A week’s a long time in parenting, so six can feel like a bloody marathon. Having the kids (and their end-of-term-tiredness) at home for the summer holidays tends to lurch between a real pleasure and a real pain. Yet amid the usual patience testing and sudden explosions, the break proved to be surprisingly enjoyable and a happy escape from the usual morning routine.
Consequently, the return to normality has come with a bit of a bump, especially the period between 7am and 9am. Any of you familiar with the school and/or nursery run will probably know exactly what I mean, but just in case (and for my own sense of catharsis), here’s a glimpse of what I absolutely, positively, 100% didn’t miss during the summer holiday hiatus…
T-minus 80 minutes: Mummy departs
When it’s my day at home, my wife Laura is in London (and vice versa). So, around 7.15am two days a week, she waves us goodbye…and battle commences. First up is a conversation something along the lines of: how many episodes of Ninjago have you watched so far? (Wait, repeat.) (Wait, repeat.) (Wait…deep breath…) Right, if you don’t answer, I’m just going to turn it off. Ah, finally. In that case I’ll start making breakfast.
T-minus 65 minutes: Making breakfast
What’s that Nathan? You want to help me make breakfast? How lovely. A pint-sized lunatic teetering on furniture behind me, tipping Rice Krispies on the floor and then eating them, and risking their life by jamming stuff into the toaster is exactly what any cook needs when preparing a meal. Dylan! Has that Ninjago finished yet? (Wait…deep breath…) Remember what I said would happen if you ignored me? And, no, lobbing plastic dinosaurs out the door does NOT constitute a viable response.
T-minus 50 minutes: Breakfast
Right, everyone, take a seat. What do you want on your toast? Everything? That’s disgusting. (Painstakingly scrape jam, peanut butter, Marmite and honey onto a single slice x 2.) Nathan, do you need a poo? The noise you just made suggests you do (or have already). No? OK, well tell me as soon as you do. Dylan, food is best eaten through your mouth. And with clothes on. (Drink spills. Again.) Laura’s sat on a train watching iPlayer right now. Bitch.
T-minus 30 minutes: Getting dressed
OK, fellas, let’s head upstairs. Good Lord, Nathan, that’s a dreadful smell. Are you absolutely sure you don’t need a poo? Shall we just try? OK, suit yourself, but PLEASE let me know if one comes. Right, Dylan, if you can get dressed in your school uniform in less than two minutes, I’ll happily compromise my (almost entirely extinct) parenting ideals and let you watch more TV. Nathan, come with me, we’re getting dressed together.
Far more than 2 minutes later…
T-minus 20 minutes: Still getting dressed
No Dylan, standing completely naked but for a pair of pants on your head does not equal getting dressed. Hurry up or we’ll be late. Nathan, where are you? I’ve still got one of your socks here. Er…that’s not hygienic. Please take the child’s toilet seat off your face and come here. Do you need a poo? No, well then let’s do teeth. (Check watch.) OK, I’ll do both of you together, just remind me later whose teeth I cleaned with my left hand, so I can make sure I do theirs properly with my right hand this evening.
T-minus 10 minutes: Still getting dressed
For the love of God Dylan, I’ve seen glaciers move quicker than this. Please do up your shorts and put your school shoes on. Nathan! Toothbrushes go in mouths only. Definitely not up there. I’ll have to go to Sainsbury’s and get you a new one now. At last, thank you Dylan. You can put your shoes on the right feet when you get to school. No, I don’t know who my 7th-least-favourite Star Wars character is off the top of my head. Let me think about it and I’ll tell you tonight.
T-minus 5 minutes: Final preparations
Right, everyone, grab your bags. Hang on, wait! Nathan, I need to do your packed lunch for nursery. (Throw sandwiches, crisps and fruit into lunchbox and then stuff it all into a frustratingly undersized backpack with increasing rage.) Dylan, where are you? No, there isn’t time for a kickaround in the garden. Nathan, take the keys out your mouth. It’s dangerous, plus I need to lock the door. We’ll have to walk the quick way today and spend less time terrorising the local spider population, otherwise we’ll be late. Go, go, go!
T-plus 2 minutes: Late departure
(Usher (push) boys out door. Lock door. Set off down road.) Dylan try to stay calm but I don’t think we’re going to make it for ‘gate opening’ today. Why ever that matters. That’s not calm. And it’s not nice for the people whose front garden it is either. Carry on walking before they come to the window…but not too far ahead please. Keep up, Nath. Why have you stopped? Oh, you’ve got to be fucking joking. Dylan, come back! We’re heading home. Nathan needs a poo…
And just think, we get to do it all again tomorrow.