|Two days before school started: a different world
I think it must be a feature of the boys getting older, but this year I was reluctant for them to go back to school. In years gone by, I would have been champing at the bit by September, ready to breathe a huge sigh of relief at no longer having to entertain them/find things for them to do while I work/ provide an endless stream of drinks and meals all day with them at home. But now, they are really so easy, so entertaining and such good company, that their holidays are thoroughly enjoyable, whether or not we're away.
It's just that glorious feeling of waking up and not having to make sure they've packed the right bags for school, checking on activities. Nor do I have to put them to bed "on time" despite their grumbles, so they can stay up watching the Olympics, or the Great British Bake Off*, like the rest of us. (*Yes, it's still a surprising favourite in this household of boys. In fact, Littleboy 2 ran into my study shouting "Mummy, Mummy" in horror yesterday. I thought something awful had happened. "Mel and Sue are leaving Bake Off!" he informed me with a stricken face, having seen the news on their iPad.)
I felt really relaxed at the end of the holidays. So it was something of a baptism of fire to be back in the routine. Suddenly, my diary was peppered with school events -- parent information evenings, house football matches, music performances -- and both boys decided to sign up for multiple activites, all of which require even more sports kit/musical intruments on different days, that I fear I will never get to grips of who needs what on which day, never mind what time to pick them up.
All in all, I felt as if (on top of a busy work schedule) I was running a small business empire last week: replying to school emails, putting events in diaries and having to sort out last minute babysitting to ensure everyone's attendance at crucial meetings. Not to mention making sure everyone was doing their homework/music practice/reading, after the lull of the chilled-out laid-back summer. My regime is, by necessity, a military one: the washing machine now goes on the minute they get home from school, because someone is bound to need that dirty top again tomorrow - no saving it for the next morning, not any more! -- and the bags are laid out by the front door the night before, or someone, somewhere, will suffer.
I know I'm not alone, and some have it far worse. At least my kids are same gender and same school. A friend with three children at three different schools showed me her email inbox last week, and it was just one school email after another. Another friend was grinding her teeth because her child had signed up for cross country running club at 6am every Monday -- the one club she had told him NOT to do.
I see this week that pushy parents/ "tiger moms" have come in for some bashing again - apparently, they (the parents) are among the least contented people, and goodness knows what that does for their children. Now I am not, nor would ever claim to be, a Tiger Mom, yet I feel that there's an element of this in all middle-class parenting these days. Because if you aren't on the ball and just a little bit pushy, it will be a big fat fail from the school, and you'll be letting your child down.
Where will it all end, I ask? Oh, I wish I knew but I don't have time to answer that now - you see, I've got to pick one up from gymnastics club, and then hang around before one auditions for the school play. Then cook them dinner and run out to a parent information evening, hoping The Doctor will be home in time. Oh well, if all else feels I can leave them in front of The Great British Bake Off...