On the first day of the grand return to school my husband messaged:
“How was it?”
“Carnage,” was the reply.
Because for all of my prep the night before, I would have possibly achieved the same outcome if I had done nothing at all. Anyone passing our home that morning may have thought we were a pious and devout family such were the number of times I invoked the name of the Son of our Lord. Listen, even He was confused as to my sudden fondness in petitioning Him.
The wailing commenced pretty much from the outset. The eldest initiated the veritable symphony of whinging by grimacing and hissing through his teeth as he put on his new shoes,
The ensuing antics when he revealed that he had a skinned heel would have led a medical professional to believe their only option to be that of amputation. Never mind the fact that he had spent approximately 17 hours outside the previous day and his ‘wound’ did not bother him one iota. Naturally, there was not one plaster to be located in the bowels of the bathroom cabinet. Therefore, my only option was to fashion a crude concoction from Sellotape and toilet roll before wedging his foot into the shoe.
Then the youngest chimed in with her whining solo: “Uuuuugh, my jumper is too big.”
Not to be outdone, the other one offered: “So is mine. Can I not just wear my stuff from last year?”
To give you somewhat of a visual as to how last years ‘stuff’ looked on their final day before holidays, imagine a stage full of Las Vegas showgirls bedecked in their finery and it may go some way in explaining the exact length of my daughter’s pinafore.
Remember Frank Spencer — with his trouser legs tucked above ankle height giving the appearance of adult bloomers? That’s where the eldest’s trousers were at. Add into the mix, jumpers which looked like they had fused themselves to their bodies in a bizarre form of a secondary epidermis and it just delivered a solid, overall look.
So, there I was, the generous bestower of clothing that actually fit them and they deemed it all to be uncomfortable. They wanted their old shoes; the ones with the holes in them. Their old uniform which a junior infant would struggle to get into. One did not want to wear her glasses as upon viewing herself extensively in the mirror, threw her arms up wailing: “It doesn’t even look like me.”
What? You mean to say she thought the matted hair, one pair of shorts she continually had on rotation for the entire summer, dirty knees, untrimmed nails and general air of unkempt was going to translate for the first day back? In hindsight, if I had known what I would unleash that morning at attempting to tie her hair into a ponytail, I most likely would have let it all slide.
It is another extreme learning curve of the parenting gambit. We hinge so much during the early years of their life upon keeping them safe, encouraging, feeding, cajoling, worrying and enticing them to participate within the family and outside that we forget they will eventually form opinions of their own and voice them accordingly. Where one child may be laid back in one particular area; the other will make up for it by presenting you with a contract outlining the reasons why she feels she should be permitted to get her ears pierced and demand you sign it. In blood.
On putting the chocolate spread in front of them for breakfast the eldest enquired: “Does this have palm oil in it?” — which was followed with a lengthy diatribe to his sister concerning the destruction of the habitat of various endangered species in relation to same.
Bewildered at this sudden outburst of eco-consciousness and annoyed I wasn’t sure if I had checked if the buggering chocolate spread had any in it, I countered (after a hasty scan of the ingredients list): “No, it doesn’t! And no internet this evening… you’re learning too much stuff.”
We have reached that stage where they are now outsmarting me and I do not like it. Their minds are sharper than mine, they can absorb content at super-fast broadband-like speeds and they are aware of the impact of their carbon footprint more than either myself or my husband were during our own childhoods.
I find myself more frequently answering: ‘It just is — OK?’ — before scurrying from the room to search online for a more weighted response to their enquiries. At this rate, I reckon I have one good year left before they retire my opinion entirely.