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Why is it that every night people try to convince me that bedtime is too early? “ALL my friends go to bed at 10 or 10.30,” says daughter two. “I Googled it and you don’t need more than nine hours sleep. It actually damages you to have more more, mum.” This is despite the fact that, come 7am, no-one wants to get up and daughter two in particular had to be dragged from the floor earlier this week because she felt so tired. “It’s because I sleep too much,” she told me. “If I slept less I would feel more awake.” Speaking as a parent who has spent the last 15 years with barely a full night’s sleep, I cannot relate to this argument in any way.
Homework is the big excuse for staying up later because, of course, despite special pleading, homework is always left till the last seconds of the night. So it came to pass that daughter two was doing some kind of pointillist shoe drawing at 9pm the other night which involved her painstakingly peppering an entire page of A4 with dots in the shape of a shoe; daughter one was doing her reading homework; only son was sorting his Match Attack cards again [“we’re only allowed to bring them out in the afternoon at school, mum”]; daughter one was studying for a chemistry exam and I was sewing an enormous fabric mushroom for her 3D junk food art project. Clearly, she should have been sewing the mushroom – and she did a bit – but it was 9pm and I wanted her to go to bed so I took over or we could have been there till midnight.
Homework seems a legitimate excuse for staying up late as it is “educational”, but it would, as I argue, be more educational at, say, 7pm when they are tuned into the Kardashians – ironically, in daughter one’s case – or teaching themselves the latest One Direction moves [only son] than at 9pm. I think the main appeal of the Kardashians is exhaustion. There is no demand whatsoever to engage. Even the Kardashians themselves seem to be one step removed from their lives and talk as if they are partly on auto-pilot.
The other day I had to go out to an evening work thing. The journey there was probably the most relaxing part of my week because it just involved sitting and reading the newspaper, although nothing in the news is even remotely relaxing these days. I even got out of the school run, but logistics wise it was tricky. I had two children going on the train and tube across London with strict instructions to daughter one not to ditch her sister in the middle of rush hour. Two other children were going to a friend’s house. A friend of only son. Daughter three was not happy, but her friends’ parents were all working. I am thinking of installing some sort of GPS-style mapping system so I can keep track of different children’s movements. In my mind, it will be a bit like a military manoeuvres operation. Things will flash when they get to certain destinations. This will be much better, I feel, than me relying on them to ring me and let me know where they are or them switching their phones off airplane mode.
The previous afternoon was a case in point. Only son was on a school visit [“it was great, mum. Particularly the bit where we climbed on the roof of the castle. It was really high”] which overran, as they always do. Plus he fell asleep on the bus home so was one of the last off. That meant we were half an hour late picking up daughters one and two with no mobile reception in the primary school area. “Tell them we’re nearly there and are entering X village,” I instructed my executive assistant, daughter three, when we had just left the school. “No signal,” said daughter three. “Text daughter one again,” I said. She then tried to call, but there was no answer. However, daughter one had left three voicemails. “Where are you?” said number one. The second was a bit more insistent. Finally, the third stated: “You are so not nearly here. You sent me a message 10 minutes ago saying you were in X and then four minutes later you sent a message saying you were still in X. X is not very big. You are clearly not in X at all.” She passed the phone to daughter two, presumably to complain. “I love you, mum,” said daughter two. Daughter one snatched the phone away. “This is your biggest mistake yet, mum. This will be remembered. Your days are numbered.”
We arrived seconds later and had to make a hasty exit as the man from Cosyloft had arrived early to check out the loft in case no-one ever leaves home and we have to find some extra space in around 10 years’ time when we may be able to apply for a second mortgage on the house. You see, I am capable of long term planning. It’s just the short term planning that gets in the way.
*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of Workingmums.co.uk.