So a seemingly simple trip to collect the 3-year old from Pre-school, then 15 minutes later the 8-year old from The-school descends into madness. In essence it became a complex, frustrating, mentally and emotionally draining strategic nightmare; not unlike a trip to the summit of Everest with only a Matalan puffer jacket and fingerless gloves for protection.
I’m increasingly concerned that Pre-school are dishing up Amphetamines as a post-lunch ‘snack’, as my whirling dervish 3-year old literally, (Usaine) bolts past me and out of the door at 3pm. I then wrestle her coat, lunch bag and nappy bag, plus frankly useless art work and I’m forced to run after her. Running and me don’t mix. Like oil and water or money and my purse. But run I must as she’s already turned the corner, and despite having only been released into my care 24 seconds ago I’m already on the back foot, literally. I catch up with her and then begin the fruitless act of telling her to hold my hand. An act I would liken to bitch-slapping myself in the face repeatedly.
We’re in the playground; a nice square area with only 14 hiding places. That’s right, 14. I’ve surveyed the area, mapped the space and located all blind spots and hidden exit’s. Tossing all her stuff onto a bench I then proceed to find the ‘dead centre’ of the playground; from here I can see all of the playground and at least part of the 8 hiding places. It’s best placed to enable me to look normal-ish whilst shadowing my toddler with my eyes alone. You see I like to think I’m a relatively relaxed person but have learned over my 25 years of parenting that I’m best not to be startled. So it’s imperative that I don’t lose sight of said child. Once I had an eyelash in my eye, and very nearly lost my shit as excessive blinking and watering prevented me from being hyper vigilant. My status as nice and easy going Mother of two at the school was completely fucked, as a packed playground watched me mentally unravel as I attempted to locate her. In short she was standing 2 feet behind me and my reaching out and grabbing a passing child by the cardigan didn’t go down well.
Still today is another day. And most people will have forgotten that by now.
The sun is shining and I even manage small talk with other Mummy’s whilst watching my extremely cute 3 year old circumnavigating the space laughing like a loon! This is however the calm before the storm for the playground will get busier. So continuing my vigilance I pray either for rain; the masses at least will stand under the shelter, or an early finish for the 8-year old. God hates me so neither happen.
‘She’s fucking gone!’ I didn’t say it out loud thank God, as she’s still just there; but has squatted to examine gravel with a friend. I’m hoping the gravel is really bloody interesting. I have her in my eye-line and can continue to look normal amongst my school yard Mummy’s. ‘Ball’s’ she moved on and I’ve just heard her reckless and frankly stupid ‘gravel worshipping’ friend suggest ‘hide and seek’? My worst nightmare is coming true and the older one will be out in mere minutes….
I’m now forced to leave my post and semi-run after her claiming; ‘honestly, she keeps running off I just can’t…..’ in the direction of any perplexed Mummy’s face. With the door to Class 3 opening I know I must now keep that and the toddler in my sights; for I must nod to the teacher to enable her to release the 8-year old into my care. Christ the fucking protocol at this school is mind blowing…
She’s out, and the 3-year old is now hanging off the bike racks. Excellent she’ll do this for ages. Feeling smug I relax and greet the older one properly; even happily accept the 3 bags, coat and cardigan, letters, envelope asking for dinner money and her greying Lemur that is frankly a health hazard. Big mistake, the 3-year old clearly sensing I’m now loaded down both physically and emotionally makes a run for it in the direction of the gate out. 8-year old who I’ve already completely ruined for life and is now as utterly neurotic as myself is now screaming like a banshee and running full-pelt across the playground after her. Hang on; this might be fortuitous? Parents and children scramble out of the way to enable the 3 of us clear passage whilst offering piteous looks in my direction. It’s okay. I get it and you’re right. However, my anxious nature will always win and I’ll never be one of those relaxed Mummy’s that chat for 30 minutes straight then glances round for their children like Maria Von Trapp in legging and a ‘Next’ tunic.
The 8-year old has caught the 3-year old; by the hair. Both are now screaming and I am dodge-balling the late entrants down the narrow path to catch them. Judgement is now hanging in the air like the smell of wet-dog. Dumping what amounts to a huge pile of school-y stuff on the ground I separate them forcibly. Wow, the combined noise of berating, screaming and the 3-year old kicking the fence from her position face-down on the path has now caused a headache I’d happily end with a hammer. A kindly Mummy has now brought the rest of 3-year old’s stuff including her frankly naïve artwork and is negotiating with her to get off the ground. I’m re-picking up the rest of the stuff and desperately hoping this kindly Mummy will help me; also a Mummy, to deal with, ‘my’ yes I fucking know, ‘my’ child.
The toddler is now holding her hand (honestly I could cry…) and we’re walking calmly towards my battered Volvo. Seriously I can see it. We’re so close. I even manage to unlock it and whilst engaging the kindly Mummy in conversation about baked potatoes; which I’m seriously not concentrating on, I even manage to toss everyone’s shit into the car. And then she’s off; the 3-year old that is. The car park is busy and she’s now dashing round the little maze of paths in front of the car. This is fine, I can handle this. Kindly Mummy needs to kindly bugger off now though;because the potato conversation is dead and I’ve still not completed the school-child-home transaction. So I stand and watch once more. It even turns into fun, the 8-year old running after her, big grins and happy noises…still here…I half-watch all the other children following their guardians towards their respective vehicles. They get in. They drive away…I’m still here. Eventually it’s just us…and the teachers who are now leaving school and no doubt wondering what the hell we’re still doing there.
Eventually I’m irritated and demand in a calm-low-‘I’m perfectly in control’ voice’ “Right in the car please girls.” Nothing. No-one’s batted a bloody eye lid. I venture once more and open all the car doors as if to reinforce the request. Bugger all. I attempt to scoop up the toddler…she weighs only a couple of stone less than me and so other than re-igniting my sciatica it was unsuccessful all round. Despite this and with only a couple of Mummy’s now watching the circus I try again, repeatedly. The 8-year old is helpfully narrating the entire scene at full volume..and then it is over. The 3-year old gets up, dusts herself down and walks to the car, gets in and helpfully sits back to enable me to put her seat belt on. I slam the door shut and stagger round to the driver side, cradling my temple and mentally yanking my ovaries out through my ‘hoo-har’ and tossing them into the neighbouring field of cows….FML.