When I take my children to school, we often run late. It doesn’t seem to matter how early we get up, or how organised I think I have been. There’s always a last minute hitch, like a wrinkle in a sock, or the wrong trousers.
We are lucky, our walk takes us through a beautiful city park, but that too has its complications. Puddles must be jumped in, there are so many places to race scooters, and the possibilities of combining these with dogs and the gifts they sometimes leave behind.
We are always rushing, shamefully shoving wheeled transport outside the bikeshed, rather than inside on the racks, we are not early enough to secure a post of our own. I try to stay calm and extract coats at this point, so they can be put easily onto pegs, but turn to find my children gone already, and sitting high in the branches of trees, or are foraging in the bushes like wild things.
I feel embarrassment creeping upwards as I eye other people, they seem so much more together, with neatly presented children trotting at their sides. Nobody else is already streaked with mud, or sporting a great imitation of the 80s goth bird’s nest hairdo I used to covet. “Come out of there now!” I hiss, in a stage whisper.
When we walk into school, our welcome is always a warm one, and I am so grateful for this. An atmosphere of colour and creativity envelopes us and finally I breathe a bit easier, until it’s time for me to go. It’s not so easy when your smaller child, the one who’s only two, is clinging to the carpet like a velcro fixture, pledging their alliegance to the school and promising to stay forever.
Deep breaths, best calm voice, and I am the last one out, bodily removing a recalcitrant toddler, with an iron will and a grip to match; it takes all of my negotiating muscles and some physical ones too. Sometimes bribery and coercion are involved at this point.
When we’ve finally done the school run and left the gates successfully, I always want to shout ‘mischief managed’! Until the next time …
How do you manage to get everyone in the right place at the right time and stay sane? Share your tips and strategies, or secret survival mechanisms!
Ali Jones is a teacher and writer. She is a mother of three. Her work has appeared in Fire, Poetry Rivals, Strange Poetry, Ink Sweat and Tears, Snakeskin Poetry, Atrium, Mother’s Milk Books., Breastfeeding Matters, Breastfeeding Today and The Green Parent magazine. She writes a regular column for Breastfeeding Matters Magazine. She was the winner of the Green Parent Writing Prize in 2016 and has also written for The Guardian. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram