / soldier / button / munchkin [insert other ridiculous nicknames for offspring here until your head explodes] is growing up, and isn’t that sad? Is this really a surprise to them? I mean, I am no biologist, but at quite an early age I managed to grasp the concept of a human life, starting at babyhood, going through childhood and then pretty much continuing that linear concept of years passing, right into adulthood. My son is four. He will be five in September.
Quick, someone get me a chair, I have only just realised he is getting older, it has come as such a shock…
Anyway, I digress a tad.
I didn’t mean I was dreading it because it meant that my son was getting older. Gaining more independence, being able to wipe his own bottom, cut his own food (not simultaneously, well – not yet) – these are all causes to celebrate. I meant I was dreading it from a logistical perspective. Having him in nursery for three days a week has spoilt me somewhat. I drop him and his brother off at 7.45am, merrily make my way back to the home/office and have a full, productive day checking Twitter, er – I mean, working hard on my business and pick them up around 5pm. A full working day for me, and a full day of activities and general mucking about for them. Everyone is happy.
But come September, this idyllic, hands-off, we-don’t-do-half-terms approach to childcare is gone, and Connor is in school. From the outset, the day seems hideous. The school day starts later, at 8.45am. I am already grimacing at the thought of the mornings, trying to get one ready for nursery (milk, get dressed, a little snack of banana, clean teeth and face, get shoes on, remember to put him in the car) and the other for school (a uniform more complicated than jeans and tee shirt involving a ludicrous number of shirt buttons, milk, cereal, toast, teeth, face, shoes, book bag, quick scraping of crusty stain off school jumper, remember to fasten seat belt once he’s in the car, a discussion about why there is to be no sweet eating at this time of the day). Drive to nursery, remember to drop the right one off. Come home. Unload boy from car. Pick up his scooter. Scoot / walk to school, drop him off. Walk all the way back, uphill.
Throw some cornflakes at my face, crumple in an exhausted heap on my office chair. Start my working day.
For the first two weeks of the school term, the new school kids are on half days. So by the time I get round to starting work, I can pretty much guarantee that one eye will already be on the clock, counting down to pick up time. Now I know that school is not obliged to offer full time education to children until they are five. In the same way that I know I am not obliged to get anyone else a drink when I am out in the pub with friends, but it is downright rude not too and highly inconvenient for everyone involved. After those two weeks, the older kids, of which mine is one (thank the god of getting stuff done for that) go “full time”. I am considering contacting Trades Description about the term “full time”. Hands up who works full time? Now keep your hand up if you finish your working day at 3.15pm. Oh look, not a single hand left waving in the air. No. Most of them are too busy trying to get tasks completed before they have to pick the kids up. Since when is a couple of hours after lunch finishes a full working day? I can sense that my already bulging to-do list is going to be that much more slow-moving come September.
I have canvassed other mums’ thoughts about how they are going to handle this. Solutions range from relying on grandparents, a brain-bendingly complex timetable of neighbours / friends / bloke they once met in a pub all pitching in to help, giving up work completely, to laughing nervously and changing the subject. I would like to consider a nanny, or some other child care expert, to take care of my son before and after school so that I can have a normal working day. I would like to consider it: my bank balance wouldn’t. I went to visit the after school club, run by an external company in the school grounds. It was a fairly soulless affair, populated mainly by bored-looking nine year olds flicking pens at each other, overseen by a ten year old. Okay, she wasn’t ten and I am sure she is more than capable of running an after school club. I would imagine she was a member of it herself last year.
Perhaps I am going to have to set up a little after-school entertainment in a corner of my office. A couple of pots of Play-Doh, his favourite fire engine and police car. I can just imagine having a chat with a client on the phone with a loud “nee naw nee naw, got you, you baddie” refrain going on in the background. Or a persistent request to sit on my lap, which I relent to for a quiet life, and regret three seconds later as he “accidentally” presses the one button on my keyboard that immediately turns the whole damn computer off. And whilst on this topic, I would just like to say to any keyboard designers out there that whoever was responsible for putting what I call the ‘nuclear bomb’ button on a keyboard deserves to have a full size QWERTY keyboard inserted into their own personal disk drive one letter at a time.
Never was a idea so poorly thought through, a thought that seemed to end with ‘I know, let’s make it a bright colour, that’ll really attract the kids’.
My keyboard is made by a company called Genius. The irony levels in this office right now are threatening to melt my eyes.
And there we have it. As each day passes, the dread levels in me rise just that little bit more. I look at my business, hit by three recessions (the first financial, the second and third in the shape of having my kids) and feel a little sorry for it. There is another storm brewing and I am not sure how it will fare. So, for now, I just keep spinning those plates and employ the age-old technique of plate spinners everywhere who have just been told there’s another whopping great plate headed their way… the LA LA LA technique. Whenever I think about the logistics of having a child at school,
I stick my fingers in my ears, take a deep breath, and shout LA LA LA LA LA very loudly until the thought runs away, slightly scared of the mad women with a very loud voice and waxy fingertips.
There is something else looming on the horizon. Much bigger and uglier than school. I can barely bring myself to say it… take a deep breath… here goes… school holidays.