OPINION: Twas the night before school begins.
"Mum," screeches 15-year- old once known as Little Weenie from the vast wilderness of her bedroom, "where's my school bag and those 'things' we got the other day?"
"You mean your new stationery?" I call questioningly.
"Yeah . . . have you hidden them somewhere to annoy me?" she thunders back.
"They're on your bed," I say. Silence, then a quiet "Oh yeah."
"Mum," hollers Quiet Middle Child from the neat and tidy innards of his mezzanine bedroom, "where's my uniform shorts? Have you hidden them somewhere?"
"You mean the new ones we bought on Friday that are hanging in your wardrobe?" I call back. Silence, then a quiet, "Oh, there they are".
"Mum," calls the 15-year-old, her voice muffled by the fact that most of her body is confined within her double wardrobe, "where's my new uniform skirt"?
"You mean the one that's folded tidily on your bed?" I ask calmly. Silence, then, "Actually, it's not on my bed, it's on the floor beside the bed. You got it wrong".
"Mum," says Quiet Middle Child, as he strolls into the kitchen and sees me making school lunches, "have you not realised by now that I don't like crackers with peanut butter in my lunches? The peanut butter makes them go a bit goobie by lunchtime. I'd prefer cheese".
"Isn't that something you could have mentioned to me 12 years ago when I first started making you lunches for school?" I ask. He shrugs.
"Mum," shouts the daughter from the steamy environs of the shower, "can you get me a towel? And where is that stuff you got me to use on my skin?"
"Are you referring to soap?" I retort. "I think that's what it's called," she says, "so where have you hidden it"?
"Mum," shrieks Middle Child, his head buried in his schoolbag, "I can't find my timetable. Oh my god, I can't go to school without it. What's my first class? When is my free period? Who's my maths teacher? What class is business studies in? What am I going to do?" "Your timetable," I say serenely, "is on the noticeboard and your rescue remedy is on the top shelf in the bathroom."
"Mum, what will I do if it rains tomorrow?" daughter - hair straightener in hand - says despairingly into her mirror as the rain beats down on the roof. "You can always wear a raincoat," I suggest. "For god's sake, Mum," she snaps, "now is not the time for jokes."
"Mum," says Middle Child, looking calmer after half a bottle of rescue remedy, "have you seen my school shoes? I thought they were in my bedroom."
"No," I soothe, "they're in the shoe rack at the front door." "No," he huffs, "they're my old ones."
"Look again," I suggest. Silence, then, "Oh yes, that's them."
"Time to go to bed," I call to daughter as she adds the finishing touches to her "urgent" texts for the night, "so phone, iPad and computer off now."
"But it's only 10pm, Mum," she whines, "and I'm not even tired." "Tell that," I say, "to your new teachers tomorrow when you can't keep your eyes open."
She mumbles something under her breath. "You got a problem with that," I ask. "I've got a problem with school starting again," she says.
"Mum," says Middle Child, tossing and turning in the hot night temperature, "should I wear my jersey tomorrow?"
"It's 23 degrees outside at 10.15pm," I answer incredulously, "so why would you want to wear wool tomorrow?"
"Our school shirts are white and they stick to our skin when we sweat. I hate that," he replies.
"My boy," I say, "if that's the biggest problem you have, then you're pretty lucky." I once again wonder how teachers in hot, sultry non-air-conditioned classrooms handle the combination of 35 kids, seven flavours of Lynx and the body odour of the three children who forgot to apply it, 70 pairs of smelly socks and dozens of lunches slowly going off in backpacks.
"Mum, I can't sleep and I feel a bit sick," moans daughter as the night air fails to cool. "It's just nerves," I say, "and all your friends will be feeling the same way about now."
"But what if I get dorky teachers or have to sit next to my mortal enemies in health class?" she asks.
"We've all worried about those questions before," I reveal laughingly, "and the answer is that at least two of your teachers will be plonkers because them's the odds."
"That's maths, eh?" she questions. I realise I will never have an accountant in the family.
"Mum," says Middle Child as I take his iPad from his hands, "do you realise this is the last 'first day' I'll ever have at school?" I feel as old as Babylon in one quick breath. "And that," he continues, "in a couple of months I can legally go into a pub and order a beer?"
"Yeah," I say encouragingly, "that's awesome, eh." Not.
"Mum," says daughter, hugging tight to her doll that has lost both its arms, most of her eyelashes and the toes of one foot, "couldn't we have one more week of holidays? I'm not ready to go back yet."
"I am," calls Middle Child from his bedroom, "coz do you realise my last day was October 24 last year. That's more than three months ago!"
"Both of you go to sleep," I order.
"Kathryn," says Hubby, sighing as he looks through his wardrobe, "where have you hidden my favourite jeans? I know you've put them somewhere."
"Aren't they in your third drawer down," I ask sweetly.
Silence, then "Oh yeah. Good guess."
And school begins.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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