30-40. What I wish I’d known then.

wouldn't it be fantastic to look into the future and reassure yourself that everything will be fine.

I had my first child when I was 30. He started school when I was 34. You think you know it all at 30, but of course, this isn’t true. Nor at 40, and probably not 50, 60, 70 or 80 either. I suppose life would be boring if we knew it all. Sort of.  But. There are things that I do know now, things that had I known then would have made my life a damn sight easier. Or maybe just my conscience clearer. Mostly around the whole school thing.

Those hideous first few days when your child is about to start school. Feeling as though they’re  abandoning you. This little person who has been my right-hand man for 4 or 5 years is now off to school. Wearing his new shoes and uniform and looking all grown up. It’s Tuesday! We always go for our big food shop together on Tuesday and then for a fluffy afterwards…Yes, I know I swore I’d never take you back there again after you kicked over the chair and broke one of the spindles, but it’s our place. Our routine.

The First day of school. Trying your hardest to be cheerful. Upbeat. ‘It’s going to be soo exciting.’ And then the dreaded question. “Will you stay with me, Mummy?” Up the path to the classroom. All the while chattering on incessantly about how ‘those gates are a nice colour blue’ and  ‘I wonder if that tree always has those pretty flowers?’ His hand starting to grip a little bit tighter now.  Why couldn’t I have been more like that new entrant Mother? You know the one I mean? Always there,  smiling, confident, breezing in as though she’s done it a million times before. Her child biting at the bit to get into the classroom. To show the new teacher a picture that he’d drawn in the summer holidays.

But no. There’s You. Still trying to figure out where your child is supposed to hang his coat up. “Oh look! Your peg is next to Lauras. That’s a nice name. I bet she’s a lovely little girl” you blabber.  Pease let her be a lovely little girl. You want to go to the teacher, take her to one side and say “can I just let you know…he’s a really sensitive little boy” but she’s already swarmed with all of the other pushys and you don’t want to be one of those.

I wish I’d known this.

That they’ll always be yours. No matter how many hours a day they’re away from you at school they will still be your number one and you theirs. You’ve done the groundwork. They’ll love you and miss you immensely. It’s just their new adventure.

Homework. Those first few years of school. My son was so little. I look back at the photos and literally, he was a baby.

Why then, when he’d been at school for 6 hours already and was thoroughly exhausted, did I make him sit in a car park- waiting for his swimming lessons to start and force that tired little boy to read the assigned book that had been given to him for homework?

There was an alternative woman who had a child in the same class as my son. You can read more about her here. She had quite an effect on me. I watched her float into school one morning with a letter for the headmaster stating that under no circumstances was her child to be given homework. He wouldn’t be doing it she said.  Not ever. At the time, I was too busy trying to keep in with the in-crowd and so outwardly scoffed at her hippy ideas. Deep down though, I knew that she was right. I wish I’d said the same thing. Wish I’d been brave enough to stand out from the crowd like her.

All of those wasted hours spent doing extra work with a tiny child who was already exhausted were the most unproductive, unnecessary and needless to say the most stressful waste of hours of mine and his life.

Being told he was slow in maths.

How many nights did I spend crying and worrying myself sick once I’d been told that my 6-year-old was not up to standard with his numeracy?

His teacher advised me that on our summer holiday to France, I should spend an hour a day with my slow child asking him to add up the numbers on the car number plates. And you know what? This silly cow did. There were tears every day on that holiday. Both from him and from me. The poor boy dreaded it if a car drove past. And regardless of my efforts, every time those annoying little stat test papers came back, they would bring with them that familiar ache of dread in the pit of my stomach. There it was glaring out at me. Numeracy. Still shit. Below average. Not good enough.

I wish I’d known that this would happen.

That at 15 years old, my son would  pass his maths exam (that he took a year early.) He wanted to get it out of the way as he hated maths. He passed his algebra exam and now has the required maths achievements should he want to go to university. (You can read about my thoughts on that though, here.) All of that worrying. All of those tears. What a waste.

Please.

If you are told that your child is ‘slow in anything, get the teacher to put it in writing then rip the piece of paper up and flush it down the toilet. When your child is ready, they will learn. I promise.

I promise.

Bullying. It’s every parent dread, isn’t it? Here’s your baby going happily along, believing that everyone in the world resembles the characters from children’s TV, and then it hits them. They come to learn that there are mean kids out there. Of course there are. There are also mean adults out there too.  Mean parents. But we are bigger and stronger, and we have cars that we can go and sit in and hide. Mascara that we can slap on to cover up the tears.

My son started to be bullied after about a year at school. And this was supposedly a ‘nice’ school. They had the buddy system with the older kids. Plastered all over the walls were the posters about being kind and respectful, all of those things that bullies don’t give a shit about.

