We’re two days into the school runs of a new half term, and already I am feeling, well, pissed off, frankly. And having exchanged a number of empathetic glances/sighs/expletives with my school run compadres as I mum-run along towards the closing-because-we’re-late gate with small people, buggies, book-bags, change bags and assorted paraphernalia, I conclude that I am not alone. Here are the inevitable truths of the school run. I’d love to know if mine are the same as yours.
It doesn’t matter how organised you think you are. So what if you ironed all the uniforms the night before? So what if they said they wanted school dinners? So what if you’ve done this a lot of times before and are certain you have everything under control?
The baby will wake earlier or later than expected, thus messing up the whole planned agenda. Someone will have a breakfast related tantrum. Someone will lose a shoe, find last minute homework in their book bag, remember that it’s Wear A Certain Shade of Purple Day. Suddenly dinner choices are all unacceptable and you’re forced to fashion a hasty packed lunch involving an overripe banana and some questionable Dairylea. Also it can take the average five-year-old twenty-seven minutes to put on their underwear. So really, it doesn’t matter what you do in order to be on time, because the small people are basically colluding against you.
You will get annoyed at any other adult in your house. If my husband is present during the school run Armageddon, I get annoyed that he does things differently to me, or doesn’t know where stuff is, or thinks mornings are in some way fun. Stick your joviality, Mr, this is fucking serious.
But if he leaves early for work, I still hate him. How dare he leave me desolate and surrounded by these things I can’t control? Please tell me I am not alone in this exchange:
“Bye, kids. Bye, love.”
“Bye Bye. [Front door closes] You lucky bloody bastard.” (I whisper the last part, naturally. I am a parent.)
You will turn into a Nazi-style dictator. I do not care if you are the most laid back, mousey, non-shouty parent in the world. You WILL bark orders, you WILL bribe, cajole, and emotionally blackmail. You will also have strict time-related checklists and if these are not met, you get batshit crazy.
Mine are Cbeebies-related. I don’t even care that she would prefer to watch another channel after her breakfast; the timings work for me, so tough. If we are not ready to put shoes and coats on and deal with the inevitable last minute filling of the nappy from my youngest, by the end of Kate and Mim Mim (incidentally the most saccharine pile of nonsense I have ever half-watched) then prepare for me to go nuclear. I know it’s irrational, and I know it won’t help things. I know I shouldn’t and I really strive not to. But I do. At least once a week.
It’s an “against the odds” type affair. It will rain. Traffic lights, slow walking pedestrians, refuse collectors, road works, and basically a whole heap of annoyances will make your journey to school, by whatever means you get there and whatever distance you travel, feel on par with Homer’s Odyssey. But you’ll get there. You will. And realistically, even if you’re a bit late, all that suffers is your maternal pride. And that was basically fucked the day your firstborn fell off the sofa while you binged-watched Netflix in a sleep-deprived semi-coma, let’s be honest. (Again, was that just me?)
You will look at other mums and wonder. How is she doing this so much better than me? How did she manage a full face of makeup, and heels? How does she manage with so many kids? How the hell is she clearly off to the gym or for a run after this, and yet I feel like I’ve run a marathon already?
It would be easy to turn these wonderings, and the school gates, into a clique-ridden mum-war-zone where there are haters at every step. Indeed, many sources would have it that way. But let’s not do that. Let’s remember that however we appear, be that glamour puss, fitness freak, or like me, Worzel-Gummidge-haired-mentalist, we are all just parents, doing what we can to get though the day. Let’s just be kind to each other.
All of the above are my school run truths. Perhaps they are also yours. But oddly, and thankfully, and most importantly, however hellish your morning, you’re suddenly conflicted. As you kiss them goodbye, wish them a nice day, you’re simultaneously relieved they’re someone else’s problem for the next six hours, and missing them, even as they turn around and wave. You know that even if they drive you crazy, part of you won’t feel exactly right until you come to meet them at these gates, and bring them home, to repeat the whole cycle again tomorrow.