Parenting, profundities and humour

Lost in Translation — May 19, 2016

Lost in Translation


Here is a thing about me. I am not a natural linguist. I struggled through my obligatory language O level and achieved a B in French. Basically by learning what I needed to know off by heart.

My name is, I live in, I am x years old, I have two brothers etc etc.

I did a lot of verb conjugation (J’ai, tu as, il a, nous avons, vous avez, ils ont (or is it sont? I never was sure)) and dealing in really strange tenses; pluperfect, imperfect future or some such guff.

I hated it. I particularly hated the speaking tests. Partly because I was very shy. Partly because if the examiner veered off course I had no idea what they were saying, however it was conjugated or whatever tense it was in.

In recent years we have been to France a few times and I was able to speak a bit to the locals. As long as I had prepared properly before hand with my phrase book. Luckily my accent is so terrible that none of the people I attempted to converse with tried to widen the conversation beyond:

‘That will be 10 euros please’ in response to my request for two scoops of chocolate ice-cream in a tub not a cone. I was quite pleased with that sentence. If not the price. If they had tried to respond conversationally I would have been lost. I need some one to listen for me and stall them whilst I think up a suitable reply. Unfortunately my husband is even worse at languages than me.

I am not proud of my inability to ‘get’ languages. I feel inadequate when visiting any other country where it seems most of the inhabitants can speak more than passable English. Although this does serve as a massive disincentive to bother. I am not embarrassed enough to try again though. I am good at a great many things. I feel I am allowed to be weak at this. So there.

At school I also flirted briefly with German and gave that up as soon as humanly possible. Capital letters for improper nouns. Why just why?

So foreign language is not my strong point. Eldest has inherited that trait. He is in Year 7 and currently studies three languages. French, Spanish and German. He finds none of them easy.

Soon he has exams in all three. Speaking, listening, reading and writing. I really feel for him.

Tonight we have been grappling with preparation for his Spanish written test. I have no idea. The text book seems to contain no English at all. He doesn’t know the verbs ‘to have’ or ‘to be’. They do not seem to use pronouns except when they do. The accents are all different to French. And I never really remembered them in French either. Punctuation is just weird.

I know I should just ‘let him get on with it’ but that is hard to do when he is sitting at the table at a complete loss. I need to mount that white charger and ride to the rescue. So I do.

My mother did the same for me on occasion. Although not in French. Mostly in maths. Which she liked and was good at. I can still remember the day she tried to help me with fractions. She had a complete inability to understand how I did not understand them. At least I ‘get’ Eldest’s issue with Spanish. As I do not ‘get’ it either.

Any way we seem to have cobbled together a few paragraphs which when entered into Google translate appear to make some sense, in patches.

He just has to learn it now including the spellings. And he doesn’t like spelling much even in English.

Then at some point we need to do the same thing in French, at least I know what I am doing, sort of.

We are not even going to bother with German which he is dropping for good next year. I never usually advocate not giving one’s all to a subject but in this case I feel some sympathy. Let him fail it.

Like me he has to do one language at GCSE. One will be enough. More than enough.

No me gusta el espanol porque es dificil. Or something.

The cost of everything, the value of nothing — February 28, 2016

The cost of everything, the value of nothing

smashed phone

So Eldest. We gave him a phone when he started Senior school in September. It was an old handset of husband’s with a SIM only, well SIM.

Almost as soon as he had it and the novelty had worn off he was on the internet researching better models.

And then regaling me ad infinitum about the advantages of the Samsung Edge or the I phone 6S. Or some other such technical wizardy. In which I had no interest. And no intention of indulging him.

The deal had always been that he would keep the old hand set (which actually is an I phone 4 and so not too shabby, certainly better than my entry level Samsung touch phone) until at least Year 9. When apparently phones become so important it is impossible to live without the latest model. Well certainly not at Eldest’s school. Where ‘everyone else’ has a better phone than him.

Ah school. The one-up-manship. The ‘my phone is better than yours’ ship. Every time Eldest whinged about his phone’s short comings I was transported back to my own Year 8. And red shoe gate.

I suppose I should explain. I always wore ‘sensible’ shoes to school. Anyone born in the seventies and growing up in the eighties will know that this meant black lace up Clark’s shoes. In a time when Clark’s shoes were not fashionable. In any sense.

