‘I have a confession to make.’
‘No. It’s worse.’
‘Oh God. You’ve backed your car into mine again, haven’t you,’ he sighed, with weary resignation.
‘No.’ I brightened up. It wasn’t that bad. ‘I’ve only just seen this.’ I held up a thick, white envelope with the crest of oldest son’s school in one corner.
‘What is it,’ he asked, this time with a hunted look that said, ‘Don’t tell me they want even more money?’
‘It’s his school report. It’s been in his bag all summer and we haven’t even looked at it. I didn’t even know we had it. In fact, I almost sent it back in his folder unopened! Can you imagine what sort of parent his new teacher would think I am if she’d come across it? It just doesn’t bear thinking about. Talk about poor first impressions!’
He flicked through the report we both should have anxiously poured over at the end of last term – and didn’t. ‘I’m sure Miss Brown* has already told her what to expect after last year,’ he replied.
[GULP] ‘Do ya think?’
He was right of course. Bad news always travels fast.
You see, I’m not a rubbish parent as such, just a rather scatty one. And organization has never been my strong point. As a child I was so catastrophically disorganized, that I took every school book I possessed along with my games kit to class every single day. This was because I was so afraid of forgetting something and incurring the wrath of my teachers, that developing ‘gigantic bag induced scoliosis’ due to the spine-snapping weight of my pink, Head sports bag (it was the late eighties) seemed a small price to pay.
Twenty years on and nothing has changed. Indeed I’ve become the kind of mother who gives herself a pat on the back if the only thing oldest son turns up to school without is his lunch box…
There are times when I like to blame my forgetfulness on the fact that I work and have more than one child. But all that falls flat when you know that I also have a full-time live-in maid with better organizational skills than Hitler’s secret police…
Needless to say, none of this is made any easier when school decides that 7.30am isn’t early enough (the new start time is now 7.15am) and there are certain mothers who never put foot wrong.
On the very first morning of term, it was the usual ‘massive shades and maxi dresses at dawn’ parade. I bumped into Alpha Mum, who was svelte and fresh in her nano-technology gym lycra. I watched enviously as she jiggled a smiling toddler on her hip and delivered her two older kids to their new teachers, complete with ‘welcome back’ home-made cupcakes for every child in their respective classes.
‘Gosh!’ I remarked in awe. ‘I don’t know how you do it!’
‘It doesn’t take five minutes,’ she breezed. ‘I just whipped them up this morning before the children woke up.’
‘I’ve been dreading the start of term,’ I babbled foolishly. ‘The morning dash is a bit of a nightmare in our house. I’ve just loved all the summer lie-ins.’
Then I wished I’d kept my mouth shut.
‘We love the start of term in our house,’ she replied, a tad snootily. ‘’Before school’ is a chance for me to spend quality time with Phoebe and Rudy so I can set them up for the day. I love the first day back too. It’s just great catching up with all the other mums and their children after the summer.’
‘Oh, really?’ Was all I could think of saying, as my cheeks flamed and my ego deflated like a used airbag…
Thankfully, the next person I saw was MOM (Morally Outraged Mum). Now here was someone who wouldn’t mind a spot of early morning negativity. ‘Well,’ she began, before I’d even said good morning, ‘I think it’s disgusting!’
I got a running commentary on her struggle to buy new school shoes for her hobbit-footed daughter, and all because Magrudys’ were no longer stocking Start-Rite shoes.
‘And what are they going to do about it? That’s what I’d like to know!’ she ranted.
I didn’t dare tell her that I was secretly pleased at the move. After all, I’d managed to score a pair that fitted oldest son amongst the last of their stocks, and had been given a 25 percent discount for my trouble. Time to move along…
By the time I’d said a brief ‘hello’ to Fashionista Mum, (who’d clearly been getting ready since 3am just so the rest of us would look like a bunch of greasy-faced vagrants) and a had quick chat with Lebanese Mum, who was fretting over which after school activities would best enhance her little Fadi’s capacity for genius, I was sweating like a thief in a shop full of policemen.
And then I remembered I’d forgotten oldest son’s lunch box… BUGGER!
I watched Alpha Mum (angelic toddler now strapped firmly into the iCANDY) jog smoothly through the gates and across the pedestrian crossing, ponytail swinging jauntily… No doubt she was off to enjoy a two-hour ‘sesh’ of ashtanga yoga before her primal screaming class began at 10am.
‘Strewth! What were they thinking? Isn’t the crack of dawn bloody early enough?’
It was Aussie Mum, red-cheeked, her blonde hair plastered to her forehead with sweat. She was dragging a pajama-clad toddler with one hand, and was loaded down with bags and lunch packs in the other. Meanwhile her bleary-eyed five-year-old trailed behind.
‘Oh Gawd!’ she moaned. ‘Steve forgot to set the alarm so I’m late on the first day, the maid’s pregnant again and Mikey’s forgotten his water bottle! Do you think I’ve missed registration?’
God I love her!