School highs and lows

Books and stationary on a school desk


The phone rang at around 3.45 on Friday. “Hallo. I’m daughter two’s French teacher,” said the voice on the end of the phone. Uh oh. “I just wanted to tell you how she’s been doing this week.” Double uh oh. Daughter two has not mentioned French much in the last few weeks. When I have asked her anything in French she has simply replied “comme ci comme ca with a Gallic shrug of her shoulders. She has been focusing her attention on finishing “To Kill a Mocking Bird” which she has been reading for approximately four months, one page per day. “I just wanted to say what a pleasure she is to teach,” said the French teacher. “She has been working really hard this week and is always very conscientious.”

I was waiting for the but. No but came. It was simply a call to say daughter two was ace. I put down the phone in shock. No teachers ever did this in my day. I realised I had seriously underestimated daughter two’s French prowess. “Henceforth I will be speaking to you in French every single day, ma petite,” I said when she walked through the door. “Comme ci comme ca, mum,” said daughter two.

An hour later I picked up only son from dance club. Only son is an ace dancer. He puts 130% enthusiasm into every move. However, his form teacher wanted to speak to me. Only son is playing Steve the donkey in the Christmas play. We’ve got the costume and everything and I have been feeling very, very efficient. It’s one of the lead roles. The only slight problem is that it is a comedy role. Only son is having a very difficult time coming to terms with being a comedy star. He thinks everyone is just laughing at him, which – to be truthful – they are. Apparently he has refused to do the role point blank. Part of the problem is that he says people have been being mean to him recently which has meant he doesn’t want to go to school.

It is incredibly hard to explain to a six year old the difference between people who are laughing at you because they are being mean and people who are just laughing at you because they think you are funny. I’ve spent the weekend watching comedies and telling him how popular comedians are. Nothing works.

His sisters have also been giving him pep talks. This can have its plus and minus points. Daughter two and only son have a somewhat turbulent relationship which generally ends either with only son screaming or daughter two pretending to be dead. Daughter one’s relationship with only son is more like that of a – very strict – mother with her son. I feel daughter one thinks my partner and I are not particularly effective parents and she may be right.

I’m not sure I am particularly effective at anything at the moment. I spent Saturday afternoon helping out in a charity shop with daughter one. I sold one designer bag to a couple of 11 year olds for £2. They then came back five minutes later and said it looked a bit manky inside. I think they were expecting a new designer bag for £2. The ebay generation, huh?  I gave them a refund. The woman who runs the shop, who had been on a break, came back and said she never does refunds usually. Oh dear. My days as a salesperson are clearly numbered.

I’m not feeling overly optimistic about stuff at the moment. I don’t usually watch much of Children in Need, mainly because I’m trying to get people to bed, but on Friday I did catch a bit of a children’s choir singing from around the UK. “Why are you crying, mum?” asked daughter two. “It’s so good to see people just being nice to one another,” I said. “It feels like a throwback to another world.”

*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of

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