So after what was perhaps the longest Christmas holiday ever – too long really at over three weeks, a few days of it enforced thanks to the chicken pox – we are slowly trying to get back into the old routine.
The children, obviously, are finding this the hardest, having set the record over Christmas for the longest time to have spent in their pyjamas (not, I hasten to add, the same ones). They managed it for ten days on the trot, enough I would have thought to call up the Guinness Book of World Records. Maybe next time, except of course they would need send a Norris McWhirter-esque chap to mediate for the whole time which would be a bit awkward for all concerned when you think about it.
Anyway having failed dismally to get Jem dressed for playgroup on Friday – I managed one sock and already it was ten past nine – we phoned in to say he didn’t want to come into school without his sister (who had been off until Monday because of the pox – keep up!!). I know this was parenting of the weakest kind but sometimes you’ve got to opt for the easy life, no matter what anyone else thinks.
So on Monday morning we had a meticulously organised game plan – we’d even gone out and bought a couple of clocks on Saturday and all manner of bribes to coax the kids out of bed, including a hideously-overpriced Hello Kitty lunchbag which will probably rip by Friday and sausage rolls (they’re Jem’s new favourite – unfortunately he had eaten most of them by Sunday evening). We set the alarm for 7am, woke them up by 7.30, had them eating breakfast by 8.00 and we were all in the car by half past eight, possibly our earliest time ever. We were even one of the first to drop off, easily getting a parking space, ahead of the steady stream of subtly smug mums we usually pass on their way out as we’re on the way in (in fact some we’d never even met). Result!
It’s the sort of plan that makes you feel invincible as a parent, as though you have cracked some secret formula to the school run like all those early bird smug mums.
Alas it’s the sort of plan that only lasts a day. This morning Carys was fine but Jem was back to his usual tearaway ‘I’m not getting dressed’ self. By 8.15 I had got his Action Man T-shirt on him but little else. We tried saying we’d just take him to playgroup in his pyjamas but, let’s be honest, that never works. Even at three years old, they somehow know that doing that is going to humiliate you far more than it will humiliate them. You may as well turn up in the playground carrying a banner that says ‘we have given up trying to look after our children competently’.
Still, by some miracle – or at least a turn on his sister’s Nintendo DS – we got him ready with minutes to spare. Although he was still protesting as we got into the car, by the time we reached the school gates, he was happily running around the playground and then went in without fuss.
In other words, why all that performance? On these cold January mornings, none of us really feel like getting out of bed. I would have much preferred to have just sat watching Daybreak in my pyjamas and one sock. But we are old enough to accept that we can’t and just scream and tantrum inwardly whilst finding ways to make the day easier to face, like adding extra honey to your yoghurt and museli and playing Chain Reaction by Diana Ross in the kitchen. Kids can’t really do this – they need our help.
That’s a key thing to remember – some might call it bribery but finding ways to make the morning routine more pleasant is pretty much vital. The day’s not bad once you get started – it’s just the getting started bit that’s difficult.
If the wailing still persists, the other thing to remember is probably that you are not alone – despite their school gate appearances, even the early bird smug mums have their days when the kids just play up and refuse to get ready. Maybe not as often as it happens with us, but I bet it must happen (invariably, I have to admit, when it is the dad’s turn to get them to school).
The trick to remember, I guess, is to get everyone up earlier so you are better prepared and less pushed for time to deal with the tantrums and protests.
We are all hoping by the end of the week that our kids will have got used to going to school again. But if all else fails just remember the most important thing of all – only another six and a half weeks until half term.