Sometimes it is good to look back and reflect that an empty nest is not necessarily a bad thing. Here is a typical day that somehow I found the time to write about when my boys were eleven and five years old …
Arrive at school to collect the boys – it’s a glorious, sunny spring afternoon and they are desperate to play football on the village with their respective classmates. Year 6 versus reception seems a touch unbalanced, so they very fairly distribute the little ones between the two teams. Rather less fairly, Thomas somehow ends up goalkeeper.
Meanwhile, I’m happily chatting away with a group of mums.
Chat turns to the serious business of the cricket / scout lift rota that evening. This becomes so complicated that Heather ends up marching off, scattering the words ‘I can’t handle this’ in her wake.
Joel, who is coming home with us for tea, has forgotten his scout uniform and cricket gear. A minor problem.
Start trying to get the boys off the village green.
3.50, 3.55 and 4.00, ditto.
Still trying to get the boys off the village green.
Start to walk off, leaving the boys on the village green.
Boys run after me, I send Joe back into school to collect his coat.
Finally arrive home.
Knock at the door – Ben and Barry call for Joe.
Load the washing machine.
Joe, Joel and Thomas playing noisily with toy cars in the hall. Start unpacking the lunchboxes and reading bags. Six letters from the school this week: table tennis club (Fridays after school – aaaagh); headteacher’s letter (complaining about the children playing football on the village green); football tournament dates; Year 6 trip to Milton Keynes – letter and consent form; summer term curriculum with all holiday dates. Still, at least none of them are ‘begging letters’, as my sister calls the innumerable requests for money that make their way home (with four kids, she should know!)
Start to enter all the relevant dates from the aforementioned six letters onto the calendar and into my diary.
Knock at the door. Jack calling for Joe. Jack is in the same class as Joe and Joel, so the three of them stand gossiping on the doorstep (so what new can possibly have happened in the one hour 35 minutes since they last saw each other?).
Joe, Joel and Thomas playing football noisily on the landing – sounds like the ceiling will come down at any moment.
Phone rings – Sue from Scouts, ok for the boys to be late.
Try to establish what Joel will eat for tea. If you think my boys are fussy, you should meet this lad …
Start mixing spinach pesto and cream cheese to stuff into plaice for Tim and I … slightly disconcerted by its resemblance to the contents of new born babies’ nappies. Pizza for the kids (what a surprise). Prepare broccoli and jacket spuds.
Bung all into oven.
Commence sorting clothes for cricket / scouts, whilst generally tidying up.
Suspiciously quiet upstairs – open our bedroom door to find all three boys having a wrestling match on the bed, with Jakie Lakie the stuffed gorilla acting as ref. Go ballistic.
Dish up dinner. Tim and I squabble over who gets the plaice with the black bottom decorated with red spots (is this the male or female – any idea?). I lose.
Steve, Joel’s dad, arrives at the front door with missing cricket and scout kit. Chat briefly, but just long enough for my dinner to cool.
The Simpsons start – remind the older boys that they can watch for 5 minutes only.
Suggest the boys get changed for cricket, which they do rapidly – strange how their reactions are so much slower getting into school uniform as opposed to getting out of it …
Drop boys off at Taplow Cricket Club, with bags containing their scout uniforms and strict instructions not to lose or forget anything …
… find Joel’s coat hanging on a peg in our hall.
Unload washing machine, smalls into tumble drier; large items onto clothes horse.
Check e-mail – six this time, someone still loves me …
… reply to a couple.
Do the washing up before getting changed for gym.
7.30 to 8.50
Kick fit work out – new, rather butch looking guy running the class this week, who doesn’t seem to have heard of ‘water stops’ and thinks it amusing to make us do high knee jumps after a particularly tough workout. Come back Neville, all is forgiven.
Arrive at Sainsburys – wow, sandwiches reduced to 10p a pack. I’ll have two of those.
Tumble in the front door in time to unload the tumble and grab Joel’s coat.
Off to collect Joe, Alex, Daniel and Callum from scouts.
Brief respite whilst watching the Scout Leader wield his not inconsiderable power over a group of 30 kids.
Respite ends dramatically upon stark realisation that I have zero power over a group of just four. Remind Joel about his bag of clothes, hand him his coat (which he hadn’t even missed) and see him off with another mum. March my ‘quad’ out and find that for some reason or another sitting on Thomas’s baby seat has developed tremendous cachet. Lighthearted squabbling ensues. Use my fishwife voice to rise above them, before driving off doing the rounds. As anticipated, only Alex thanks me for the lift, although Joe reassures me he always thanks the parents (I wonder…?)
Finally arrive home, Tim greets my arrival with barely disguised glee and escapes to the pub (there’s me thinking his rapture was delighted anticipation of my delectable company). I prepare myself a hefty supper of sandwich plus cereal topped with pineapple, telling myself I need the stamina. Joe wisely gets his own snack, knowing that I go on strike after 9pm.
Joe eventually goes off to his bath (I wonder vaguely whether his filthy legs acquired during that footie match on the green will ever resume their natural colour…?).
Head off for my own bath – drat, water is only luke warm.
Cosily tucked up in bed, I reach for my latest book (Chocolat). Heavy eyelids mean that even three short chapters is too much