As a teacher I never really gave much thought to what happened before 8.45am. I just noticed that the children appeared at school in a slow trickle. I didn’t give a second thought to the effort that went into getting them to materialise on the school premises. But now I realise the energy, determination, doggedness and vigour that parents have been through to get those cherubs into the building by 8.45 am. Now I get it! I’ve been on the other side of those school gates and let me tell you- the morning school run- it aint pretty!!!
When I return to work I’m going to go and stand on the school gate and applaud the parents as they cross the finish line onto the school grounds! I’ll be waiting with a high five! For those with more than one child (especially those of a pre-school age) I’m going to be standing there waiting with a silver space blanket and a bottle of Lucozade to help rehydrate them! Because getting 3 children who are all under five dressed, fed and ready to walk to school by 8.30am is basically akin to trying to plait fog; blindfolded; with oven gloves on; whilst on fire!
It always starts so promisingly. Our children try so hard to make the process simpler by waking up at ‘stupidly early’ o’clock so we have plenty of time to get ready! We generally lounge in bed watching whatever rubbish is on Cbeebies, one or both of the big two try to sneak our phones and watch what I lovingly refer to as ‘rubbish on youtube’ and begin the actual getting ready process sometime around 7. Generally by 7.30 the boys are dressed, I’m mostly ready and Jon has stopped trying to blag an extra ten minutes and realised that trying to snooze while you have 3 small children bouncing on your head/torso/knackers is futile! It’s all looking promising- we take a little minute to look round and assess the situation and give ourselves a little parent pat on the back because 2 thirds of our offspring are dressed and ready for phase 2 of the process.
Then you realise it is not in fact going to plan. Esme is not dressed! She is also looking a tad ‘on one!’ Jon and I decide who is going to take on the next battle in this ongoing war in the only fair and just way we have to settle arguments in our marriage… Rock Paper Scissors! Whoever loses sets themselves up for an infuriating 20 minute negotiation about what ridiculous vest/pants/dress/cardigan/headband/tights combo she is going to wear. In winter an extra 15 minutes needs to be added while you point out the cold climate and inappropriateness of the strappy summer dress she had chosen with nothing on her legs and allow extra time for her to pick other items to layer under or over said summer dress in a myriad of clashing textures, colours and patterns! You will also have had to run the gauntlet of exactly where she would like to be when she applies these items of clothing and in what order they are in fact applied. ‘I will wear that cardigan but I want to put it on downstairs after I’ve eaten my breakfast but before I put on my tights when I’m sat on the stairs!!’ At 8am you will head downstairs already feeling like you have done a full day’s work and ten rounds with Tyson while she struts around in her hilarious selection of clothing with a massive smirk on her face that basically says ‘I won! In your face!’
Phase two is now in full swing. Breakfast is being served, being careful to ensure the correct cups are given (heaven forbid you serve apple juice in a purple cup when they wanted green- you bastard!) and that bowls/plates/toast shapes meet the required standard! If golden syrup is being added to the bowl of porridge, make sure that you do/don’t stir it into the porridge for them; it is impossible to ascertain which option they require until after you do the wrong one and make them cry! Do not assume that just because they liked Shreddies for breakfast yesterday, they will also like them today! They like to keep you on your toes by changing their opinions on stuff every 2 to 3 minutes! It is highly likely that phase2 will lead to having to repeat phase 1 due to spilling something down the front of their school uniform/random combo of clashing clothing!
In my experience, husbands are particularly useful during these two phases! If Jon is around in a morning, he helpfully gives us a running commentary of exactly how many minutes we have until we will officially be late… ‘George go and brush your teeth- you have to be out of here in 23 minutes!’ ‘Esme, eat your porridge, you’ll be late in 16 minutes!’ ‘6 MINUTES PEOPLE!! We have to be out in 6 MINUTES!!!!!!!!’ I find that this ongoing countdown is ever so useful and does not add additional stress or anxiety into the morning routine at all!
The time is now 0815. It is all going remarkably well. All children are dressed. All children have been given breakfast- some of which has actually been eaten. Coats, shoes and book bags are lined up at the door and ready to go. The pram is out and ready for action. The only thing left to do is apply shoes and coats… We don’t have to leave until 0830 and we are actually early! Ready with 15 minutes to go no less!
