The many faces of mum

The tears are great, huge puddles. Those tears you can see when they land. You can’t look at them, or you’ll start crying them too.

It is 7.45am and you know this mood – this mood that starts shortly after your child gets out of bed. This mood that nothing can calm until it decides it’s ready to calm itself. It might come before a big event – the first day back at school after the holidays, for example. Or, like today, the morning of a sharing assembly.

This morning, everything is wrong. Your already teary child misses his chance to lay the table because he is too busy crying over this morning’s choice of cereal. Then his brothers dare to get their own spoons out even though it is HIS turn to get everyone’s spoons. Then he is the last to get the fruit to go with his cereal, because he has been too busy crying over the spoon situation. Then there aren’t enough raisins in the bowl full of raisins. Then he realises that he won’t have time to play after breakfast because he has spent all of breakfast time and more crying over everything and nothing.

You try your hardest to stay calm – you are marginally better at this in the mornings than you are in the evenings. You try to be calm and firm and sympathetic all at once. You take him away from the situation but he won’t have it – he is wriggling and sobbing and fighting to escape as you try to give him a cuddle. And you sit at the bottom of the stairs struggling with a 5 year old, hoping that your other children will just sort themselves out and wondering whether this will be the morning that you have to phone the school and say I’m sorry, but I am actually incapable of getting my children out of the door.

You give up the struggle and he calms down a fraction, until it starts again over something else. And you try to find out whether there is something worrying him, but he says there’s NOT; it is just MUMMY making everything go wrong with his BREAKFAST. It is just all MUMMY’S fault.

Of course. At least now you know what the problem is.

And you need to get ready for work but you feel like you have done at least a day’s work already and no-one has even gone anywhere yet.

You would love to curl up and get back into bed. But everyone’s got to get to school and there’s the assembly to watch, and then it’s straight to work for you so there is no giving up and definitely no going back to bed.

The upset child drives some toy cars around and calms himself down – once his moment is over he is relatively quick to recover. It’s just that the moment itself lasts quite a long time.

You put on your ‘Morning! Yes we’re fine thanks‘ face as you leave the house; even though you feel like you’ve been put through a spin cycle and hung out to dry. But your children have got their coats, hats, book bags and water bottles; and they are happily walking to school. They are fine, you know that. But you also know that this slightly knotted up feeling right there, in the pit of your stomach, will be with you all day.

And your little ones give you the biggest hugs and say ‘See you at assembly, mummy‘. You see – everything is fine. No-one would even know about the heartache and the upset over a bowl of raisins and not having laid out the spoons.

Then you go into assembly and wear your proud but also slightly teary face, because you are convinced that this is what it was all about. It wasn’t about the raisins at all. And the assembly is joyful and brilliant and your children say their little lines and you just want to wrap them up in the biggest hug.

Then you get in the car and drive to work; and you allow yourself a little cry. Because so far today you’ve worn the I’m-doing-my-best-to-stay-calm face, the sympathetic face, the firm face, the ‘Morning! Yes, we’re fine thanks‘ face; and the proud-mum face and sometimes it just feels like too many faces.

Because you remember those big puddle tears and those angry little limbs.

Because you’ve got 5 minutes to yourself, and you can.

And then you get a tissue, dry the tears; and put on your work face. And you start the day again.

school run boys


One of those weeks

Sometimes you have one of those weeks.

One of those weeks when the dishwasher is broken and you forget your son’s doctor’s appointment and everyone is getting ill.

One of those weeks when your husband can barely move because of his bad back and then discovers he can no longer work from home on his working from home/doing the school run day, which means you have to leave work early even though though you have a mountain piling up on your desk which you were really hoping to get through.

Sometimes you have one of those weeks when you’ve left work early to pick up the children, but then get home and realise you’ve locked yourself out. You empty out your handbag and your pockets in a desperate hunt for your keys and you try your neighbours who have a spare; but the neighbours aren’t in and you really need to go and get the children from school….even though you’re not sure where you’re actually going to take them once you’ve got them. So you set off for school ready to break the news and you look around for a friendly face and try to think of a plan. And you try to communicate with your husband to say there’s a little, actually quite a big problem and is there any chance he might be home a little bit earlier like he suggested this morning so that he could let you in the house; but he’s locked away working on high security things with no access to a phone, and the neighbours are out looking after their grandaughters and right now you have no way of getting into your house. Thankfully there are plenty of friendly faces and soon you are sitting down with a cup of tea and the children are on an unexpected playdate; but you’re still not sure how or when you’re going to get back home and you’re running out of answers for your children and your eldest one keeps reminding you that you promised him a new pack of MatchAttax and you try to tell him that MatchAttax aren’t your priority right at this moment.

