Posts Tagged ‘parenting’
It’s lovely, isn’t it, when your children start to make proper friends at school. I love that first sign of independence when they tell you they want to go home from school with a friend for a play date, and they don’t mind that you won’t be there to pick them up or go with them.
We’re sort of getting there with DS now he’s four.
And, while I’m overjoyed at the thought of having a little peace in the afternoon while he has a great play date, I have to say, letting him go home with others does bring its own set of problems.
Our school isn’t a five-minute walk away; neither is it a quick drive through the local community – it’s a 20-minute drive at 140kph on the road formerly known as Emirates Road (now technically known as Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Rd – not to be confused with Sheikh Rashid Rd or even Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Boulevard).
To get an idea of what the road formerly known as Emirates Rd is, take the M25 in rush-hour, supersize it to 12 lanes, then plonk the world’s supply of village idiots on it, in badly maintained cars capable of driving at 160kph.
That’s our school run.
Is it any wonder that I’m a bit anal about insisting that DS is always in a proper, age-appropriate car seat? But sometimes I find it difficult to ask other mums outright if they’ll be putting DS in a car seat. Usually I ask nonchalantly if they have enough car seats or should I drop one off for DS to use? But other times I barely know the mum so I resort to sneakier tactics.
This involves lurking in the car park until I’ve watched her put her own kids in her car. If they’re strapped into car seats, we’re cool. But if her own children are flying loose in the car, their heads bobbing about between the front seats as her driver accelerates the Range Rover out of the car park in a cloud of dust, poor DS finds his play dates stone-walled – unless the other child comes home with us. If that happens, we’re usually subjected to a barrage of four-year-old outrage: “What? I have to sit in a baby seat?”
Um, yes dear: You’re not going through my windscreen.
DH writes from a conference he’s at in the south of France (I know, seriously, the south of bloody France): “Hi darling, how are you?”
Me, from home: “Glad the week’s over. How about you?”
DH sends me a couple of photos of the view from his room: “I’ve just checked in. That’s my view.”
I’m looking at the photos – they’re all palm trees, Art Deco architecture and bright blue Mediterranean Sea. I can even see a cruise ship anchored offshore in one of them.
Me: “Looks gorgeous. It’s been a tough week; I’ve been working till 11 every night. Obviously up at 5.50am to do the school run. Can’t wait for you to get back.”
DH writes: “Oh, hold on. Got to go, they’ve just told me I’m moving to a suite…”
Messaging resumes the next day – Saturday.
DH: “Hello, conference is finished. Suite’s gorgeous! I’m sitting in Cannes old town, having a beer. So what are you up to?”
Me: “Oh you know. Usual Saturday. Screaming loud kids’ birthday party. Now I’ve just dragged two bickering children round the supermarket, fighting with them all the way. When are you back?”
DH: “After the weekend.”
Every now and then you hear about these surveys that tell you how much of your life you spend doing things like sitting in a traffic jam (66 hours a year in London, apparently), cleaning your teeth or thinking about sex.
Well, I’d like to add my own scale to that: Time, as a mummy, spent waiting. People talk about how the time spent with small children “flies by” or “passes in the blink of an eye” but, as one currently labouring at the coal face of parenthood, I’d like to note how much time is spent waiting.
Usually in not-very-comfortable positions.
Just as a starter – a little amuse bouche, if you like, we have:
- Waiting for the children to get out of bed (while hovering on the landing balancing two empty glasses, the days’ dirty washing, the children’s clean school clothes, one swimming kit, one guitar, one PE kit and a reading book).
- Waiting for the children to eat their breakfast.
- Waiting for the children to get dressed.
- Waiting for the children to clean their teeth.
- Waiting for the children to get into the car (while holding two school bags, two PE kits, a guitar and two lunch boxes. I’d like to say and with a water bottle balanced on my head, but you wouldn’t believe me).
- Waiting for the children to get into their car seats (with your back bent and twisted at 90 degrees and while hoping a passing child doesn’t slam the car door on your legs).
- Waiting for the children to pigeon-step slowly into school in 45˚C heat.
- Waiting for the children’s school bell to ring (I mean, seriously, they’re on the school grounds now, talk about eking it out).
- Waiting for the children to do a poo (while squatting in a smelly public loo cubicle trying not to let your Joseph linen trousers touch the wee on the floor).
- Waiting for the children to agree to do their homework.
- Waiting for the children to actually do their homework.
- Waiting for the children to come in from the park.
- Waiting for the children to eat their dinner.
- Waiting for the children to get into the bath.
- Waiting for the children to get out of the bath.
- Waiting for the children to go to sleep.
Anyway, I’ve done some calculations, and I think that all this adds up to seven years of waiting per child – so about 17.5 years for the average 2.4 children. No wonder time as a mum flashes by. There’s simply no time left to do anything else.