I was teased mercilessly about my sensible shoes. Others persuaded their parents to buy them court shoes. Slips ons with bows and tassels. It was the eighties after all.

I finally got my mum to buy me some of these beauties. To wear outside school. They were bright red slip ons. With bows. And they were shiny. Finally I was going to be accepted by the teenage girl elite. Of course they were not regulation black and so I had to sneak them into school in my back pack without my mother seeing. And change into them in the loo. I should also probably point out at this juncture that our school uniform was maroon. And the shoes were crimson. One does not have to be a fashionista to work out that that combo was not all I thought it was.

Suffice to say I got more ribbing wearing the red shoes than the sensible black lace ups. In fact I wanted to click my heels and forever disappear to Kansas. I never wore them again.

So there you have it. I have no interest in keeping my children up with the latest trends in order for them to ‘fit in’. It didn’t work for me.

And then of course Middlest is hard on Eldest’s heels. He was recently accepted into the same Senior school and is, of course, expecting a phone. To be able to function.

So actually it is not just that I didn’t want to get him a better phone so he could fit in. It is also that I didn’t need to. Nor could justify the cost.

And then a series of ‘incidents’ occurred. Eldest swears all accidental. Which may be true. At least consciously.

He first disabled the phone by changing the PIN on the lock screen and then forgetting it. And inputting it wrongly so many times the phone disabled. Well suffice to say about four evenings and a trip to the phone shop later we finally managed to un-disable it. I think much to Eldest’s disgust.

Then he took it out when he went to play football with a mate. I asked him to take it. Because it is a mobile phone and not much use sitting on my kitchen counter. Communication wise. So what happened next was of course all my fault. Namely that it fell out of his pocket during a rainbow flick. And smashed. Not beyond help. But enough to threaten cut fingers during screen swiping.

So of course now he has a better phone. Only up one level to an I phone 5 but still.

Twelve year olds are damn cunning.

I made him give me ALL his birthday and Christmas money though. All £110 of it. And spend some of his Amazon vouchers on a proper case. So now he is broke. Until next Christmas.

Serves him right. And at least now he has a better understanding of the value of things. After all it has cost him everything.



Be careful what you wish for… — November 26, 2015

Be careful what you wish for…

IMG_4405 IMG_4265

When my husband and I were deciding which school to send our children to one of our major considerations was the sports provision.

Eldest and Youngest are sports mad. And so we wanted to send them somewhere that would develop them further.

Middlest is not quite so keen. However it was still an important consideration for him too. In fact even more so.

I have the legacy of my own shocking memories of sport experiences at school. Of being labelled not good at Games within about 5 minutes of arriving. This was probably because I had glasses and was skinny. I actually quite enjoyed hockey and netball but the crippling embarrassment of always being picked last and having to sign the ‘period’ register rather marred it for me. It didn’t help that on my first day my mother sent me in with her old hockey stick. Not realising they had changed shape in the twenty odd years since her school hockey career. The fearsome Sports Mistress was not best pleased. I had blotted my copy book. And was probably the butt of staff room jokes for some time.

And so I wanted a school that would encourage Middlest even though he isn’t the best team sport player in the world. I wanted them to help him find a sport he liked and could carry on with in the longer term.

Eldest has taken full advantage and is regularly in the Rugby squad. It is a game he loves. Although he was dismayed by the new rules that do not allow him and his fellow forwards to contest a scrum. He feels he is going through the motions. I feel relieved.

Youngest gets to play and run and swim and generally do all the sports she loves. And so she does. Regularly.

And indeed the school have listened to feedback and this year are providing competitive fixtures for children ‘further down the list’. So this means even Middlest, usually happily adrift in the non-team sea during the Rugby term, is getting fixtures. He is not sure I should have been one of the many who provided that feedback. Although the match teas afterwards seem to help him get over it.

Middlest and Youngest have a minimum of four hours of Curriculum sport a week which even allowing for all that changing sees them active for at least three hours. It includes the team sport of the term, PE (variously cross country, racquet sports, gymnastics and athletics) and swimming.

