Back to school. Audible groan. It’s everywhere. Back to school food, clothes, pencils, bags, and lunchboxes. I’ve got the books, the project copies, the manuscript copies, the twistables and the maths set. (Still sold in a metal tin that brings back memories of that loud crash as it falls onto the classroom floor followed by the fervent hope that it’s not my box that has fallen). I’ve got the little bottles of water and the sliced pans in the freezer. The extra socks are in the drawer and the chequebook is ready and waiting to be used for drama and chess and street dancing. The hurling helmet that defies all hooks is as usual, on the floor beside the coats and the hurl is I think, under a bed. I’ve labelled the copies, sharpened a few pencils and ticked off the booklists. Although I did draw a line at buying a Pritt stick for everyone. Surely that’s not a pencil case staple? (I remember when Pritt was a treat and finding one that hadn’t dried up was a rare and wonderful discovery). And finally, the long and urgent search for the must-have skin coloured marker is over. Found it.
Most people are looking forward to the first of September. I am not. Why? Maybe because I don’t enjoy crawling about on my hands and knees at ten to nine in the morning looking for a missing shoe, knowing that any second some poor eegit is going to think it is fun to sit on my back, making me feel angry in a very un-child-friendly way. Maybe “gently” repeating “try writing a little bit slower and using the pink lines” every afternoon from September to June does not make my heart race.
And what I do not look forward to most of all, is the lunches. The lunches. Every night throughout the school year I flop on the couch at nine o’clock and say to no one in particular in a zombie monotone “I should do the lunches”. And every morning I come down the stairs, dole out the weetabix (or cheerios) the ready brek (or malt wheats) and think (zombie monotone again) “I have to do the lunches.”
“Often” forgetting to wash the boxes the night before, I start by looking for them in the schoolbags. That doesn’t take long as these are the first thing I fall over as I come into the kitchen rubbing my eyes. The open zips alert me to the copy and workbooks underfoot and the pencil case on the table.
“How many times do I have to tell to put the homework into your schoolbag when it is finished?” (Razor sharp tone. I have not yet had my cup of tea.)
“I was waiting for you to sign my homework notebook! You always forget!”
And there it is, lying reproachfully on the kitchen table, open at yesterdays date.
Once I have the cuppa though, I achieve a lot. Lunches, ties, socks, facecloths, baby strapped in, coats on. All is good; we’re sucking diesel and running, hurrah, on schedule. We’ll be in school on time! Until it is made known that one shoe is missing. And there I am, on my hands and knees, shoe in one hand, child straddled on my back, stuck there because he is frozen in fear after hearing me howl in a primitive way. Tears follow and as ever, guilty apologies. And we are late again.