Walking with the moon

A creative living in the real world…

The Next Big Thing. September 23, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — hannahoakland @ 5:08 pm

A lot can happen in nine months. Trust me, I know – I have the children to prove it.

It’s been nine months since I blogged. This time there’s no baby to show for it. But there is a book. Or there will be, soon. When the editors and copy-editors and sales people and designers and printers and everyone else has finished tinkering with it. April next year, that’s the plan. We’ll have a party. Maybe even some ice cream. Or cake. Or both.

You’re all invited – put it in your diary – in pencil. I may not know much about the publishing industry but I’m learning fast that nothing’s set in stone until you can hold it in your hands. Maybe not even then.

52,000 words. That was always going to take a while. And there have been plenty of other distractions. Spectacular trolling that shot my confidence and my self-esteem to pieces. Family illness. A very-far-from-welcome diagnosis of gluten and dairy intolerance. Weaning myself off my anti-depressants. Potty training. Sickness bugs. Jobs that never materialised. School summer holidays. A new nephew. A new car. An allotment. Cooking. Cleaning. Laundry. Life. In general.

It’s been a long nine months. Tricky. It’s taken a lot of effort, and tea, and mild-to-moderate emotional breakdowns to get us this far. But always, throughout it all. I’ve been waiting. Waiting for the Next Big Thing. The one that would change it all. Perhaps I’ve always been waiting. Turns out it’s harder than it looks.

Signing the book deal was going to change my life. Make me successful, happy, fulfilled. Except that actually, I’m still the same. Now I’m making sneaky early-doors plans for a second book, safe in the slightly disappointing knowledge that I’ll be exactly the same person when it’s finished.

The allotment was going to revolutionise my mental health. And my exercise regime. Until I realised that I was spending ninety per cent of my time dragging Joel out of other people’s vegetable patches. Or their cars. So we put ourselves back on the waiting list and handed our little clutch of onions over to someone else.

Being gluten and dairy intolerant was going to kick-start a healthy-eating revolution. Give it a month or two and I’d be one of those internet gurus – eating nothing but kale and doing yoga in my sleep. Until I discovered gluten-free cake, and dairy-free ice cream. And ‘free-from’ pasta. Scuppered.

Coming off my tablets surely means that I’m Better. Completely. Ready to take on the world. Except that I’m not. Not really. I’m just better. With a small b. And I’ve learnt the hard way over the summer that I need to build some serious self-care into my schedule unless I want a full-on nervous breakdown.

I had a plan. This month was going to be the beginning of my big beautiful new life. I’d applied for the perfect job, had a couple of days of exciting freelance work lined up, and was totally ready for the start of term. Or, more accurately, the peace I’d get when Elvie was finally back at school.

I didn’t get the job. Not even an interview. One of my freelance days got cancelled, and I had to give the other away when our childcare fell through. And then, four days into term, we all came down with a vomiting bug of doom which left me curled up on the bathroom floor in crampy horrible tears, wishing that I was dead.

All within the space of a week.

There has been a lot of sobbing this week. A lot of anger. Sheer fury at the injustice of it all. At my glorious, best-laid plans that got so thoroughly, unceremoniously squashed.

I’m not so angry anymore. I’m just tired. Tired of always hanging on, feeling like an idiot, waiting for the Next. Big. Thing. to drop from the sky and change my life. In all honesty, I’m not sure it even exists. Don’t tell Joel.

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If only I had that confidence. Or maybe just that t-shirt.

This month has been a new start after all. Just not the way I planned. There’s no stellar career progression. No peace and quiet. No break from the mundane. And absolutely no rest for the washing machine.

But, *deep breath*, I think it’s going to be ok. I’m adopting a new approach. And, hopefully, immersing myself in the little things. I’ll be blogging more. Sleeping earlier. Writing notes for the new book. Making sure we get some proper, quality family time. Going slowly. Starting from scratch. I might even paint my nails.

I’m hoping that the Big Things are over-rated.¬†I think they are.

They’re definitely too heavy to haul around all day.

