If the emails I receive from PR people on a daily basis are anything to go by, I’m a parenting expert. The fact that I’ve been on the radio a handful of times, popped up in a couple of newspapers and even spoken on a panel at a Mumsnet event add weight to this suggestion. But it couldn’t be further from the truth. While I’m not a terrible parent by any stretch of the imagination, there’s one area I just can’t get right. The morning school run.
Unfortunately, Amelie has the same body clock and appetite of most vampires, so Kate is too tired to get up. I won’t let her either as she needs to catch up on sleep, so I’m outnumbered. For the most part, Dylan and Xander are good boys, but this isn’t the case when it’s just me and them. They suddenly go all a bit Lord of the Flies.
It starts at the breakfast table. While I frantically get their cereal and packed lunches ready, they decide on how exactly they’re going to dick around this time. Sometimes, it’s repeatedly shouting nonsensical catchphrases and laughing maniacally. Others it’s playing hide and seek – which, to be brutally honest, they’re rubbish at – or daring each other to do things to annoy me.
Then it’s time for them to get dressed. I always try to separate them at this point. I know what will happen otherwise. The idea is that Dylan goes to his room to get dressed while I attempt to calm Xander down. Naturally, he always gives me the slip. I get upstairs to a scene of utter carnage as they use Dylan’s bunk bed as a diving board and Xander’s single bed as a pool.
Somehow or other, we always make it out of the door in time for the school run itself. But the challenge is only just getting started. Xander either tries to run off in the wrong direction or they both seek out puddles to displace onto themselves and me. Thanks a lot, Peppa Pig; you little shit.
When we get to Dylan’s school, there’s a narrow path to walk down. To let other people past, I have to let him go ahead while I attempt to restrain Xander who wants to run away again. Eventually, we get to the door. They insist on a goodbye routine that involves affectionate wrestling and blowing raspberries at each other. Dylan then makes his way into the classroom slower than a tortoise with a broken leg. Still, that means the job is half done.
On the way to pre school, Xander always wants me to play tag with him. He takes the phrase ‘school run’ quite literally. Naturally, I have no desire to do so, but don’t have much choice. He wriggles free of my grasp and legs it back up the narrow path, sending people in all directions while I chase after him trying to stop my jeans from falling down. Mercifully, the pre school is nearby, but that isn’t the end…
When we get there, he always insists on going to the toilet. I know this is a classic delaying tactic, but he always manages to go. I don’t want to risk wet trousers – well ‘wetter trousers’, I should say. The aforementioned puddles have normally played a part by this point. Plus it stops him from making an arse of me in front of the other parents.
Of course, I’ve tried everything from calmly reasoning and distraction to shouting and even threatening to put their toys on eBay, but nothing works. I know that, in theory, a consistent approach is the way forward, but if I’m calm they walk all over me and I don’t want to become a pantomime villain. So I have to confess to picking what I think will be the least ineffective response to the given moment.
This post isn’t a cry for help, nor is it designed to earn me any sympathy. I know I’m going to ace it one day. I just thought I’d write this to show other parents that they’re not alone in having children they can’t control on occasion. Whether it’s on the school run, while out shopping or wherever. Unless it is only me that this happens to!