Are we nearly there yet?

The countdown is almost over. Never mind the sleeps, there are only three more drop-offs to go until the summer holidays.

And while six weeks in each other’s company is not always the bliss I imagine, the relief of being released from the nagging, cajoling, comforting and threatening that is needed to drag the boys from their beds to the school gates on time each day is compensation enough.

It is only the knowledge that the term is almost over that prevents our already glacial journey grinding to a halt altogether.

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Hopping to school

Chief holiday cheerleader is Kit, five. Having finally woken, he opens both eyes and sits up.
“Is it the holidays yet?” he asks.

The answer, alas, sets off the first strop of the day.

Ignoring it, I get out his and Alec’s shirts which until a month or so ago had seemed white and rather smart but are suddenly grey, grubby and sporting a yellow sun cream tide around the neck. There is a brief locking of horns over who wears the Friday socks before a relatively civilised descent to the breakfast table where Harry, seven, is already eating his cornflakes.

While I fetch the Weetabix, Kit gets in a sneaky joke (in contravention of a Bomford HQ cardinal rule).

“Why did the cow cross the road?”

“Because it wants to go to the cinema?” asks Alec

“No. To go to the moo-vies,” says Kit

“That’s what I said!” shouts Alec.

Harry intervenes to try to explain, but Alec cuts him off.

“Oh, fine,” he huffs.

Sensing that the rules are up for renegotiation, Alec then starts to demonstrate the school’s Brazilian song that everyone has been learning for assembly. Rather than all sing together, Kit and Harry add their versions on top of Alec’s, each slightly out of time and, of course, tune.

Against this cacophony can be heard a little squeak. It is my voice. I go to the mirror and breathe on it to establish some proof of existence.

“Kit, you’re singing over me!” shrieks Alec, much to Kit’s amusement until he realises Harry is doing the same to him whereupon he shouts, “Stop Harry!,” before running from the room crying.

My husband sounds the 10 minute warning and the boys are herded upstairs to brush their teeth. I accompany them while he waits downstairs ready to slap on sun cream and shoes.

“Five minutes!” he bellows, two minutes later.

To say that the children respond to our order-barking would be an exaggeration. In fact, no one appears to have heard a word. The greater the urgency, it seems, the slower they become.

“Did you know that Minnie Mouse is a girl and Micky Mouse is a boy?” asks Kit between brushes, oblivious to the sound of pacing downstairs.

Alec has poked his toothbrush down the plughole and Harry is brushing his chin. My husband appears in the bathroom looking tense and ushers Kit towards the stairs.

A few seconds later I hear Kit say: “Halt. Password!”.

There is a pause as my husband tries to remember previous ones in order to open Kit’s ‘barrier’ and get down the stairs.

“Please can I get past?”

“No.”

“Kit is King,”

“No.”

“I don’t know. We really need to be putting shoes on now.”

“Just guess!”

“Alright. 1234?”

“No!”

I sense Kit’s barrier may get blown off its hinges shortly. Luckily Harry comes to the rescue.

“Click your fingers,” he shouts and my husband is allowed past. His tread sounds rather heavy on the stairs.

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Kit is unimpressed by the demands of the school run

Alec is missing. I find him in his bedroom sorting out his Pokemon cards.

“I can’t find my best card,” he says wobbily. This is clearly a problem that can’t be hurried.

“One minute!” shouts my husband from below.

Thanking the lord for the fact that none of my sons is capable of finding anything located more than two centimeters from where they are searching, the card is quickly retrieved from under a nearby pile of World Cup stickers.

We rush down the stairs and I try to jam on Alec’s school shoes – not easy as one sole is flapping. The front door is already open and Harry is standing outside.

“Look Mummy, look!” he yells. “I’ve found a crystal.”

“Look!”

“Mummy, look.”

“Mumm-eee!”

I finally get the shoes on and turn round.

“Actually, I think it’s more of a brick than a crystal,” he says, tossing it into the flowerbed.

