Daughter one has gone to Spain on an exchange. She’s been slightly dreading it due to having to speak Spanish and all. I went to the parents evening and it all sounded great to me. Maybe they should allow parents to do these exchanges, I thought.
We had some last-minute panics with the packing, but everyone lent a hand and we eventually got the bag done up and out the door. We all hugged daughter one and wished her buen viaje.
The minute after she left, however, the delicate family harmony broke down. Only son and daughter two had a falling out on the way home and had to be separated on arrival. The dishwasher decided not to open, ever. It has practically all our plates and cutlery in it. We’ve tried the traditional remedy of kicking it strategically, but it’s refusing to open up. The fence in the garden has been blown apart by Storm Doris. I had noticed next door’s trampoline flying across the garden out of the corner of one eye on Thursday while I was on an interview, but the fence is hidden away and wasn’t discovered till later. So when we got home I started dismantling the old fence panel.
Daughter three sat down to watch a film. As my partner and I debated where to aim our kicks at the dishwasher, I could hear only son complaining. “You always get the tv and you drank all the fizzy water.” This was followed up by a series of written messages. One began unpromisingly with “To butt face”. It had a picture inside, apparently of a broken heart. Another stated simply: “I hate you. You are the worst.” Normally this kind of sentiment is reserved for daughter two. Only son sent her a birthday card entitled “To my worst sister”. It is true to say that only son and daughter two have a rollercoaster relationship based on a shared delight in melodrama and are often found running around the house screaming or giggling uproariously until one of them – mainly only son – has a meltdown.
I suggested that only son’s note to daughter three might be a slight overreaction to her drinking one small bottle of fizzy water, even if raspberry flavoured. Only son thought for a little and thrust another note into my hand. “To Beloved Mandy” it began. “I love you.” Clever tactic, but it was not exactly what I was thinking of. I suggested he might like to share the love with the rest of the family. Momentarily, peace was restored.
Daughter one had only been gone for half an hour, but perhaps she is the philosophical glue keeping the family together.
There are two weeks until she is back.
*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of Workingmums.co.uk.