Sometimes you have one of those weeks when you have to call your mum-in-law and say I’m-so-sorry-but-we’re-locked-out-and-the-neighbours-aren’t-in-and-your-son-can’t-get-home-and-please-could-you-drive-to-our-house-during-rush-hour-and-let-us-in.

Sometimes you have one of those weeks when you wonder whether there was some ‘how to be a proper grown-up’ test that you forgot to take because right now it doesn’t really feel like you’re doing a very good job at it.

Sometimes you have one of those weeks when you forget a doctor’s appointment and your dishwasher is broken and you lock yourself out of your house and work is non-stop…….and then your eldest child sits staring at his breakfast and announces he is too poorly to go to school. Just as you’re about to leave the house for work. And you thought you’d be on time today…..maybe even early. But now you’re in a panic and can your mum-in-law possibly look after him and how much more are you going to ask of your mum-in-law this week?

Sometimes you have one of those weeks when you are behind at work and behind at home and then you open the book bags to discover you need to produce two robot costumes for the Christmas play.

Sometimes you have one of those weeks when no-one will co-operate and get ready for school and you’ve had enough of hearing ‘He hit me with BATMAN‘ and no-one understands that you really need to leave the house NOW right NOW…..there is actually no more time to be building train tracks. You are shouting ‘SHOES‘ and ‘COATS‘ and ‘HATS‘ and ‘BOOKBAGS‘ but you might as well be shouting into the abyss because no-one is listening. And finally you’re by the door and about to leave when the 5 year old who has just been to the toilet looks at you anxiously and says he really needs to go again right NOW, he’s DESPERATE. So you shout even though you know you shouldn’t because you’re meant to be the calm one in all this craziness, and now you feel bad about shouting as well as feeling bad about running late. And you run to school and the boy who needed the toilet falls over and his brother has a stone in his shoe and you tell him you’re sorry but that will have to wait.

Sometimes you have one of those weeks when you get home from the manic school run and realise that the zip on your very favourite pair of boots has broken and that really is the last straw. Everyone knows how much you love your comfiest boots in the world ever. You really want to sit down and weep but you can’t because the dishwasher man is at the door ready to fix the broken dishwasher. So you let him in and make the coffee and find out that the dishwasher will cost £220.00 to repair. And as it’s been one of those weeks, this makes total sense.

But the worst thing is still the boots.

It’s been one of those weeks.

one of those weeks

You can go now, mummy

You can you go now mummy”, one of you said, engrossed in your Lego construction.

I thought I had mis-heard, or misunderstood…..I must have done. This wasn’t the way we did things. I am always there until the bell goes and the bell wasn’t going for at least another 5 minutes. At least. I didn’t need to go; you don’t usually want me to go. What about sitting you down on the carpet like I normally do? What about the kisses and cuddles and then waving at the window?

“What do you mean?” I asked.

You can go,” they said…..almost as if they’d agreed this between themselves beforehand. Apparently Boy A’s mummy leaves before the bell, and so does Boy B’s daddy, and….. well, that meant that I was supposed to go too.

For a moment I felt a bit lost…. I didn’t really know what to do with myself. I was convinced that you would soon change your minds, so I aimlessly wandered around the classroom before realising that I looked like a bit of a spare part.

You barely even registered my bizarre behaviour.

I left the classroom feeling like I had left something behind. I peeked through the window but everything was as it should be – you didn’t even look up from your Lego.

Where did this come from, boys? It had felt like a normal morning……Well, mainly normal, but maybe a little bit different too. As we walked the short walk to your school, you shouted across the road to greet your friends – hi to this one, hi to that one. It doesn’t sound like a big thing, but I had never seen you do that before. As I dropped big brother off at his classroom, you both ran after a friend into the playground. You didn’t stand at my side as you normally do, giving shy stares to the other parents around us.

Then you were off again with another friend, racing towards your classroom. You were in the classroom and taking your coats off before I even got there.

There is a special drop-off arrangement for Reception children at your school – us parents can, if we wish, be in the classroom for the first 10 minutes of the day to help you get settled and organised. And so this is what we always did…..up until today, that is.

I always stayed up until the bell rang. I was always there to see where you sit on the carpet and who you sit next to (even though you sit in the same place and next to the same children every day). At least one of you would usually be hanging off my arms or legs; and often there would be a squabble over who got to show me their carpet place first. Once we were ready to say goodbye, I was required to give you several cuddles, kisses, a high-5; and finally wave and blow you kisses through the window.

You were never upset at being left, but this was your routine…..this was what you were used to and what you were happy with. We had done it this way since September. There was no sign, even yesterday, of you being ready for this to change. There was no sign that I was about to hear “you can go now, mummy”.

Is this it now, boys; or was this morning a one-off? Is this the start of your independence? No more hanging off my legs or begging for another cuddle. Are these the words I will hear every school drop off from now on?

