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When the shit goes down

8 Nov

It’s been a great day for expulsions in our house. I was woken five times in the night by the baby. A bad case of diarrhoea, still unexplained, though I think he’s getting more teeth. Of course I feel sorry for him, but by the third nappy change in as many hours, I began to wonder where my ‘help’ had disappeared off to, until I realised that a) we are too poor to have a nanny, and b) my husband often sleeps through these broken nights, saying in the morning, “God, you should have woken me. Come to think of it though I’m blind without my contacts in, so I’d be no good at changing nappies anyway.” I want to hit him. I also remind him that he owns two pairs of glasses and my ‘innate’ motherly skills don’t stretch to seeing in the dark.

I thought the baby shit was bad enough and then, without any warning, there was the other kids’ vomit. Minutes after going back to sleep from the nappy changing marathon I heard screams from my eldest on the landing – “Mum, I’m going to throw up now!” – before she projectile vomited all over the carpet. All I could think was, “Please not the fucking carpet. If you could have just moved forward another couple of metres you would have hit the bathroom floor. Vinyl is so much easier to clean.”

The middle child struck about an hour later, only five minutes before the eldest’s second vomiting episode, but before the baby’s fifth diarrhoea episode. I suppose he was thoughtful enough not to clash with the others. Seeing as I rarely bake, I’ve found a good use for the bicarbonate of soda, sprinkling it onto any area of carpet that seems to have been hit by the vomit tsunami, to eradicate any lingering smell. As for the baby shit, I’ve found my husband’s glasses so he’s on duty tonight.

To top it all off I’ve started my period again. When I told my husband he said, “Thanks for that. Next time I’ll tell you when I’ve done a poo.” I probably didn’t need to share my news, but it’s been such a long time since I’ve had to buy Tampax and I’m kind of sad about it. Periods are just bloody inconvenient, and I greeted the return of mine in much the same way I would have welcomed back a not very good friend who had gone on a round the world trip and then knocked on my door one day and said, “Surprise. I decided not to stay that extra year.” My instant thought would be “Damn, I thought I’d lost you forever.”

Still, as my mother would say, better out than in, which in my mind can be taken any way you want. Which is why, if the kids are still sick tomorrow, I’m leaving my lovely husband on duty in this stinking house and heading out for some fresh air.

Give me a G and T (the drink, not the child.)

28 Oct

Aside from the lovely drink with depressive effects, G&T stands for Gifted and Talented round my way. Judging by all the parents I’ve run into in the last few weeks on my tours around various South London secondary schools, there are a lot of these ‘gifted’ kids about – or rather a lot of parents who think their children are ‘special’. All these parents who have pushed out these mini Einsteins are being encouraged by the schools to put them  forward for scholarships. They obviously have very high hopes for their offspring’s future careers, based on achievement in school. Nothing to sneer at, but I rather like it when my own daughter talks about her desire to be a hairdresser when she leaves school at sixteen. “That’s an alright job” I tell her, thinking about the flexible hours and rather selfishly imagining my weekly free blowdry.

If I compare the whole secondary school admissions experience for me and my daughter, it goes a little something like this: I was raised in Surrey and now my family and I live in South London (thank god.) I was privately educated and my daughter will go to a state school (I’m glad about that too.). Therein lie the differences. I had to sit an entrance test and so will my daughter. Securing a place was not based on proximity to the school for me (private don’t do that), and neither are many of the schools that my daughter is applying for. In fact I probably had more chance of getting into one of the schools of my choice because my parents were paying for the priviledge, so somebody was bound to take me. My daughter is not owed anything by the borough of Lambeth. My thoughts when we started looking around were “She’ll just go to the local comprehensive right, and things will be fine?” Unfortunately, she took a real shine to a highly competitive selective state school that ‘excels’ in Music. I think her choice was based largely on the fact that she could wear Kickers as her school shoes, but children have their reasons.

Our tour at said school ended with a talk from the head teacher that was so evangelical and preachy that I almost felt as if I should have stood up on my chair and raised my hands in the air. It was strange to say the least that not one of the children who was chosen to sing the school’s praises was anything less than a genius. That’s what they had you thinking anyway, in that strange hall with the echoey walls and the massive projection of exam results and Ofsted results, with the booming echo of the children’s voices providing the soundtrack to the sermon.

When I was at school I remember feeling quite sorry for the ‘gifted’ children (and there were only about two as I remember.) They were really clever but they had been told so from day one by their teachers, so every moment that wasn’t consumed with higher learning, was spent doing competitive extra-curricular activities rather than playing kiss chase with the likes of me and my not so clever friends.

These days it seems that gifted or not, you have to promote your child’s inner genius if you want them to be considered for some of the better schools. Applying online today I could not, and did not want to tell lies about my daughter’s ability, so a couple of weeks before our application, she took a scholarship (I am a hypocrite and the pressure is immense I tell you!) There was no young Chopin manuscript, and instead my daughter sang a pop song along to a YouTube video. She doesn’t read music and she isn’t a musical genuis, but she’s got a sweet voice and she enjoys playing the piano and composing stuff on GarageBand. We were informed yesterday that she didn’t get the scholarship and we weren’t surprised, and luckily she took it all in her stride. Her name’s still in the hat for a place, but I’m hoping that she’ll be offered something at her second choice, the perfectly good, friendly, local comprehensive that doesn’t feel the need to harp on about being the best.

Half term burnout

26 Oct

I look forward to half term in the same way I look forward to doing my tax return. It’s a regular event, it’s unavoidable and I’ve had months to prepare for it, and yet…

Being broke doesn’t help, and it also doesn’t help that I’m not much of a realist and before the holiday I conjure up images of domestic bliss. Me silently stirring a cake mix, the kids, dressed in various shades of teal sticking things silently onto a very lovely collage to give to Granny for Christmas, my husband and I laughing fondly at the children’s idiosyncrasies. This is the kind of scene you might see in Junior magazine and in my head it happens on a regular basis. In my world it has never happened.

Cut to today where I had to physically remove the industrial scissors from the baby’s hands before he gauged his eyes out. “Who the hell left them so close to him on the table?” I scream, before I realise that it was me and I was in the middle of cutting out a large square of plaster to give to middle child, who had sliced some of his finger off whilst trying to cut around a ludicrously complex cardboard model on the back of a cereal packet. I kept asking him to wait whilst he begged for me to help him. My fault then. Meanwhile, I’ve burnt two rounds of toast. This is not bliss. And my husband’s working from home in the office (corner of the kitchen) and we’ve been rowing since 6am.

Like the big box of crumpled receipts that sits at the bottom of my bed, half term is a trunk of badly organised tricks with no-one to act as magician. I’m absolutely rubbish at planning and I find holidays induce the kind of anxiety that makes me suggest some really crazy things. I actually thought that going away together for a few days to the sea would be a good idea, but today I woke up and turned to my husband (for the first time in days as holidays do our relationship no good either) and said, “Do you know what, I think it’s best that you go on holiday with one of the children and I’ll stay put with the baby and the other one. You get to pick.” He smiled and said “Yeah, ok.” It’s the first time we’ve agreed on anything in days.

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