I’m letting go. For now. Or trying to, at least.

Feel free to remind me.

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That boy. September 3, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — hannahoakland @ 4:46 pm

Tomorrow, my Joel will turn three. Admittedly, he’ll have no idea until Saturday – the usual daddy’s-working-all-day-so-we’ll-delay-it-while-we-can-still-get-away-with-it tactics that we’ve employed successfully so many times before. But the fact remains. Tomorrow he’ll be three. My baby.

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My littlest. My sweet, sweet boy. Who *may* also be a little bit snotty right now.

Tonight I’ll be wrapping presents. Octonaut toys and a Disney Planes umbrella. Pirate storybooks and a train whistle that I’m already regretting.

Today he’s watched Paddington, bounced on the trampoline and bombed around the children’s centre like a madman. As a two year old. But tomorrow he’ll be three. Three years old.

Just like that boy.

The one on the beach. Face down in the waves.

He could have been my boy. Every time I see that picture, my stomach turns. I stop breathing. Just for a minute. Because that boy – that sweet sweet boy – he could so easily be mine. The size of him. His clothes. His little arms. He could be Joel.

Except that he’s not. That boy is dead. Drowned. Washed up on the beach like driftwood. And my heart is broken.

We can debate the morals and the ethics of putting dead children on the front page of a broadsheet until the cows come home. I’ll admit that we live in strange times when your facebook feed shows drowned bodies in between your best friend’s holiday snaps and Johnny-down-the-road’s latest coffee shop outing. But the fact is, all the words in the world would never have stopped me in my tracks the same way that picture did.

Words are easy to say. They’re overused – and often misused – by the powers that be. But that picture hit me square in the guts.

He’s dead. The first time I saw it, I prayed that I was just being fatalistic. That he was just injured. That someone would pick him up. Just in time. That all he needed was a quick stay in hospital, and he’d be fine. Back to playing football, or terrorising his brother, or winding up his mum.

But it was too late. For him, and so many others. His brother was five years old. The same age as Elvie. He drowned too. An entire family ripped apart and destroyed. I can’t even comprehend it. Goodness only knows what happened to his parents. Either way, they’re finished.

Next weekend Joel will have a birthday party. Gruffalo cake, and pass-the-parcel with ten of his little friends. Next year he’ll have another one. And the year after that.

That boy will never have another birthday party. Never open another present. Never chase another pigeon, or refuse to eat another vegetable. Because he was born in Syria. Because his family was desperate. Because he had nowhere else to go.

I don’t know a lot about politics, or migration, or refugee movement. But I am a mother. And I know that no parent on earth would take their children on an overcrowded, unsafe, potentially deadly boat trip to another continent unless they had absolutely no other option. I certainly don’t think they’re in it for the dole money.

I don’t know the answers. I don’t know if there are any. But I desperately want to help. There’s a petition on The Independent website, asking the government to take in our fair share of refugees. I’ve signed that. I’m on the lookout for anything practical that I can do. If there’s an organisation or a charity that’s helping out, please let me know.

This morning Joel watched Paddington. As the little bear prepares to leave for England, Aunt Lucy tells him this:

“Long ago, people in England sent their children by train with labels around their necks, so they could be taken care of by complete strangers in the countryside where it was safe. They will not have forgotten how to treat strangers.”

That boy’s name was Aylan.

Please. Let’s do something.

 

Plastic Skittles January 3, 2015

Filed under: Elvie,Parenting — hannahoakland @ 9:39 pm

Stories. Every family has them. The kind that are told over and over again until they become legend. Until you’re no longer sure whether you actually remember the event, or just its repeated retelling.

My family has plenty. The time my sister got her knee stuck in the railing at Alton Towers. The episode of carsickness where we discovered that Quality Street tins are not, in fact, watertight. The night my dad forgot to pick me up from Girls Brigade. Or my Grandad’s runaway milkfloat. Which, incidentally, is easily done. Who needs handbrakes anyway?

