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Thursday, 27 September 2012

New School Parent Conduct

So, first four weeks of school done, we're there, it's now just a question of keeping her institutionalised, at something other than Her Majesty's pleasure, until the age of 18. How hard can it be?

We are keen, as parents, we were in the starting blocks about a month before the race was due to begin. Heads down, fingers steepled, feet pressed to the metal. First day arrived, the gun went off and my husband and I were off. Playground chatter before the bell was ludicrous, my mouth was moving far faster than my poor addled brain could cope with, utterances were non sensical, mothers clutched their children to them whilst steering them to the other side of the world. Husband ran round talking nonsense to the men folk. We are the panting, out of control, super excited Cocker Spaniels of the parent world.

Second day, naive teacher types sent our eldest home with paper containing dates and times of meetings and socials with requests for volunteers. My husband and I ripped the sheet from the bag, scrambled for the calendar and divvied up the duties right then and there. Any self respecting parent would have ignored the letter at least for the first month, just to keep a sensible grip of their self respect. Not us, third day of term and my husband was knee deep in women, at the school's fund raising brain storming meeting, as a result he's researching a school bus and taking up architecture to design a suitable school swimming pool, good luck to him. I'm baking anything I can find just on the off chance we might have a visitor from the school. We're very busy!

We had our home visit, having the queen round would probably have been easier. Curtains were ironed, floors were ship shape and Bristol fashion. The dog was made to practise please and thank you as we ran around in a flurry of tidiness and cleanliness very, very much as close to godliness as is humanly possible in this realm. When the teacher and the teaching assistant arrived both me and my husband ran to our "natural" positions which meant neither of us opened the door, eldest child did the honours and ushered both teachers and dogs into the kitchen where insane mother was stirring nothing on the Aga and cool, calm, collected father was making coffee and tea simultaneously. Eldest child sat at kitchen table with teacher and did numbers and letters and parents and teaching assistant sat uncomfortably on the over plumped sofa cushions, trying hard not to spill coffee and or tea on anything whilst listening to the dog try and say please and thank you. A more natural scene you could not have conjured from anywhere. As parents, we made hobbits look run of the mill.

My husband and I have also signed ourselves up to to the "Fun run". There is no fun in run as far as I can see, but I'll be there with my sweat band round my head and leg warmers just above very nearly new trainers, punching the air at the start, without question of  a doubt. I'll probably collapse after about two paces, but it's not the winning, as we tell our girls, it's the taking part. Who cares if you lose all the respect of your peers in the process, you can always win them round in the playground with gabbled words of  absolutely no consequence to anyone whatsoever?

We had our harvest festival concert, to which I rocked up (unknowingly) cool as a cucumber, 10 minutes late. Was then informed that I was in the wrong place, couldn't find the right place so missed out and husband was left to Spaniel pant on his own. He wins brownie points though because he also signed himself up to cook at the "Back to School BBQ", where I wandered around spilling wine over people whilst trying to look thought provoking and nice, sociability does not come easy to me, but my husband manned the BBQ, so there's got to be something in that.

All in all, I am glad that my daughter is only four, because she'll probably not remember the complete incompetent retardedness of her mother. She'll be glad her parents (at least half of them anyway) showed up. She'll take the life lesson that Spaniel is better than Chihuahua, isn't it?

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Play Dates...

I had no idea, until my eldest was about 15 months, that there was an actual name for children going round to each others houses, causing mess and mayhem for a couple of hours and then leaving. This title still fills me with horror as it makes me feel that something grand should be happening. The "play" I can compartmentalise and justify, that is what children do, but the date... Makes me feel like children should have spent in excess of 6 hours deciding on what they are going to wear, got their hair and make up just so, then put their selected outfit on and realised that something had to go, either the hair or the make up. That's just the child. Then I get to thinking that I am up against Excellent Parents (see Excellent Parents / Existent Parents) , in a world where competitive parenting holds fast. Existent parenting in this instance simply will not stand.

Of course we have real life friends who have real life children, and then it's just a question of having people over with their children and monitoring the bun fight that ensues, occasionally throwing a niblett of something in when they get bored and want another thing to massacre. This is not a play date, oh no, no, this is having friends over with their children.

A play date requires one parent stepping out of their comfort zone to let the other party know that they are keen for their children to interact with the other parties children out of school hours. Essentially you are putting the feeler out for "proper friends". It sounds mental, but it goes against everything we Brits stand for.

Organisation of the first play date is a mine field. You have to gather information from your children as to which child exactly they are talking about, then you have to cast your eye over them to see if you think you are going to be able to keep this child from being eaten or from desecrating your family home. Once you have assessed said unsuspecting child you then have to come up with a way of contacting the parents without plaguing their existence and seeming like you or your children inhabit only a friendless world. Approach the teachers, that's right, ask them if "Blah blah" might like to have a play date with your child, while they scrutinise you and check you for any outward visible signs of paedophilia, they'll provide you with some means of contacting "Mr and Mrs Blah Blah" and you're away. Just this bit is a triumph, you've got the key to the play date, but now, you have to use it.

My favoured medium, as the world's most socially awkward parent, is the text. the humble text allows you to be frank, short and not have to use the voice. But then you have to think about what to write, how to phrase this master piece so that it unlocks the gate that holds "Blah Blah". "I've seen your child at school, she looks really nice and seems to like my daughter, can she come and play?" doesn't quite cut it.  "hello it's Mrs Friendless, mother to child with no friends, your child looks like friend material, does she want to come round?" is a little off putting. The phone is in my hands, the screen is empty, the cogs are turning, quick, simple and good. Don't give too much away, sound pleasant and normal, minimal words maximum impact "hello, does Blah Blah want to come over?" That won't work, they won't know who I am, or where and when they're going. This is hell, go with "hello (mother of Blah Blah) it's me, my child's mother. we wondered if Blah blah would like to come for tea and a play on X at Xpm?" It's gone, there's nothing you can do.