“You can go now, mummy.”

I know it is a good thing. I know it is what we all want for our children and what we all need to happen at some point. And I feel proud of this huge step you have taken. Proud of the smiles you both gave me as you reassured me this was what you wanted. Proud of the simple, uncomplicated way you had decided that you wanted to try a new, more grown-up way of doing things.

But at the same time I feel slightly deflated and like I just don’t know what to do with myself for those extra 5 minutes you have just granted me.

And really….. a little bit desperate to feel you both tugging on my limbs just once more.

Adjusting collars


Onwards and upwards

So that’s another year done of school runs, chats at the school gates, reply slips, cake bakes, school trips, show & tells, playdates, violin lessons, assemblies, reading books, spelling lists, birthday parties and everything else that the school year brings.

It doesn’t take much to make me tearful, and the end of the school year always feels like an emotional time. I imagine it will always feel like this – coming to the end of one school year and getting ready for the next is yet another of those moments that make you aware of the passage of time. I have a feeling that whatever the age of your child, each year will be remembered for something – for my eldest one, Reception was all about getting to grips with the school timetable, learning to read, and memorising the school menu. Year 1 has been the year that he has gained in confidence, made his first proper little circle of friends and discovered the joy of chapter books. As he moves up and through the years I know that there will be other milestones I will remember – the year he no longer slips his little hand into mine as we walk to school, the year ‘mummy’ becomes ‘mum’, the year he starts walking to school on his own. Small but significant steps towards independence.

Parenting is a whole series of milestones, but the significance of the end of a school year feels even more marked because their whole little tribe is going through it together. Unlike a birthday which, quite rightly, is your child’s special day; the end of the school year is a huge moment for the whole school community. Whether or not your own child is involved, you can’t help but be aware of leavers’ assemblies, transition days and then, as they get older, leavers’ balls (or ‘proms’, as they have become); and realise what milestones these are for all of the families who are part of your community.

All of these children and young people moving on and up to the next stage.

I love these early years of school – the increased pressures on young children aside, this is such a special a time when friendships are made and learning is a whole world of discovery. At some point, I know this will change. At some point, I know these children will no longer run into school squealing with delight while they cartwheel in the playground. Of course I hope my boys will always love learning, but at some point school is likely to become associated with exams and worry. Those days are not here yet; and for the moment I am grateful that our school experience so far has been a happy one.

And so here we are – the end of term for my eldest boy’s little tribe was today, and that is Year 1 done and dusted for all of them. Out they trotted this afternoon – sweaty little red faces, eyes shining with excitement and t-shirts covered in toffee ice-cream. Some getting ready to go off on exciting holidays and others just full of excitement at the thought of six weeks of freedom.

It will be a new chapter for all of them in September; but in the meantime here’s hoping that the summer holidays are just the right mix of rest, pottering and adventure. With minimal whining. That always helps.

Happy summer holidays folks x

boy with bag.jpg

When Mummy attempts to get small people out the front door

This is Mummy. Woman having headache at home

This morning, Mummy had to leave the house to take her 5 year old to school. Mummy had her two 3 year olds with her. Mummy does this trip regularly.

Mummy finds leaving the house with her three children in tow one of the most stressful parts of the day; which is a shame, because Mummy has to do it a lot.

Mummy remembers a time when she would brush her hair and even put on make-up before leaving the house.

Mummy remembers when leaving the house didn’t involve shouting ‘put your shoes on’ and ‘go to the toilet’ and ‘stop wrestling with your brother’ 27 times.

Mummy returns to the present.

A 3 year old announces he would like to take his four toy eggs to school. Mummy tries to stay calm.

The 3 year old is quickly distraught. The 3 year old has realised one of the eggs is missing – he only has three eggs to take to school. This is very bad news indeed for the 3 year old.

Mummy does her best impersonation of Topsy and Tim’s irritatingly patient mum, and suggests that he take three eggs; which he should carry in his bag rather than in an egg box.

Mummy is finding herself quite ingratiating.

The 3 year old refuses to accept that he will be walking to school without the fourth egg.

The 3 year old is now lying on the floor doing an excellent impression of a wooden plank.

Mummy knows deep-down that she will never be like Topsy and Tim’s mum. Mummy returns to her normal voice, and attempts to explain to the three-year-old-with-no-concept-of-time, that getting his big brother to school on time is more important than a lost egg.

The 5 year old wonders whether he will ever make it to school.

The 3 year old eventually agrees to compromise and the three children make it to the door.

Mummy catches a glimpse of herself in the mirror.

Mummy realises that, although she still thinks about what she’d like to be when she’s a grown-up, these days she does in fact look very much like a grown-up. A tired grown-up with quite a few grey hairs.

