Back to school highs and lows

Child working office


The intention was good at the beginning of the week. Get everyone to bed a little bit earlier every day so they were ready for the big return. It didn’t work of course and on Monday and Tuesday no-one wanted to go to bed. By Wednesday night people were in the right area at around 8.45pm, but not asleep. Daughter three was overly prepared and had set her alarm clock, but only son wasn’t playing ball. He wanted extra cuddling up. Daughter two was taking a long “relaxing” bath to get her ready for school, locking everyone else out of the bathroom, and daughter one was wailing that she was not going to make it through GCSEs and couldn’t she take a sabbatical.

It’s the double whammy this year. GCSEs year for daughter one and SATs for daughter three. By around 9.30 there was some degree of quietness upstairs. Daughter two was even reading, and it wasn’t the Argos catalogue. Then just as the parents were laying back and marvelling at the space and peace of being downstairs alone there was a bump coming from somewhere upstairs. Two minutes later a naked only son appeared, looking confused and upset. “I need mummy,” he said. I cuddled him up and his dad took him back to bed. Around 11 I started doing some work in bed. Several minutes later only son appeared and plonked himself on my lap. He squirmed about a bit and eventually fell asleep upside down with his feet under one of my arms. I managed to turn the light off around 1am.

By some very early hour I heard daughter three looming over the bed. “Can I have a shower?” she said. It was on her back to school schedule. She’d already had breakfast. Only son bobbed up from the bottom of the bed. “Is it school time?” he whispered excitedly. The two disappeared into the bathroom together, which does not usually bode well. Daughter two woke up. “What is that noise?” she asked. Daughter three and only son went downstairs giggling. By the time I got there daughter three had made her packed lunch. Some sort of wrap thing and rice cakes. Very healthy. She had also put in something called vitamin water which I bought two of under extreme pressure, but which is on the list for school lunches every other day. It might not last, though, as she drank one the day before she was due to go back to school and it left a big mark round her mouth so she looks like she has a moustache. I am pretty confident we will be back to tap water by mid next week.

On the way to school I told only son that the Christmas holidays were not far off in case he was feeling worried about school. “I hate holidays. Holidays are really boring,” he said, having just a few hours earlier announced that he never wanted to go back to school. He disappeared into his classroom on a back-to-school high, a big year one this year. Daughter three had already merged into the Year Six crowd.

Daughters one and two did not go back till 1.15pm. Just for two hours apparently to get their timetable and, in daughter one’s words, “to be told that if we have not started our GCSE revision yet we have already failed”.

It’s the start of a big year for her and lots of pressure, although everything seems to pale into insignificance against the background of what is happening on Europe’s borders.

*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of

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