Back then, stupidly, I dealt with it the PC way. The way that every school asks you to deal with it. The way that won’t bring attention to the precious school and maybe affect their stats. I went to the headmaster who said he would speak sternly to the boy in question. My boy continued to be bullied. I went back. This time the same man insisted he would have the child in question write a letter to my son, apologising for scratching his back. My boy continued to be bullied. All the while, while I’m faffing around backwards and forwards with a teacher who is more concerned with his school’s stats, my son is becoming increasingly terrified of going to school.

Unfortunately, if your child is in the least bit different, stands out from the crowd, doesn’t fit neatly into the box, there’s a fair chance that some bullying will come their way during the school years.I’m sorry but its highly likely. My son is an actor, he sings at any given opportunity. He doesn’t like rugby. He used to wear coloured contacts so people would think he was a vampire (I know, don’t.)

I wish I’d known back then just to kick up the most almighty fuss imaginable. Fight for him. I know that people say that by doing this you make it worse for the child but believe me, that’s crap. His life at school was hell anyway. It couldn’t have been any worse. I wish I’d fought his corner so hard so that he knew that no matter what, his mum would never stop fighting for him.

Friends.Yours, not theirs.

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Standing outside the school gates and making gossipy chit chat with a load of women whom you normally wouldn’t ask the time of day from. They were the times that when I think of them now, send shivers down my spine.

You try so hard. You want to be accepted. Be part of the mummy club.  But what is it with these parents? Why the hell is it, that all they want to do is mouth off about how their child can recite her nine times tables while playing the flute, or brag about how their little Johnny is going to skip an academic year next year because he is soo intelligent.

You. Wanting the playground to open up and swallow you. Even considering going over to the caretaker and asking him if he needs some help sweeping up the leaves. Anything to get away from this bunch of seagulls.

What you long for is a friend. A real friend. You want to talk about how much wine you needed to get through last week or how your jeans are too tight as a result of it. But unless you are really, really lucky you won’t find that friend hovering at the school gate. You have to look in the car park. She’s there look! Sitting in her car pretending to read something important on her phone. Secretly waiting for 10 seconds before the bell rings so that she can rush over, grab her child and make her getaway.

I wish I’d looked for her straight away. I found her eventually, but it took me 4 years. She too, rushed into the classroom late, flustered. I knew then that I’d found my partner in crime (Hi Anjie). 4 Years. 4 Years wasted on dead end acquaintances. Pushy parents whose goal in life is to make other parents feel inadequate.

There are many more ‘wish I’d known then what I know nows’ but I think this post is long enough. Anyway, it’s 10 am, and the grass needs cutting. It’s forecast to rain at midday.

Maybe, when I’m 70 I’ll say “I wish I’d known to get a ride on mower.”

I’d love to hear of your wish I’d knowns. Jot some down in the comment box below. Let me know your wisdom. Right. To the grass.

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The 3 Rs of parenting school.

addtext_com_MjE1MzI3NTA5NzgYou may not be aware of this, but all Mothers attended parenting school. Whether you remember or not is a different matter.

School started when they lifted baby off your chest to cut the umbilical cord. School ended when they placed baby- this time wrapped in a blanket, back onto your tummy or into the bassinet next to you.

Approximately 2.8 minutes. That was your lot.

I hope you were paying attention ladies and didn’t just mutter ‘don’t bother telling me, I’ll figure it out as I go along’ because you know as well as I do, that this is the fool’s way. The romantic, birth induced, euphoric, Silly Billy way.

If you were a real mummy and listened attentively, you would not have missed the core part of the curriculum.

The Three Rs.

None of your anzy panzy subject choices back when we were students. No. If you knew your 3 Rs, you were guaranteed to graduate with a solid parenting degree.

For those of you rebels who, when baby was lifted from your tummy rolled over and slurred, “WTF just happened?? Get me off this soaking wet bean bag,”

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I am here to give you a speed lesson on what you missed. This time, pay attention, please.

Routine:

Think back to before the days of children. When you had a life. Remember? Try. Try again. There you go.

Routine will no doubt have played a role in your life. We all like a bit of routine.  It makes us feel safe and comfortable. I’m talking routine along the lines of “Oh I always go to Pizza Express on a Wednesday when I work late” or, “funny how you always massage my left foot first”.  That sort of routine.

But. You become a parent and suddenly, like every other thing that you possess, you find that your mundane little routine no longer belongs to you. The children. They steal it. Kidnap your routine and mould it into their own.

