‘Oh, they’re the best days of your life’ they tell you.
‘Ah, once they start school you’ll not notice those years flying by’ they promised.
‘The years are short, but the days are long’ they said.
‘Oh what a load of crazy horseshite’ I say.
I’ve been had. I’ve reached the end of week two of my first kid starting school and already I want my money back.
You know the way they say create realistic expectations of school for you kid? Well, feck that. David Colemen and the like should have taken to the national airways and given a good old health warning to poor, long-suffering parents about their own expectations and lofty ideals. We should have been prepared for it. We should have been told how hard it would be. Instead, a fortnight in I’m picking up the pieces. School has so far being a massive disappointment. A let down. For me.
So ok, I drifted through August holding my proverbial breath and waiting for ‘all the time’ that was going to be freed up when Spidey started school. Right, so I took a very loose interpretation of ‘housekeeping’ on the basis that I’d be a veritable lady of leisure come September ‘only’ juggling two kids but happy to sail through the much neglected chores. I read recipes and salivated at the thoughts of all those new techniques I’d try. No more weekday Spaghetti Bolognese for us, we were going to try new stuff!
Time was going to be mine in abundance and my god I was going to enjoy it.
But two goddam weeks in, my house is filthy. I’ve ‘to do’ lists where the first order of business is to find and amalgamate my last stack of ‘to do’ lists. The washing is stacked high the only difference being the green and grey uniform stuffed in the middle. We’ve had Spaghetti Bolognese for two nights this week and the tagine hasn’t been used once. Spidey is back into the bloody tracksuit bottoms five minutes after he’s in the door so it’s deja vu all around. In the power vacuum created by him heading out of the house, the other terrorists (the politest thing I’ve called them all week) have spotted the opportunity and expanded their powerbase. My time has disappeared. It has all come to nothing.
Yoda is, and I can’t put this delicately enough, a despotic fucking mad woman. She starts the day (starving and bursting for a wee) looking for an argument. Her favourite victim? Herself in the mirror. It’s a good and a fair match but jesus she can really give as good as she gets. The showdown isn’t sparked off by a heated debate about the terrible crimes inflicted on civilian populations across the world, the spread of Ebola or the imminent threat that Fianna Fail may one day return to power. No. One morning it was the colour of her pants. The next it was being awake. The next it was some equally significant tale of woe that I couldn’t listen to lest my ears burst. When the screaming abaits she joins us for breakfast – a highly tense affair where we fear setting off the fireworks again before the food has had a chance to level her blood sugars. We then proceed into a morning of relative calm – unless one of the teddies crosses her, steps out of line, or causes her some offence. We tip-toe through to lunchtime, picking Spidey up, and then wait for some minor incursion by one or the other to kick it off again. And so the afternoon goes. Time just flies by let me tell you and before you know it we’re having the mother of all battles about the tea / the loo / bedtime. Even making major allowances for jealousy, rage and (in part) a terrible personality, I can only conclude that my daughter is really very annoying.
Woodie has, over the last six months, become a firm favourite with both his Daddy and his Mummy. Known for his long and lazy naps, delicious thigh folds and all round good nature, the child could – up until this point, do no wrong. But slowly his inner pedant is emerging, an assertive streak is showing and this fella is looking to carve out a name for himself on the streets of Dublin 3. He has decided to drop the Mr Nice Guy routine and release his inner angry baby. He hates the car (in fairness they all do) and battles to get out of his car seat. He goes mad when the other pair leave the room and only settles when he’s chauffeured after them, so he can get another fix of their antics. He’s taken to shaking and pulling his head WHILE feeding, thereby proving that indeed the human nipple can stretch about 4 inches further than it was previously estimated. At about 3am every night I find myself pushed to the edge of the bed as he expands his territory, farting and spreading his arms out over his head as he settles for a good kip in the big-boy bed. His status as favourite has me blaming teething, but I’m inwardly worried he’s displaying those renowned genetic traits of being annoying, loud and a little bit arsey.
The schoolgoer is probably the easiest of them. I am under no illusions that this can be attributed to five years of solidly good parenting on our behalf. I know full well that it’s due to the fact that he’s allowed to wear his tracksuit into school two days out of five. I never thought a dress code would play such a pivotal role in my happiness but I swear I’d grease the principal’s palms to push those two days to five.
Attitudes, behaviour, and general madness aside, my other enemy as the parent of a schoolchild is time. I really really thought I’d have lots of it but ‘certain factors’ are going against me.
First, the stupid school insists on taking an entire goddam month before the kids do a full day. This means I’m in the door from the school drop off and have half cleared the breakfast stuff away before Yoda wants a story / fight / play and Woodie a feed. Then we’re into nap time for him and more stories / fights / play for her before pegging it out the door again for pick up. Seriously? A day or two in they should have it broken to them (gently) that this is it til they’re 19. Suck it up. And in the meantime let your mummy suck up a cup of tea and a vienesse whirl.
Second, someone really needs to explain to two particular people the importance of five minutes. To the husband, there’s a chasm between 6pm and 6.05pm. Trust me it’s the difference between draining that boiling hot pasta while holding the knawing baby and trying not to fall over the Lego fire engine at your feet, and having an extra pair of hands to help out. To the teacher, there’s the difference between noon and 11.55am – one being the official pick up time and the other the time she stands the line of newbies in the yard so that by the time I arrive (eh, noon) my child is last man standing. Five minutes people. It’s not a lot – unless you’re the one holding the kids.
Third, I am losing days – literally. Not in that lovely way when you’re on holidays and a little too fuzzy pissed to remember whether its Wednesday or Saturday. No, I’m suffering from a serious case of Groundhog Day where the days are actually blending into one day – but its a long drawn out one where a small blonde girl is shouting at me. Of all the days that have to play on an endless repeat, the universe had to chose that one.
So what to do? Naturally in this baby-led world I live in, its all about the kids. I’m taking a reasonable stab at helping Yoda to channel her inner warlord, vent the obvious jealousy and frankly stop the bloody shouting. She getting plenty of positive attention for the good stuff and a little ballet class with some friends to give her something that’s all hers. Little man Woodie gets all he needs and drops open his mouth at the sight of Teetha and Bonjela. For now I’ll keep my blinkers in place and refuse to believe that he’ll be anything but a ray of sunshine once those first teeth appear. And the bigger fella, we he’ll just have to learn that somedays you can’t wear a tracksuit. Even on the northside.
But what about me? What about my broken dreams? What happens to my unrealised ambitions? What about the unfinished projects, half written blog posts and long neglected crafts? Where are the lovely non-spag-bol dinners that I never get to make? Why am I still holding onto a wee I realised I needed to do three hours ago? Who is going to take a Mama-led approach to mending my exhausted brain and overstretched bladder?
No-one it seems.
It appears that having bought into the ponzi scheme that is parenting, I am just one more casualty of the first term blues. I believed in a false hope, a new dawn, a quiet moment or two that would be mine once a child went to school. Instead I am left taking orders from a three year old tyrant while embracing new jobs like packing a lunch, readying a uniform and tracking down elusive school shoes.
I dared to dream of bigger things. Next time I’ll know better.