Then something strange happens!! There is a slip in the space time continuum… 15 whole minutes just disappear! In some cases, they not only vanish but they turn back the clock and steal some of the previous minutes, reversing parts of Phase 1 and 2and removing your positive position of earliness! This is the 15 minutes that the universe basically conspires to screw you over and mess with your head.
Any number of things can happen in this fifteen minute window.
- Generally there is usually some issue with bodily fluids. One, or more likely, all three, decide that they need the toilet and that eats in to your valuable time with all the wiping/discussing required with any trip to the toilet! You have to dedicate a good few minutes to look at ‘just how massive!’ their poo is! Ted has used these windows to do a full on ‘poonami’ where nothing short of a blow torch followed by a shower and full outfit change will get him clean!
- I’ve left the living room for a grand total of 3 seconds before and found that Esme has used this window of opportunity to completely strip off and decided to go upstairs and reinvent her outfit again!
- You send children to brush their teeth, only to find that overnight they have developed a passion for teeth brushing (which definitely was not there last night when you basically had to wrestle them to the ground and stick your head in the mouth of an angry crocodile!) meaning they must brush for a minimum of an hour whilst also managing to smear the hideous blue Peppa Pig toothpaste all over their face and through their hair! They also manage to get it all over their clothes requiring a minimum of a new school jumper (George) or a full outfit change (Esme- 3rd of the day, not even half 8! Wonder why the washers always on??)
- George usually remembers just as we’re about to leave the house that it’s ‘bring something randomly obscure to school day!’ ‘We can’t go yet mummy- I have to take something Chinese to school!’ If you’re lucky and your child has low expectations of you, you can get away with shoving a takeaway menu that has been added to your ‘stair pile’ (probably the feature of a future rant/blog!) into their book bag!
- Ted generally likes to use putting him in the pram as a trigger to remind himself he is in fact wasting away, hasn’t had any milk for at least 3 minutes and screams at a decibel level that makes your ears ring to encourage mummy to ‘get ‘em out!’ It is during this time that he develops the rigidity of concrete and putting him into the pram or car seat is akin to folding breeze block in half!
- Shoes which were lovingly lined up at the door the night before vanish! Usually just one of them but one shoe is still fairly useless! Esme also usually finds the summer sandals I thought I’d cunningly hidden and declares that she must wear those because it’s not raining, even if it is January!
- Coats, water bottles and gloves (we’re on our 6th pair since starting school 6 months ago!) join the random shoes in their escapades!
In the blink of an eye you go from ‘smug early’ to ‘shit we’re almost late!’ It is literally ridiculous!
In response to the universes attempt to hoodwink us in a morning, I have adopted an alternative approach to this fifteen minute window which I have honed over the previous 6 months and is proving slightly more successful.
- Begin by lining all three children up on the sofa. (This may sound easy but you may need a large butterfly net and a tranquiliser dart!)
- Tune out husbands second by second run down of exactly how long it will be before you are officially late. Swear quietly under your breath at him as he leaves for work!
- Apply something hypnotic on TV… I generally find anything containing a cartoon bunny works. The photo at the top shows the level of hypnosis you are aiming for!
- Gradually work along the line applying shoes, coats, gloves, hats, scarves, socks, tights, snowsuits etc being careful not to allow your own head to stray into the TV viewing territory. This will result in protests of ‘Mummy I can’t see! Move your big head Poo Poo face!’ People will tell you not to pander to your children and to encourage them to dress themselves and to be independent… this would only be possible if the school day began at midday!
- Once all suitable clothing has been applied and the program has finished shepherd the children to the door taking care not to allow any of them to wander off, get distracted by toys or take any items of clothing off! Its roughly 0.5 metres from our sofa to the front door but any of these things could easily happen!
- Set off on the walk being careful to utter the phrase ‘We’re going to be late AGAIN!’ approximately every ten yards.
- Drop a minimum of one offspring off at some form of educational establishment! Return home, make a brew which you will find cold with a skin on top of in roughly 4 hours’ time, tidy up the breakfast pots and then it’s pretty much time to start the process again to pick them up! I swear to god the school day does not go anywhere near as quickly when I’m on the other side of those gates!
But don’t worry… only a few weeks to go until the sweet release of the school holidays!