The bedtime routine, and no. I’m not talking about the candles and Enya routine of old. This here is baby’s bedtime routine (if you’re lucky). Turn the musical thingy on above the cot, creep out of the door, stand outside the room for two minutes, don’t breathe, make it back down five steps. Stop.You coughed. He’s crying. Idiot. Repeat. Six times.

Then there’s the nap time routine. Quick! Clean the bathroom, puree the baby slop, phone your mum, go to the toilet. No time. Phone your mum on the toilet, kick the grit behind the toilet brush. Wipe around the toilet seat with pee soaked toilet paper. (Yuck) There. Cleaning sorted. We aren’t called  multi- taskers  for nothing.

The dreaded meal time routine. God help you if you haven’t got that high chair up and spoon at the ready, hovering, before 5 pm. Wrong coloured bib? Tut.Tut. Forget it. Just throw the dinner on the floor. It’s where it’s going to end up anyway.

Moving swiftly on to the junior age. Swimming. Every Tuesday afternoon. Watching other people’s kids flap about like drowning halfwits in the pool, all the while thinking ‘its friggin Wednesday. I should be having a glass of white wine and some garlic bread at Pizza Express.’

Bringing us to the teens. After all of those years spent perfecting the art of turning in early with a hotty (the water bottle kind, unfortunately) ready to bounce out of bed to watch cartoons at 7 am, the routine card plays a cruel trick. You are now expected to be wide awake at 11.30. At night.

Get a shower for God’s sake! What’s wrong with you?

You’re soo boring.

Sing! Really loud. It doesn’t have to be anything good, just any annoying tune will do. Or, why not sigh and slam doors? Either way, you had better not be thinking of going to bed.  You pathetic old git.

Restriction:

The baby years are restricting in more ways than you know possible. Be prepared. No more grown-up treats for you my girl. Yes, I know, you like to tuck into a second bottle on a Friday evening, but think of the baby. He might need to go to the hospital in the middle of the night. It wouldn’t look good, would it? You, rolling out the back of a taxi at the emergency entrance, swigging from a bottle of Calpol. No. Have a cup of tea now and watch telly.

After years spent listening to the wheels on the bus for the duration of every car journey, the junior years bring something of a light relief. We are now, it seems, allowed to tune into the radio. Don’t get too excited though, it’s only to the station that plays teeny boppy music. And please, don’t embarrass yourself (or them) by singing along. Just shut your mouth and drive. And don’t look in the mirror and smile while she’s singing in the back with her friends either. That’s so uncool.

Had you paid attention at parenting school you will know that the classification R on DVDs does indeed stand for Restriction. Parental Restriction. That box set of ‘The Tudors’ that’s been sitting under the telly for years? It’s Restricted.  Don’t believe for one minute that just because your teenager is in his room, doing stuff, he won’t come wandering in at the precise moment where Henry takes Ann Boleyn for a romp in the orchard.  As fit as you think you are, even you can’t get to the remote that quickly. There’s nothing more unattractive than a sexed up old couple watching porn. Where’s that Only Fools and Horses DVD you got for Christmas?

Put it on.

Responsibility:

The word that sends shivers down any young, free and single girls spine. Responsibility. This one is just too laborious to bore you with. But know this. As the parent of a baby, are held responsible for everything.

Babys’ head? Too pointy. Food? It had better be homemade. Drink? Those cups are bad for his teeth. Tired? Your fault. Hyper? Your fault. Clothes? Too hot. Nappy? Too tight. Poo? Too yellow. I mean…

E-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.

As they grow into the middle years, bestowed upon you is the responsibility of arranging play dates. Oh, the joy. No matter that the last social gathering you went to was the sausage sizzle tombola at the supermarket car park. Never mind that now. You will arrange clubs and activities. Loads of them. What was that? The money? Don’t worry about that. Actually, yes. Do. That’s your responsibility too. Set the alarm for 3 am, that should do it.

Arriving at the teenage years. Be careful here. It gets tricky. You will find yourself participating in the sick, and twisted teenage game of,  ‘I think I’m going mental’.

Although you are still very much responsible for your teenager (someone has to be), you have to p-r-e-t-e-n-d not to be. Got it? To add to the confusion, when you do make them happy you will never, ever be given the honour of knowing it.

It is now your responsibility to spend every waking moment pleasing your teenager. Please understand, It’s what you were born for. It’s the law.

Better get the revision books out for the final one.

It’s on page 201.Chapter heading: ‘For heaven’s sake, haven’t you learnt yet?’ 

The (sort of) responsible way to keep a teenager happy. Ok. Here goes.

Wifi. A computer, a set of headphones, a thick pair of curtains and a pile of food in one’s room.

In fact,  just wheel the fridge into his bedroom.

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Perfect. Class dismissed.

 

 

 

Lucy At Home