The summer holidays are nearly over and the new school term is almost upon us. My preferred method of dealing with all the back to school organisation, is as follows:
At the start of the summer holidays, put it all right out of my mind, relaxing in the knowledge that I have weeks and weeks before I need to do a thing.
Later that day, miserably leave the uniform shop after a ‘successful’ visit, having spent a small fortune on piles of clothes that I am going to have to individually and angrily label at the last minute. All while knowing full well that they will lose everything within the first three days of term, and we won’t see any of it again until Christmas.
One week before the start of term, remember that my children own feet. And unless the school are planning a theme of ‘caveman’ day for the first day back, there’s a good chance that shoes will be required. They have both been blessed with the wonderful combination of very small, yet extremely wide feet, and one of them additionally has an arch to rival the Arc de Triomphe. What this means in real terms is that every year, we are forced to embark on a long, arduous and sometimes painful quest for school shoes that fit.
We walk into the first shoe shop, and take a ticket for the queue with a bizarre optimism that belies past experience. Ninety minutes later, it’s our turn. I’m already exhausted having spent half the waiting time berating myself for forgetting to make an appointment for the sixth year running, and the other half trying to convey just how angry I am with my children’s behaviour, through the medium of hissing.
The shop assistant kindly waits while the girls physically fight over who is going to go first. When the least bruised child has emerged victorious, they then get on with the job of measuring, while we place bets as to how long it will be before the words ‘small’, ‘wide’ and ‘arch’ are mentioned. The assistant will then cheerfully disappear into the store room for twenty minutes, only to reappear looking pale and confused and holding one box, already explaining that they’ve had to go up three sizes but it might still be fine.
My child will then fall deeply in love with whatever they bring out. They will either be so narrow they could give Cinderella a run for her money, or so large that they could house both feet in one shoe. No matter what I say about growing feet, comfort, etc. the pleading begins. ‘I’ll walk on tiptoes’ or ‘I’ll wear my slippers inside them’. The firm ‘no’ is finally and begrudgingly accepted, but only once I have been provided with a carefully thought-out list of ways in which I’m a terrible mother that knows nothing about shoes.
This process must then be repeated in at least two more shops, until finally they are both kitted out with school shoes which they hate with a passion, as well as PE trainers, and I am several hundred pounds poorer. We then leave the shop with me issuing strict instructions that under no circumstances are their feet allowed to grow for at least 12 months.
Three days before the start of term, enter the war zones that are my children’s bedrooms, and ask to inspect their pencil case. To which the reply is always ‘what pencil case?’ and this is when I discover that they’ve either burnt it, sold it or cut it up for craft purposes. As for the contents, half of it was put in the bin weeks ago and the rest was handed out as presents to friends because ‘Sarah really likes my pencil sharpener, and Lucy didn’t have any of her own stuff’. With the exception of the glue, which has been used to make slime and is now stuck to the underside of their desk along with a year’s worth of the contents of their nostrils.
The day before term starts, let the labelling commence. My family have learned to their cost, what will become of them if they approach me on labelling day. They stay happily away while I think murderous thoughts and make unachievable promises to myself that next year will be different.
And this year, my youngest will walk out of the door on Friday morning and head off to her first day of secondary school, full of excitement and nerves.
As for me, after ten years of ferrying first one, then two children off to school, there will be no more turning the car round to go and get the forgotten lunch box, no more parking five miles from the school and being pleased to have got a space so close, and no more trying to think up original yet realistic lies when entering a ‘reason for lateness’ in the school office register. And in traditional rose-tinted spectacles style, I will miss it all.
Instead I will be shouting about homework to two children instead of one. I will be defeatedly observing their inability to follow the simplest instruction. And I will be deeply suspicious about assurances that they have washed. I say bring it on!
But also… Bring on Bedtime!