We have lots of stories. Running jokes. Sweet little anecdotes, without an ounce of malice in them. But there’s one that has always bothered me. That gets retold on a regular basis, and confuses me every time. Whilst stoking my already well fueled fires of utter-misunderstoodness.

It happened one night when I was four or five. And particularly strong-willed. My parents had, evidently, reached the limits of their patience, and my dad decided it was time to instil a little obedience into me.

Family legend has it that he put up a set of plastic skittles in my room and sat on the floor, demanding that I bring him the blue one. And then the red one. And then the green one. Over and over again. Until I did as I was told. Whilst I begged him to let me go to sleep, and Mum cried on the stairs.

I’ve never understood it. Why my Mum stood by and let it happen. Why my parents were so determined to crush my blossoming, charming independent spirit. Why I didn’t call Childline, when I had their number memorised for just such emergencies.

I’ve never understood it. Until tonight.

When, for the fourth day this week, Elvie has refused to listen to a single word we say. Pushed every button we possess, and introduced a few new ones for good measure. Chatted back, hit, screamed and generally behaved like the spoilt brat we have tried our utmost to prevent her becoming.

We can hold it together. Just about. When we’re both around.

Until it gets to bedtime. Bath done, pyjamas on, story read, prayers recited, lights off. And then, just as you reach the bottom of the stairs, there’s a little click. And her light’s back on. Like clockwork.

Really annoying clockwork.

And so begins a battle. Which continues until about 10pm. Based on the evidence so far. There’s always the possibility she’ll make it to midnight eventually.

There is absolutely no reasoning with her. None at all. All you’ll get for your efforts is a hands-on-hips, smart-arse retort. Or the promise that she’ll never listen to anything you say ever again unless you let her stay up forever. All delivered at a volume that threatens to wake the rest of the street, let alone her brother.

We’ve tried softball. We’ve tried hardball. We’ve tried threatening to lock her in her room and tie her to her bed. And yes, I know you’re not supposed to give children idle threats, but I can promise you that in the heat of the moment, there was nothing idle about it.

We are, for want of a better word, buggered.

Outsmarted by a four year old with blonde curls, a will of iron and pyjamas depicting a woodland creatures sleepover.

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I have absolutely no answers. Neither does the internet.

The current plan revolves around telling her that, as long as she’s quiet and stays in her room, she can stay awake as long as she likes. In the desperate hope that, with the element of challenge removed, she’ll just give up and go to bed.

That has been the plan for just over an hour. She’s still reading. Light on.

As I said, I have absolutely no answers.

I do however, have a new and profound level of solidarity with my parents. As well as the surreal experience of watching as-near-as-I’ll-ever-get-to myself as a small child.

And a sudden, burning desire for a set of plastic skittles.

 

Keep. Your. Head. Still. November 26, 2014

Filed under: Depression,Elvie,Survival Guide — hannahoakland @ 12:26 pm

I knew having a daughter would be fun. I’d spent years looking forward to precious moments of female bonding. Misty-eyed vignettes of brushing hair, painting nails and side-by-side crafting.

Four years into mothering my girl, I’m filing those images in the folder marked ‘delusional’. For now, at least.

There is nail painting. Plenty of it. Almost every weekend. Unfortunately I’m not usually invited. Unless the pot is really hard to open. Apparently it’s much easier to varnish the floor / Joel’s entire arms / our crockery if I’m not in the same room.

Crafting is much the same. An endless barrage of requests. More glue. Different colour paper. The right size pompoms. Admittedly, we often craft side-by-side. Living the dream. But that’s only so she can steal my supplies when I’m not looking.

Nail varnish and crafts are basically just threats to our fragile peace treaty. Disguised as opportunities for quality time.

Hair brushing, on the other hand, is a live grenade. There’s no pretence there. None.

I have friends whose daughters wear their hair in elaborate plaited arrangements. With more hairbands than a branch of Claire’s accessories. I have literally no idea how they do it.

Just the sight of a hairbrush is enough to make Elvie run for the hills. So much so that her own brush has mysteriously disappeared, leaving us with sole option of the soft, entirely useless baby brushes. Which have no impact on the knots whatsoever. Just as she planned.

