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Having three teen and pre-teens seems to mean a lot of time waiting for people to get ready. If they are not putting olive oil on their eyelashes or extending their eyebrows or moisturising their legs [when did that become a thing?], they are fighting over clothes. It doesn’t help that one of them is a bit of a philosopher so spends a lot of time between getting dressed thinking about stuff. In a way it’s admirable that she doesn’t seem at all phased by her mother’s overemphasis on speed and continues to go at her own relaxed pace. Clearly time-pressed parents are the mad people, not their more laconic offspring. But sometimes it would just help if they were a bit speedier.
At the weekend, only son and I found ourselves in New Look’s changing room with all three girls trying stuff on. Only son almost fell asleep. Then he woke up on a manic high and started playing hide and seek. Meanwhile, I was called one by one by each daughter to pass judgement on outfits while simultaneously trying to ascertain where only son was hiding.
My partner is away. In an ideal world I would clone myself so I could be both in New Look and in the swimming pool or wherever since the age gap between daughter one and only son means that there are few things that everyone wants to do. Daughters one and two want to watch scary films. Daughter three has nightmares over Agatha Christie. On the upside, daughter one has developed a new passion for Chris Evans [not the DJ] and keeps asking to watch The Avengers, something that only son is not entirely averse to. These moments do not happen often, though, so in the absence of a cloning machine, I have spent a lot of time waiting for people and driving around.
Firstly, on Friday. I had to do both school drop-offs and pick-ups, including an after school pick-up. This would have been fine, but daughter one was on a go-slow at the end of a week of exams and still pondering on the biology of slow worms in the school library while I was waiting outside texting her with increasing amounts of exclamation marks. That meant we were late for only son’s dance club and had no time to get petrol. We arrived slightly late for only son with the petrol gauge flashing on empty.
The dance teacher announced that the dance show next week will involve parents taking their kids to the theatre – about half an hour’s drive away, but nowhere near daughters one and two’s school – for 4pm sharp, picking them up at 4.15 after a very brief rehearsal, taking them out for an hour, delivering them back and then waiting an hour and a half till the show starts. This all relies on parents being endlessly on call and having no other children or a whole back-up army. I am thinking of implementing a total ban on extracurricular activities henceforward.
We headed for the nearest petrol station. It had run out of diesel. We headed for the next petrol station and got caught in a traffic jam. We did a u-turn and drove towards the next nearest petrol station. There was another traffic jam. I felt like a rat in a trap. The petrol gauge seemed to be flashing faster. We took a back route. Eventually we got petrol. “I feel like I spend a far bigger part of my life than I would like driving people places,” I said to no-one in particular in a possibly slightly stressed voice, “and permanently in catch-up mode”.
Later, only son whispered to me: “I hope that I make your life easier, mum. Do you want an orange?” I immediately felt guilty and went to work on an elaborate plan to ensure I pick up and drop off people all in the right places at the right times and am not up till 4am catching up on work on a Monday. It involved extensive research on wi-fi areas near the theatre.
As luck would have it, only son woke up early on Saturday and spent half an hour complimenting me on my hair, my cheeks and my general being. This is all very, very sweet, but if he could just have done it one hour later he would have reached a more receptive audience.
*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of Workingmums.co.uk.