It is only 8.30am, but Mummy has already been up for 3 hours and feels a desperate urge to go back to bed. Mummy knows she won’t be going back to bed.

The three children finally make it out of the door.

Mummy watches her children squabble over who gets to carry the eggs. Mummy would like to apologise to all the neighbours who were, until 5 minutes ago, still fast asleep.

Mummy decides she’ll write all this down when the children are asleep. And also pour herself a large glass of wine.

at the door in slippers

When we don’t need to go anywhere, we love standing by the door ready to go out.

Starting school – what it actually means for parents

We are a week and a half into the summer term and already I am struggling to keep up. The expectation is that everything gets easier once your children start school and at some point this will probably be true, but for now I find school completely exhausting and I’m not even the one who goes.

This time last year, I was totally focused on how my boy – an August birthday so destined always to be a little one – would settle into school. In fact, this should have been the thing that worried me the least – he has blossomed at school, so much so that I’m grateful he arrived 4 weeks early and managed to sneak into the school year above the one I thought he’d be in.

It turned out that I should have been preparing myself for all the other school-related challenges I’d be facing. I didn’t give any consideration to how my 2 year olds would cope with this sudden change to their routine for example – where was I taking them every day and how did they know I wasn’t just going to leave them there? Now we have the opposite problem and I struggle to drag them away from school, but either way drop offs and pick ups remain pretty high up on my most-difficult-part-of-the-day list. Along with bedtimes. And mealtimes.

They do some lovely things at my son’s school – here is one of them: I can take him into his classroom in the morning and spend 10 minutes getting him settled down and doing his first activity with him. Isn’t that nice? It should be, but strangely I find it difficult to focus as am trying to keep track of two 2 year olds who can usually be found doing one of the following:

  • dismantling a display
  • diving head first into a bucket of cars
  • laying down in the middle of the floor forcing parents and other children to a) step over them or b) trample on them.
school cars

The nightmare Cozy Coupe scenario

Sometimes I think the teachers are having a bit of fun with us parents who have younger children in tow by making everything the toddlers shouldn’t touch as enticing as possible. The ‘small world’ table in my son’s classroom gets more elaborate at every drop off – one week my boys are diving towards a recreation of the sea complete with water and a giant pirate ship, the next they’re racing towards the texture table featuring rice, lentils and so many other lovely grains and pulses for them to gather up and fling on the floor; this week they are attempting to climb on the miniature garden complete with real soil, gardening tools and giant bugs. Not to mention the outside areas where there are tables set up with play food and menus, a mini-supermarket just waiting to be staffed. It is all beautifully laid out and ready for toddlers to destroy before we’ve even entered the classroom.

However the real nightmare scenario if you have small children with you is this: the playground set out as a mini-town complete with traffic lights and Cozy Coupes, making a couple of circuits sprinting round the playground trying to extract two boys from cars an extra and unappreciated feature of school drop off.

But added to the challenge of getting your child/children to school every morning is keeping up with the school admin. Every school drop off I seem to see reply slips being handed over to teachers – I am permanently asking myself what I might have forgotten. This week alone features a school trip, a Maths Evening and a fundraiser requiring us to fill a giant bag with old clothes and take it to school for collection. I have filled my bag to capacity and now just need to work out how to transport it along with the three boys I already have to take.

just keep baking

Just keep baking

Since last September, we have had 999 day, World Book Day, Come as you like day, cake bakes galore, bring chocolate day, bring a bottle day (school tombola, in case you’re wondering), pyjama day, stay and plays, stay and shares and more events that my brain just doesn’t have the capacity to remember. It is a non-stop round of letters and emails home, of struggling to remember whether your son should be in his pyjamas or his fireman’s outfit.

And if you happen to be a parent with a talent or an interesting job, you will be even more in demand. Can you display your talents or talk about your job to the children during assembly? If you are without either, you just have to deal with your child repeatedly asking why you haven’t yet delivered an assembly. ‘Because being a Careers Adviser really isn’t that interesting for 4 and 5 year olds, and mummy has no talents’ is tricky for a small person to comprehend.

I cannot praise my son’s school highly enough – he has wonderful teachers and I think he is very lucky. I know that parental involvement is encouraged at all schools and understand that parents are a hugely valuable resource to tap into. That doesn’t make it easy to keep up with it all, and I have huge respect for parents who work full-time when just co-ordinating your child’s school life can feel like a full-time job in itself.

So if you have just received news of a primary school place for September and are wondering how best to prepare your child, I would suggest changing your strategy: your child will, most likely, be absolutely fine but there might be some preparations you’d like to make. I would recommend the following:

  • Buy a giant pin-board
  • Stock up on fancy dress
  • Develop a new skill now so that you can confidently deliver an assembly

And, most importantly, just keep baking.