There are whole Youtube channels dedicated to cute hairstyles for little girls. Numerous pages on Pinterest. Full of french plaits, angel braids and other words that pass for curses in our kitchen on a school morning.

Nowhere is there a guide on what to do when your four year old styles her own hair, using what’s left of yesterday’s unbrushed, slept-in plait and refuses to let you touch it until it’s so late that the school gate’s about to close and you just give in.

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The basic rule appears to be ‘the more clips, the merrier. No matter where they are.’ I’ve not seen that on Instagram.

If I had a pound for every keep-your-head-still-for-goodness-sake-how-hard-can-it-be-to-just-stare-at-the-plug-socket-for-two-minutes I’ve shouted, our mortgage would have been paid off long ago. It’s exhausting.

Seriously. How hard can it be? Keep. your. head. still.

Simple.

Or not. Turns out it’s not just Elvie whose head is incapable of a pause, however brief. Turns out it’s tricky for me too.

This time of year is always hard for worriers. All the planning and the organising and the multitude of opportunities to fail. Throw in a few last-minute requests from school, a broken television and a building site in the lounge and getting through the day can feel impossible.

My brain just cannot let things go. No matter how many lists I write. Or how much planning I do. Yesterday I went to town to buy cranberries for bookgroup Thanksgiving. Having promised myself that I wouldn’t think about christmas again until we come out the other side of my birthday party.

And yet, there I was. In the pound store. Where they definitely don’t sell cranberries. Looking at festive table cloths and serviettes and crackers. And dishwasher tablets. Of course.

It’s unstoppable. My relentless, reckless, ridiculous brain.

Getting myself tangled up to the point of shutdown. Because there is too much to do and too much to make and too much to organise. And, most importantly, because so much of it is new.

I’ve never made a miniature top hat before. Or bread from scratch. Or grown up party food for an indeterminate number of people. Or, for that matter, anything involving fresh cranberries. It’s definitely a good week for adventure.

Problem is, I want to do it. All of it. This is what makes my soul come alive. Trying new things. Achieving something. Feeding people. Creating an atmosphere. Making pointless, beautiful things. Beauty for beauty’s sake. It’s so much fun.

Unless I’m racing through it. Thinking about everything else that needs doing before Saturday. And how I’ll probably mess it up anyway. Cursing the American measurement system. And dying on the inside when my daughter throws up in the night, requiring two days off school according to their sickness policy, despite it being entirely down to her stinking cold. Because now I won’t get anything done at all. And it’s not fair. And I probably should never have said I’d have a birthday party in the first place. And…

Keep. Your. Head. Still.

Just stop.

It’s actually impossible to be in more than one place at once. Believe me, I’ve tried.

It is, however, just about possible to do one thing at a time. To make a slightly-shabby miniature top hat out of a recycled space ship costume and some fabric scraps. To enjoy whole moments of the process. Despite the constant audience of small children. To only cut your finger once.

It’s possible to scale down your plans and rein yourself in. And to try not to be too disappointed. It’s possible to believe your party will be worth having even if it doesn’t look like an exact replica of a vintage big top.

It’s possible to cross things off your lists without having done them. And not miss them too much.

It’s possible to decide that sleep is more valuable than hand-painted circus signs. It really, truly is.

It’s possible that your friends will love you anyway.

It’s possible that there’s no point doing any of your wonderful plans if you’re too stressed to enjoy them.

It’s possible to keep your head still. If only for a minute. A minute, it turns out, is better than nothing.

Now, who’s going to tell Elvie?

 

Courage in the in-between. November 7, 2014

Filed under: Adventures,Survival Guide — hannahoakland @ 10:03 am

Everyone is writing about courage at the moment. Maybe it’s the fallout from the inevitable half-term trauma. Or perhaps it’s the fact that the temperature dropped twenty degrees overnight and we’re all aware that it’s going to be a long cold winter. Whatever the reason, it’s got me thinking.