Waiting is hell, you want so much for your children to have this sodding play date that you cover every scenario before collecting the unsuspecting kinders from nursery / school and then you've forgotten. The phone goes pling and it all comes back, they're going to be busy, and the fact that you clearly aren't, as you've suggested the date, means you really are the friendless wonder you think and they think you are.  "yes that'd be lovely, shall I drop her round at 4?" "yes, 4 would be lovely!" You don't mean it, you're in a tail spin already, what will we wear? What will we do? What will they eat? How will the house ever be tidy in two weeks? I then spend the next couple of days thinking of excuses about how to back out.

Surprisingly, we're still waiting for my youngest to have a play date. She's just gone back to nursery and she can't make up her mind who she wants round, they don't know at 3, or do they?

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Back to School...

It will certainly not have gone unnoticed, by any of you who've had your children hanging around your feet for this interminable "summer", that we are getting closer and closer to that precious Back to school time, or as it has become to be know in my house, "thank F*********k for that"!

Some of you might well still have your angels demanding every second of your attention, draining your bank balance on stuff to keep them entertained as well as little extras on top of that to get them to co-operate. The time has come, or it is very soon to be here (assuming you have kids, that is), when you too shall be doing the running man as you see the back of your child's head as it is swallowed up by the school gates, and then moon walking to the car as you realise that life, as you know it, has started again.

Shoes. This seems to send most into a spin, probably one of the main reasons for the economic collapse as you have to remortgage to get the whole kit and kaboodle. We went  three or four shoe shops which in itself was enough to push you over the edge. Most of them, apart from the last shop, were rammed with parents and children all searching for the right shoe that will last, look nice, be loved enough by the child so that they'll want to wear them every day, and not cost in excess of a million pounds. Sadly, we had to run the gauntlet on this one with two children in tow. The youngest had taken on a new persona of bad jelly, a child that couldn't stand up straight, let alone walk, so we had to keep fighting her to get her scooter from A to A and a half. She became an eel whenever picked up, that move, perfected by children at their very worst, that leaves you clutching nothing but a fibre of clothing and thin air whilst your child writhes around on the floor letting the world know that your incompetence as a parent knows no bounds. Luckily, once we reached the golden sanctuary of the first shoe shop, both children were charged with an unbridled energy that left the rest of the shop agog at the relentless bad behaviour. Eventually after about 40 days and 40 nights a frayed looking elfin creature in lovely nude heels came over to us and quietly asked if we'd like some new children and a rest? I duly obliged, thrust my eldest towards her and she returned with one pair of shoes that would fit my long limbed elfin child. None of the shoes that she'd selected from the shelves to hurl at her sister were included in the offering and the shoe fitted badly anyway. Hooray, we were off to the next shop. The story was similar, other children and mothers moved in waves around the holy grail of school shoes and pandemonium ensued. By the fourth shop I had no life left, we climbed the stairs on our knees, using elbows as grapling hooks and at the top found the floor empty, not anything in sight, not even an unsuspecting frazzled shoe engineer. I now know why, we found the holy sacred shoes and they were about eight times the price of anywhere else where the shoes were limited and didn't fit. Did we care? Did we buggery, the shoes were snatched out of the ladies hands, money was thrown agressively onto a counter and I ran like the wind from the shop leaving a blazing trail behind me. Job done.

Uniform was slightly simpler, there are only a couple of items that we had to purloin from a specific place, everything else we found from various other high street outlets. Weirdly, it wasn't free, but after shoe-gate I realised that throwing money at a situation usually works well, theft is a little trickier.   

Once we had our treasured swag, we commandoed to the car, then home, where the treasure was laid out for all to see for a few days. People would come round and be marched straight up to the uniform and made to critically appreciate it, on paper, before they'd even drawn breath. "Look at that" we'd say, arms folded, like pirates who'd captured all the booty from the Armada, "that's our daughter's uniform, she's going to BIG SCHOOL next week!" The poor people of the world, shrinking away from the agressive, gloating psychos, would nod, put their pens and papers down and agree that this was probably the best thing for our eldest as we really shouldn't be in charge of anything, perhaps even not ourselves! It mattered not, we'd got uniform and shoe, a week and a half before the start of term.

Once the uniform was complete, life was normal again, that was except for the name tag sirens that lived within the uniform. They called at me for a week before I sat down with a rancid, shaky hangover to saddle the name tapes to the items with needle and thread. Then I found a marker pen and life was very different. That was it, it was complete, we just needed to get through the weekend and we'd be there.

The eldest started school yesterday for the first time. Uniformed pressed and fresh, shoes are shiny and new and her new school emblem is printed in bright white on the breast of her jumper. The effect is enough to melt even the coldest cockles. I was break dancing like a bad ass when I thought about it. I was also very, very, very concerned that I was depositing her into a system that I don't think I am 100% happy about. This is it now for 14 years... I don't think I did anything continuously for 14 years, the very idea makes me want to fall down and beat the floor with clenched fists. How the hell did we arrive here?

Regardless, we have done it! My eldest small has made her way into the world of rules, regulations, education, teachers and people who spend the entire day telling you what you should and shouldn't do. Things shall never be impromptu, but fall into the lap of weekends, half terms and school holidays. I am so proud of her for getting here but perhaps, just maybe we could do with a couple more years without this, could we?