I took DD to look around a senior school the other day. It was the first time I’ve set foot in a senior school since I was, well, in senior school myself. And that was (unfortunately I’m not exaggerating) decades ago.
I’d forgotten how much teenagers know; how much stuff they learn at school. We went to the science labs, where spotty adolescent boys showed us incredibly complicated chemistry experiments that sparked long-forgotten memories.
‘Look! That’s a Bunsen burner!’ I yelped, noting as I did so that today’s burners are far slicker and more modern than the crude things we used to use.
In the biology labs, girls in lab coats performed tests involving food, litmus papers and test tubes. I vaguely remembered doing things like that myself in dark, fusty labs long, long ago.
Diligently, the girls wrote up Hypothesis, Method, Result, Conclusion. Goodness, I remember those days: writing up an experiment (assuming you’d made notes in class and not eaten Kit Kats under the bench) was a fun and easy homework that involved different coloured inks and lots of nice underlining.
We went on to the gym, where the squeak of trainer and ingrained smell of teenage sweat took me straight back to my own school. We saw language labs, home rooms and the sixth form centre; we saw the netball courts, art studios and music rooms.
‘How was the school?’ DH asked when he got home that night.
‘Wonderful!’ I said, and proceeded to tell him in great detail all the things I’d done, learned, experienced and seen.
‘And the dance squad was amazing!’ I trilled, as DH’s eyes slid shut. ‘The facilities were brilliant! And it had loads of shady courtyards and open space. The sixth-formers had a kitchen! With fridges and microwaves! It was beautiful!’
After some time without comment from DH, my verbal appreciation of the school we hope DD might get into came to an end.
‘You do realise, don’t you,’ DH said, opening his eyes to prove he was awake, ‘we’re actually looking for a senior school for DD – not for you?’
I took the children to the Family Day at the Dubai Rugby 7s last week. It was the first time I’ve been to the rugby in 10 years. A decade ago, the Sevens for me involved little rugby, a lot of beer and a lot of crazy dancing at the concert after.I can’t tell you how different it was when I went with the children. I was driving, for a start, which meant no falling-down juice. And we sat in the family stand, which meant we had a great view of the rugby without having to deal with the sort of drunken high jinks that I remember from Sevenses past.
What surprised me, though, was how much the children enjoyed watching the international women’s matches. They each picked a team and got right into it. We learned that each try is worth five points and that, after a try, the person who scored gets a chance to ‘convert’ by kicking the ball through the goal, which can give two extra points. If this was news to me at the ripe old age of 43, it was even bigger news to DD.
‘Aw,’ she said, after a player scored another try and failed the conversion. ‘Rugby’s such a nice game.’
‘Really?’ I asked. We’d spent much of the afternoon watching with our hands over our mouths as grown women literally ripped each other’s limbs off down on the pitch. ‘Nice?’
‘Yes! It’s not like netball where you have to get a goal to get a point,’ she said. ‘In rugby they give you five points just for trying!’
The other day DS gets whacked by a football while playing with DD in the garden.
‘Ow, my balls!’ he yells.
‘What did you say?’ I can’t quite believe my ears. He was in my tummy five years ago.
‘Ow, my balls?’ says DS, the picture of innocence.
It’s not a word he’s heard at home. I ask DS where he heard this word and what he thinks it means: he knows what it means; he’s learned it from friends at school.
‘Look,’ I say. ‘There are some words that we just don’t say, okay? At least not when we’re only five years old. It doesn’t sound nice coming from little children.’
‘Oh,’ says DS,’ you mean like the F word?’
‘How do you know about the F word?’ I ask, my world suddenly a darker place.
‘I know all about the F word. Miss X has told us about it at school. I even know what it means.’ DS is wobbling his head with pride.
‘What does it mean?’ I’m feeling faint, to be honest.
‘Fat,’ whispers DS. ‘Miss X says you must never call someone fat.’
DS is an early riser. At first, when he was a baby and used to wake at 5 or 5.30am, I used to comfort myself with the thought that he’d grow out of it; that as soon as he went to nursery / went to school / got older, he’d start to wake at a more civilised time, or at least stop coming in to wake me as soon as he was up. It never happened.