Kit emerges from the kitchen clutching the packed lunches, prompting Alec to run crying into the dining room.

“It was my turn to carry the lunch bags,” he wails.

By now my husband is quite agitated. One minute is definitely up.

Kit is persuaded to give Alec the lunch bags and they head for the door, trying to trip each other up.

“OUT!” roars my husband, just as one of Harry’s classmates and his family walk past our front gate.

“Hi!” we beam in unison.

My husband hoists the school bags onto his shoulder and trudges off down the path. Squeals, laughter and the sound of a lunch bag being used as a football can be heard all along the road.

I close the door. Silence.

Only three more days to enjoy it.

 

 

 

 

New term

After four-and-a-half years of near constant cacophony my house is quiet. Silent, in fact. I know I should be listening to Radio 4 and reading something meaningful, but I am slumped on the sofa digesting the fact that all three of my boys are now at school.

And just as my twins, Alec and Kit, four, knocked us sideways with their chaotic arrival, so their double departure this week has packed a similarly painful punch.

No sign of first day nerves

No sign of first day nerves

“Yay! Freedom!” I warbled unconvincingly as they trooped into their classrooms for the first time, weighed down by lunchboxes the size of suitcases. I watched proudly (darting from window to window) as they took their seats on the carpet, looked up expectantly at their teachers and moved seamlessly into their new roles as schoolboys.

We parents gawped through the panes and, after being ignored for a few minutes, drifted off feeling redundant and, in my case, inexplicably disappointed. After a leisurely coffee and lots of jolly comments about how I ‘won’t know what to do with my time,’ I return home and, guess what, I don’t. Not for a day or two anyway.

I start scrolling through my mental list of things to do. It is so long and dates so far back that even getting to the top feels like too much to think about. Somewhere on that list contains the ambition of having an uninterrupted cup of tea. As a life goal I admit I may be setting the bar a little low.

Even though the boys have been at school for less than three hours I am already feeling unaccountably nostalgic about all those playgroups, music classes and mid-week park café lunches that we’ll never have again. Of course, I never actually took the twins to a music class (too stressful/expensive) and we last attended a playgroup more than a year ago. But the point is, we could have. And now we can’t.

With the start of term comes another realisation: I am no longer the mother of very young children. I admit that having three children under three is not something I could wholeheartedly recommend, but it did provide an identity of sorts. My harassed demeanour and double pram with buggy board set me apart from other parents. Now my children are just like anyone else’s – no cause for admiration, pity or any other form of attention. I shall miss not being able to get cross about it.

So now that the two main excuses for my general inaction and, ahem, undercleaned house, have left the building, it is probably time to smarten up my act a bit.

I have to confront the fact that I do now have time to look in the mirror so probably can spare a minute to drag a comb through my hair and, regrettably, may now be able to tackle the health hazards that are our toilets. I probably could sort through the jumble of summer clothes on the spare bed too.

But just as seven years ago, I never imagined being a stay at home mum, today I don’t really hanker after being a mum-who-lunches either. Not every day, anyway, although no doubt it is a role I could quickly warm to. So the question of What Are You Going To Do Now looms constantly, if not in my own head, then on the lips of others.

In the meantime, though, I have accrued a lot of unpaid leave in my extended role of childcare-provider-in-chief and refuse to spend it soul searching. Instead, I shall pine.

I wander into Alec and Kit’s bedroom and fluff up their pillows (I know they will appreciate this later when they hit each other with them). I imagine them having lunch and hope they can get their yogurts open. I am the first parent pacing outside the classroom at 3.15pm.

Kit bursts through the door, smiling, clutching at least five drawings of monsters. “They’ve got lots of books!” he shouts. Alec emerges, looking dazed but pleased with himself, happy because he had lunch with big brother Harry in the canteen.

And we totter home, all talking at once, pausing only to run into people’s driveways, snatch a school bag and chuck it into the road and climb any unstable-looking walls.

I am back on familiar territory. It feels good.