(Incidentally, of all the recent courage-related writings, my absolute favourite is Glennon’s description of the day she met Cheez-It-Haymitch-Window-Lady. Seriously, check out Momastery. I absolutely dare you to be the same person afterwards.)

We’ve had our fair share of courage recently. In the small things, admittedly. Courage, nonetheless.

On Wednesday Elvie was brave enough to sit in the ‘magic chair’ all by herself for her dental checkup. Without¬†screaming, or crying. Or any drama at all. And she was brave enough to insist that the slightly-embarrassed dentist examine Purple Bear first, so that she knew exactly what that magic chair would entail.

Joel is getting more courageous by the day. Or crazier. One or the other. Either way he’s now brave enough to jump off tables, sofas and walls. Both feet first, always. And, occasionally he’s brave enough to look down, judge the distance and reach out for my hand to keep him safe. Personally, I prefer those times. I sweat a lot less.

I think about courage a lot. In terms of the children, and in terms of myself. There are plenty of opportunities to be brave in the long slow process of coming-to-terms-with-depression. Some days it feels like I deserve a medal for getting out of bed. Apparently that’s not an Olympic sport yet. I’m working on it.

I have, for the longest time, judged courage in terms of action. Being brave enough to say yes, or brave enough to say no. Sitting in the dentists chair, or reaching out a hand for help. Getting out of bed in the morning. Acts of wild and beautiful bravery, right there.

A few weeks ago I made one of the bravest decisions of my life. And, after hours of frantic writing, editing and rewriting, I sent off a book proposal to a publishing company. For this book. Based on this blog. Right here.

The moment of pressing ‘send’ was fifty per cent courage and fifty per cent blind optimism. I held my mug of tea until my hands stopped shaking, and congratulated myself on having fulfilled my bravery quota until early 2015 at least.

Somewhere in the midst of the email conversation with the editor that followed, and the endless delays to the publishers meeting date that are prolonging the agony of not-knowing-what’s-going-on I realised that big gestures and key moments are not the measure of courage. Not for me, anyway.

For me, the bravery is in the waiting. In the quiet and the dull and the mundane. The space between the big moments.

My courage is most tested though the discussions in my head. Through the constant-checking-of-my-emails and having to keep going even when there’s no response. In daring to believe that I’ll actually be able to write a book, if they say yes. In daring to believe that I’ll still be a worthwhile human being if they say no.

It takes less courage to submit a proposal than it does to tell your friends about it, and risk them knowing if it all goes wrong. As evidenced by how few of my own friends have been kept in the loop. I’ve used up all my bravery by not sending desperate ‘have-you-forgotten-about-me-please-love-me’ follow up emails to the editor. There’s not been much left for everyday life.

I’ve asked for a bracelet for christmas. One that I found on Twitter. One that just says ‘courage.’ It’s really cute. And it helps fund clean water projects, so it’s basically an entirely selfless choice…

Image from www.mudlove.com

Image from http://www.mudlove.com

 

I won’t just wear it on the big days. The days when I host parties, or send life-changing emails, or go for medication reviews. I’ll wear it on all the days. Even the in-between days. When the bravery is in getting up, getting dressed and being honest with my friends. Or plaiting Elvie’s hair again. Or changing another nappy. Especially on those days.

Because most of the time, I can get through the big days on adrenaline. It’s the in-between days when I need courage. The everyday days. The waiting days.

Goodness knows there are plenty of them.

 

Red carpets. And toilet brushes. October 20, 2014

Filed under: Community,Family,Parenting — hannahoakland @ 1:44 pm

Yesterday Wes left for London in the morning. Off to work. Again. At the weekend. Again. To build something. Not even he knew what.

Thankfully, there were church services. One in the morning. And another in the afternoon. In different churches. Both with children’s groups. So that I could get twenty minutes respite from little hands and whinging voices and Joel’s cries of “I want my Mummy.” Whilst he’s sitting on my lap. Seriously. This is a thing now.