I remember reading, in desperation one weekend morning when I’d been awoken yet again at 5am, an article on ‘how to deal with early-wakers’. The life-changing conclusion? Go to bed earlier yourself, or you’ll die of exhaustion, because your child is not going to change. An early-waker, said the article, will always be an early-waker.
Five years later, I have the black under-eye circles to prove it was right.
Still, since DS has been about four and a half, I’ve been buying myself a little extra morning lie-in on the weekends (say, till 6.30 or 7am) by placing some cereal and the iPad in his room along with the strict instructions every weekend night not to wake anyone up: not Mummy. Not Daddy. Not DD, and certainly not Gerlie, who quite rightly doesn’t take kindly to having DS knocking on her door pre-dawn on the weekends.
In fact, the last words DS hears at night are not ‘Good night, sleep well, darling,’ but ‘Remember: don’t wake me up.’
So today I was washing the dishes while the children played. Going around in my head was a bit of an ear worm: Taylor Swift’s We Are Never Getting Back Together. As I soaped the dishes, I sang: ‘Never, ever, ever…’
‘Wake me up,’ said DS.
My prediction for the next decade? Taylor Swift has two babies, followed by a re-release.
Having never really appreciated Dr Seuss’ books as a child, I’ve recently developed a love of his mind-expanding rhymes and anapaestic tetrameter as I explore his books with DS.
And, as we were reading The Cat in the Hat for the umpteenth time the other night, something resonated with me. On page 16, the naughty cat, who is demonstrating his admirable skill at multi-tasking, says:
‘Look at me! Look at me now!’ said the cat. ‘With a cup and a cake on the top of my hat! I can hold two books! I can hold up the fish! And a little toy ship! And some milk on a dish! And look! I can hop up and down on the ball! But that is not all! Oh, no. That is not all…’
‘… I can hold the cup and the milk and the cake! I can hold up these books! And the fish on a rake! I can hold the toy ship and a little toy man! And look! With my tail, I can hold a red fan! I can fan with the fan as I hop on the ball! But that is not all. Oh, no. That is not all…’
And I thought: that sounds familiar.
Every day, I’m balancing a fish on a rake. Every day I’m balancing a fish on a rake while holding a toy ship, a toy man, and a fan. Every day, I’m holding all those things while fanning with the fan and hopping on the ball.
Dr Seuss may not have known it at the time, but the 21st century Cat in the Hat really is every modern mum. Hats off to us all (just don’t drop the cake).
There’s a strict division of labour in our house. I’m not going to beat about the bush and pretend it’s anything it isn’t: DH earns the money, does the odd jobs / dirty work and drops the kids at school every morning, and I do everything else.
And, in our household, “everything else” catches a lot of stuff, from meal-planning and cooking to managing the finances, maintaining the house and garden, planning the holidays, making sure the family paperwork is all up to date (passports, visas, alcohol licence, ID cards and so on), trying to make sure we have some form of social life – oh, and looking after the children with all that that entails. I’m sure you all know the score.
Usually, we all bob along nicely: we both know our place and our system works for us.
But this week there’s been a hiccup. DH’s car developed a flat tyre. In my job as sorter of “everything else” I took the tyre to the tyre place: it’s not a puncture, it’s a cracked wheel rim that’s causing the tyre to lose air.
So, in my role of sorter of “everything else” I searched for new rims for DH and presented him with a few options, which he – in his role of boss of “dirty work” – rejected. He found a place that mends rims. I took the rim in to be mended… and DH was left with no car.
As you can imagine, this lack of car has had a profound effect on DH’s ability to drop the children at school every morning, so the division of labour has shifted: I’ve added morning drop-off to my list of daily chores while DH has enjoyed an altogether more leisurely start to his days.
‘Mmm,’ he said this morning as he lay in bed with his coffee and I galloped about the house gathering children, lunches, homework and swimming kits while making sure I had two contact lenses in and at least some knickers on. ‘I could get used to this… and… you seem to be enjoying doing morning drop-off?’
If looks could kill, my friends, if looks could kill.