“Mummy, mummy, can I go on the iPad before bed? Just for a bit?”
“Yes, but it’s five minutes iPad, then one story, then bed. Okay?”
“Just one story at bedtime if you go on the iPad. Got it?”
“Yes. One story.” [Pause] “But you’ll read it two times? The one story? You’ll read it three times? Lots of times till I’m asleep? Yes?”
Try as you might to maintain friendships with people who don’t have children, sometimes the differences between your lives can just seem insurmountable. Especially, I’ve found, as the kids get a bit older (babies, of course, are portable and can be touted around in various designer containers till they’re able to walk).
The other day, a friend who has no children made a snarky comment to me apropos of the fact that, when I fail to return her missed calls, I blame it on the fact that I spend my days running about after two children.
“I’d better get myself some kids,” she wrote icily on Facebook, “so I can get out of calling people back.”
And then, when we finally spoke, she said, “Let’s meet for breakfast.”
“Sure,” I said. I love a good breakfast out. Beats the usual yoghurt and fruit I eat at home and, after the school run, I’m ravenous.
“How about 11am?” she said.
And you ladies who have children? You know exactly what’s wrong with that, don’t you.
I had a play date today with a mum who has a child the same age as DS (note, the mums had the play date, not the children). We saw a lot of each other last summer, when we were both suffering our boys waking ridiculously early thanks to the sun rising at 5am. I have memories of meeting my friend in coffee shops throughout August, both of us hollow-eyed and desperate, as we exchanged details on whose son had woken the earliest, aka how knackered we each were.
Anyway, today I asked how she was and she said something I think every mum of small children will relate to: “A little less desperate, thanks.”
And then, over a cup of tea and some chocolate shortbread, we devised the following scale of mummy desperation:
Top rung of desperation ladder: Child is either not sleeping or is waking way too early – and by that I mean 4.45am onwards. Mummy is gaunt, hollow-eyed, slightly manic, talking too fast, laughing too much and quickly conks out after one glass of wine. She has to pinch herself to stay awake on Al Khail Rd.
Middle rung of desperation ladder: Child is either waking only one or two times in the night or is waking for good after 5.30am. Mummy is knackered and trowels on the under-eye concealer and Clarins Beauty Flash Balm but, with two coffees, a good handbag and a fair wind, can convince others that she’s perfectly sane and not about to collapse, sobbing with exhaustion, onto her chocolate croissant.
Bottom rung of desperation ladder: Child sleeps through the night at least 5 nights out of 7, or wakes consistently after 6am. Mummy, although still chronically knackered and bearing battle scars from being on the higher rungs of the desperation ladder, feels like she’s taken amphetamines – she is invincible, she is unstoppable, she is Beyonce on stilts. She sees a hint of the possibility of having a life once more: Hobbies, a social life, maybe even some work. (It’s a beautiful thing but I’m sorry to say it doesn’t last long. I don’t think you’re home and dry till the child’s turned five.)
DD brought up the topic of 12/12/12 in the car on the way to school today.
“It’s a very special day today,” she said. “It’ll never happen again because there aren’t 13 months.”
To be honest, I hadn’t even thought about it. It was 7am and I’d been up since 5.20am, washing my hair, getting ready, making packed lunches, packing school bags, dressing children, cleaning their teeth and dashing out in the car as the sun rose.
As DD brought up the topic, I was accelerating through six lanes of dense traffic onto Emirates Road. It wasn’t the best time for a discussion.
But once we were in the fast lane, I clicked on the cruise control and turned a little of my focus to the conversation.
“It’ll happen again in 100 years,” I told DD, “when it’s 12/12/2112. Your great-grandchildren might be talking about it on their way to school (in a rocket ship) in 100 years’ time but none of us will be around to see it.”
“Why not?” she asked.
“Because we’ll be dead,” I said. There was a tiny gasp from behind me. I could almost hear DD’s eyes snap open with shock.
“Dead? What’s going to happen to us?”
“Nothing darling, it’s just that you won’t live that long. With the best will in the world, you won’t live to be 107 and a half. DS could potentially be 103 and a half, but I doubt it. And I certainly won’t make it to 141.”
“So, mummy? We’ll be dead after you?” piped up DS.
“Yes, that’s the general idea,” I said. “But I’ll be waiting for you,” I added, trying to offer some sort of consolation as it seemed a terribly depressing topic for a bright school morning. As we talked, we were watching the pinky-orange sun come up over the desert dunes and the distant Burj Khalifa light up like a rocket in its golden reflection. “I’ll be waiting for you and I’ll be so excited to see you again.”
There was a thoughtful pause. Then…
“But mummy,” said DS very seriously. “You’d better take the iPad, because I’m going to be a long time.”
Sweet words from my littlest one – and how I hope he’s right.