Before I start, I just want to say I am mortified at the amount of time it has taken me to write the sequel to this post. I’ve been knocked about with a nasty dose of the flu and my laptop has been misbehaving a little as well. The problem is, the longer the break since my last post, the more I avoid writing the next one. I didn’t mean to build up this much suspense! You’re going to find Part Two a bit of a let down after such a long wait! Oh well, here goes…
I woke up super-early on the morning of the Book Week Parade. Partly because I had plans to get everything organised and to arrive at school with time to spare (I was determined to get it right this year), but also because I had an early morning Skype-date with my sister, Jan. I don’t say ‘conversation’, because these sessions are more likely to involve my children climbing all over me and shouting at the computer as they jostle for prime position. They love their Aunty. And the camera.
As bed-time in Britain was fast approaching, we bid farewell to Jan and I felt the familiar pang of distance. I miss my sister so much. But now it was time for weetbix and toast and uniform and matching socks and The Bunny Spoon (no other spoon will do for Annie’s breakfast). I needed to get cracking on my own breakfast, too. I’m one of those types who needs a proper high-protein breakfast to function on any level. On a good day, I will have eaten breakfast and hung a load of whites on the line before the kids wake up. I enjoy this semi-annual event, I really do. Today, I was running a bit behind, but no matter. I was able to beat eggs and shout at my children simultaneously (thankfully I didn’t get confused and shout at the eggs whilst beating my children).
Mr Knightley emerged wearing some hideous running clothes. He was leaving early to drop the car off for a service (and would run to work from the mechanics). I reminded myself that nobody would actually see his olive-green windcheater as he always kept a clean shirt and pants in his office and bit back any fashion advice I might have been tempted to share.
It was as I was saying goodbye to my husband that Harry somehow managed to tip an entire bowl of soggy weetbix onto his lap. Ack! I got busy with paper towels and the laundry sink and found him a clean set of clothes (“I hate the stripy t-shirt!”). Things were starting to get a little hectic. My FODMAP-friendly omelette was ready, but nobody seemed to be wearing shoes and I still had to make the lunches (too busy constructing costumes to remember to do it the night before…).
That’s when the phone rang.
It was my husband.
Here’s the general gist of our conversation:
- Before Mr Knightley left the house, we swapped keys. He was taking the family car to the mechanics, I would drive the car he usually drives to work (on loan from my sister).
- The keys to his office were in my hand bag.
- He had an important meeting at 9am.
- He was wearing a truly dreadful sweatshirt.
I gaped. I almost cried out “But you don’t understand – it’s BOOK WEEK!” before realising that things that are desperately important in Mummy Land bear no relevance in the rest of the world. This did give me a moment of existential angst, I must say. But then I took a deep breath, allowed myself one look at the truly delicious omelette and steaming cup of tea before turning the stove off, clamping a lid over the pan and swinging into action.
I slapped sandwiches together whilst shouting “Shoes! Mail Bag! Put that down! Time to go!”. Then I scooped up the costume bits and ushered everyone into the car (after retrieving Christopher Robin’s shoes from under the trampoline). We managed to get to Mr Knightley’s work by 9:05. He’d already had a shower, so wouldn’t be too late for the meeting. Then we raced back to school.
We were late, we were so late. We had to park miles away and walk through the school carrying the costumes and back packs and Annie (she wasn’t wearing any shoes). When we got there, the parade had already started. The kinder kids were already on the stage. I wheeled around to face Harry. “Let’s get your costume on!” I said, in what I hoped was a cheerful voice.
Harry shook his head.
“Come on!” I trilled, trying not to sound too maniacal. “look at all your friends! Won’t it be fun?” I was already trying to dress him. Harry started to panic. “No! No!” he wailed, “I hate this! I hate the Saucepan Man! I want to be Woody!”
We don’t own a Woody costume, nor is Woody a character from a proper book (not counting spin-off merchandise), but I don’t think either of these arguments were going to convince Harry in this moment. “Just the hat?” I cajoled,
But Harry was shaking and in tears.
I should have known by now, Harry doesn’t do costumes (remember Christmas Eve?). In fact, I really should have been grateful he was wearing clothes at all. I heaved a big sigh, folded him up in my arms and found a place to sit. His tears and snot were warm against my neck.
Christopher Robin had already gathered up his tray of Marvellous Medicine and hurried off to sit with his class. I realised, too late, that I had never weight-tested the tray with all of its contents. It was really heavy. Christopher’s arms wobbled as he held the tray and his voice sounded a little strained as he told the school he was “George and the Marvellous Medicine”. But he got through it like a champion.
This was the point where I was planning to sneak off home, but Harry was still sitting on my lap, his face firmly buried in my neck. I had asked him coaxingly a few times if he’d like to sit with his class, pointing out all his little friends, but he just shook his head, without actually removing it from my neck. I was going to have to watch the whole darn thing.
It was around the time the Grade Fives were on the stage that Harry looked up from my neck. “My tummy’s rumbling,” he announced, “I haven’t had any breakfast!”
I realised, with horror, that the only weetbix Harry had encountered before I bundled him into the car was the bowl he’d tipped on his lap. His tummy growled. Mine growled back.
“I haven’t had any breakfast, Mummy!” Harry repeated loudly and insistently. Several teachers and parents turned to look. I smiled brightly and tried to reassure Harry under my breath. This was the day I was going to convince everyone that I had it all together and homeschool was working out just fine, thank you very much. Would the Book Parade never end?
At last it was time to gather everything together and walk Harry to kinder. But the student wellbeing teacher was honing in on me. She looked at me with a glance that took in my face, barren of make-up, my bored-looking nine year-old, my dirty-faced, pyjama-clad two-year-old, and the quivering four-year-old firmly attached to my leg. She gave me a trademark warm smile that seemed tinged with concern. I smiled bravely back.
I think she was trying to talk to me about Matilda’s ‘transition’ back to school, but her face had somehow morphed into a hot cheese-chicken-and-spinach omelette with a fresh pot of tea on the side. I nodded hungrily.
At Harry’s kinder, his teacher was taking photos of all the children in their costumes before they took them off to play. At some point, I will receive a book week photo of Harry, dressed as Harry, baring his teeth disconsolately for the camera.
I think I’ll put it in a frame.