I actually felt pretty smug. Not only was I leaving the house. Twice. But I was walking. Outside. In the fresh air. Taking the children to groups that would aid their spiritual development. Getting something that resembled time-out for myself. Looking at leaves and rivers and geese, and embracing the changing seasons in a child-friendly manner. Mother of the year? Possibly.

And then.

Then my children did what they do best. Remind me who I really am. By wiping the smug right off my face.

The morning service was in a church that we don’t usually attend. Unless it’s for toddler group. After two years of Monday morning play and biscuits, Elvie and Joel see it as a second home. And fair game for their schemes.

To her immense credit, she almost got away with it. It was only the glint from under her sleeve whilst she did up her shoes that gave her away. A bracelet. Four strings of beads in various shades of pink and purple and blue. That she hadn’t been wearing that morning.

Apparently she’d ‘found it’ in Sunday club.

As a dutiful mother, I removed it from her arm and returned it to the kind woman who had inadvertently funded her jewellery habit. I apologised profusely and expressed my hopes that it would be reunited with its rightful owner. Sunday club lady looked more than a little bemused during the whole conversation.

Only when I eventually shut up talking did she tell me that actually, she’d given it to Elvie. In fact, Elvie had chosen it. As her present. For her birthday.

Ah.

Her birthday.

In August.

Can’t fault her cunning. That’s for sure.

It transpires, after some drawn-out post-event analysis, that she’d desperately wanted to look inside the Sunday club present box. So she pretended it was her birthday. Naturally.

They sang to her, and she told them all about her cake. She celebrated turning 4 all over again. And came home with a bracelet. Which they let her keep. Mostly because they couldn’t stop laughing long enough to take it away.

Clearly, my day as a parent could only get better. Until the post-afternoon-church-service tea break when Joel came running up, brandishing a dirty toilet brush like a sword. Followed by a couple of older girls shouting, “He’s been licking that!”

It was not my finest hour. Not my finest day.

You can only imagine my delight when Wes texted me that evening. As we ate our beans on toast. Whilst I watched Joel like a hawk for any signs of imminent vomiting.

Just a little text. To tell me that the mystery job had turned out to be building a stage for Brad Pitt’s ‘Fury’ premiere in Leicester Square. As evidenced by the photographs he showed me this morning.

Red carpets. Limousines. Bright lights.

Brad Pitt. Shia LeBeouf. Etc.

Soaking in the chilly glamour of a London-glitterati-in-October night. Whilst I dealt with a four year-old con artist and a toddler with decidedly bad taste in snacks.

Little treasures.

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Yes, I know that all this nonsense about celebrity is just smoke and mirrors. Yes, I understand that parenting is probably a more constructive use of time than months spent pretending to be a 1940’s tank driver. Yes, showbusiness is a very odd, superficial land. I don’t even want to watch the film.

But still. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit jealous. A little bit. And the rest.

My only consolation is that Joel has a stomach of steel, and there was no faecal-matter-induced-vomiting. We’re totally winning.

I think.

In your face, Brad.

 

7 things we’ve learnt at school. October 13, 2014

Filed under: Elvie,Family,Parenting,School — hannahoakland @ 3:42 pm

Elvie has been at school for a month now. Crazy. It’s been one whole month since Joel butted into this otherwise classic ‘first day of school’ photo. Little monkey.

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A month that’s seen more than it’s fair share of hairbrush related tantrums, 9am sighs of relief and reading folders full of pilfered stationary.

It’s been quite the adjustment. Elvie is learning a lot. As are we all. And so, flush with the spirit of continued, lifelong education, I thought I’d share my findings.

You, my friends, are welcome.

1. Hairslides are communal.

At nursery it was a miracle if Elvie ever wore a hairslide at all. Now she wears them everyday, due to a cunning combination of peer pressure, Frozen bribery (see 2.) and the ever-present threat of nits. She even brings them home. (The hairslides, not the nits. So far.)

On any given day, there is only a 50% correlation between the hairslides she starts the day with and the ones that come home. Which are normally newer ones. Shinier ones. ‘Donated’. Apparently. By any number of friends. Who, presumably, have the ones she started off with.

Honestly, I don’t mind all that much. Mostly because it feels like we’re winning. It’s the mum who keeps buying the sparkly butterfly clips that I feel sorry for.

2. The Elsa plait.

My outlook on hairstyling has always been somewhat relaxed. Meaning that Elvie usually looks like this.

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Apparently that’s not uniform-compatible. Although it’s very cute.

Needless to say, the sudden requirement for sensible, actually-brushed hair did not go down well. With anyone. Especially not at 8am. We had screams, and shouts and possibly even a few punches. All over a stupid ponytail.

I was losing the will to live. Fast.

Until – my masterstroke. The ‘Elsa’ plait. Which consists of dragging her hair into a braid on one side of her head, and securing it with as many rogue hairclips as possible. In the vaguest of nods to the Ice Queen herself. It worked. And it still works. To the extent that Elvie walks into school every morning wondering if her friends will recognise her, or if they’ll think Elsa has “really come to our class.”

It’s the simple things.

3. Mean Girls start young.

Elvie is 4. Only just. Already the girls are mean. Every day brings a different child who isn’t speaking to her anymore. Or another run-in with the main culprit, one of the older girls in the class who “won’t be my friend unless we’re wearing the same thing.”

Nobody should have to watch their baby girl pulling her polo shirt down over her skirt so that “perhaps she won’t see the bow.”

I knew this would happen. Goodness knows I’ve been on the rough end of it enough times myself. I just didn’t expect it to start so early. At least she’s talking. We’re having plenty of chats about what makes a good friend. And why we don’t need to play with the nasties.

Urrrgggghhh. Thankfully she has lots of little boy-friends as well. For balance. And mud throwing. That’s more like it.

4. Timetables are a test. For parents.

Honestly. That early in the morning I’m lucky if I remember to take both children out of the door. Let alone bring some tinned food for the harvest festival. Or a water bottle. Or the sight words we were supposed to look at last night.

PE kit on a Wednesday. Unless it’s the alternate Wednesday, when they’re cooking. Wellies on a Thursday. For school in the woods. Raincoats. Warm coats. Weather appropriate socks.

Name labels in everything. School dinners booked before 9am. Parents evening slips to be returned. Assemblies to attend.

There’s probably an app to deal with all of this. But I bet you can’t get it on a Windows phone.

5. The marital status of your teacher is important.

At least, it is to Elvie.

Who marched up to her teacher, hands on hips, and asked “So, is there a Mr Hook?” Leaving me to profusely apologise for my four-year-old-Jane-Austen-matriarch.

Thankfully the actually-not-married-yet teacher thought it was hilarious. At least, that’s what she said.

6. School rules are easily misinterpreted.

For the first week of school, Elvie came home every day with eyes aglow, telling tales of the creative corner. Where she could find paper, pens, glue, scissors and all sorts of wonders. Available for her to use at any time. Whenever she liked. All under the banner of ‘please help yourself.’

Which is nothing short of heaven for my girl. Who has everything rationed at home. Partly for the sake of the trees. And partly to avoid too many incidents like this.

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Seriously. Those arms.

It took me an entire week of siphoning lollipop sticks, reams of paper, glue pots and exercise books out of her reading folder to realise that the banner should perhaps be rewritten. To say ‘please help yourself, while you’re at school, to things you’re actually going to use in lesson time. If you want to use it at home, buy it.’

Yes, it would be a much longer sign. But it would halve their stationary budget.

7. Vanish* will save your life.

Or at least your sanity.

I have my suspicions that the school uniform industry is at least partly funded by the sales of laundry products. There is no other reason on earth that anyone would put a four year old in a white polo shirt and give them bolognese for lunch.

Unless it’s all part of a masterplan to reduce mothers to neurotic, paranoid wrecks who buy replacement clothing every week.

In which case, pink spraygun of power, I salute you. You and your stain-removing, mama-empowering skills.

Thank you. We are eternally grateful.

And only a little exhausted. Turns out school is tiring. Not just for the children.

Anyone for wine?

 

(*other stain removers are available. Whatever.)