Eldest clocks up just over three hours a week. He doesn’t have to suffer a weekly swimming lesson now he has progressed to Senior school. Youngest describes it as ‘pure torture’…. she seems to spend her lesson ploughing up and down in various contorted positions. Apparently it’s streamlining…

Along with that Eldest has at least two hours of club and fixtures a week. He would have another hour of Rugby on top of that but he has managed to get out of it to attend choir. Music is his other passion and he spends a lot of his time each week playing his cello and singing.

Middlest clocks up a further two and a half hours of extra curricular sport a week minimum. Including his beloved badminton. And Youngest’s tally is a mind blowing 4 hours a week. A mixture of hockey and football.

And this week on top of all that Middlest is in a Rugby match and Youngest has a swimming gala.

This half term Youngest would have liked to have fitted in an extra half hour of cross country running. Straight before football training. I put my foot down…

It is safe to say that I do not struggle to get my kids to the one hour of activity a day recommended by the Government. In fact they are well over this if you add in all the trampolining, family walks and bike rides, general running about and playground activities. No doubt Youngest will spend lunch hour today playing football on the playground.

Sundays remain a ‘day of rest’. For now. As Youngest progresses up the school she may have to switch from her Saturday football league to a Sunday one. To avoid fixture clashes. And that will mean Eldest may want to take football up again. As we will be doing it anyway. But for now I have my fingers in my ears pretending I can’t hear this…

Because the one major down side of all this opportunity is that our weeks (and I include Saturdays in that) are a complete bomb site.  And I feel weak. Both in comparison. And from the hours of ferrying and logistical quandaries and laundry and ‘encouraging’ from touch lines.

And I am never, ever going to Google ‘how too much sports affects children’…Ever…

Project Management — October 20, 2015

Project Management

Actually that was my face...
Actually that was my face…

There is currently a big black cloud on my horizon. Not literally, although after I put my washing on the line earlier it did go quite dark, no I mean metaphorically.

And the reason is the impending Year 6 Local Environmental Issue project. A forty page plus project on a local environmental issue of your choice. Quite self explanatorily.

Last year when Eldest was in Year 6 we got through the winter term relatively unscathed. Rugby took its toll and in early January his Senior school entrance exams loomed. Although the school were at pains to point out that they were just a formality.

And so he went back to school in January on fine form. Looking forward to the football term although not those exmas. And then on that first day back the school emailed out a letter.

The letter outlined the project that needed to be undertaken during the next term. At first I was confused, did they mean after Easter? Then it dawned on me that the letter was late and should have come out before the Christmas break.

And my heart sank.

The letter pulled no punches. It explained that parental involvement would be necessary. As the project required site visits and interviewing and photos. That in itself was quite refreshing. At least they were being honest about the level of work I would have to do. Usually schools seem to believe children can produce, say, the Taj Mahal out of matchsticks unaided. Ha. Ha. Ha.

In some ways I was glad for the fact that the letter had been issued late. And therefore we had remained in blissful ignorance over the seasonal festivities.

No such luck this year as Middlest hurtles his way towards the same project.

I am never really sure what such pieces of work are for. Or who.

I agree that children need to learn to manage larger pieces of extended work. They need to practise time management. Be able to plan in sensible chapters.

Unfortunately mine are some way off being able to do this independently. And so guess who ends up doing most of it? Well guiding them to do it but you know what I mean.

Not only that but they are supposed to use their humanities lessons at school to progress the project. And so in order to ensure they don’t spent those valuable hours sharpening pencils and chatting to their mates I am left lesson planning too.

And then there is the topic. I shot my best bolt local environmental issue wise last year with Eldest. I now need to think of another issue that around 40 pages of work can be produced about. Along with a photo journey and an interview and site visits. Without too much colouring in. Middlest hates colouring in.

Asking my ten year old to come up with an idea for such a project is laughable. I have asked him a couple of times if he has had any thoughts. I get a sort of blank, quizzical look. I guess one could take it as a shocking lack of knowledge. Or just be realistic; that the average ten year old wants to cause his own environmental catastrophe by owning every plastic gun in the known universe not write an extended piece about it.

So I have been wracking my brains since last year to no real avail. I have come up with the recycling journey of a yogurt pot or the impact of the new bypass near by. Neither are filling me with excitement. And both involve me in speaking to the council to get access and information and facts. Which requires me to do something before Christmas. The clock is ticking.

Had the project been about something Middlest was passionate about, say elephants or the wider environmental and conservation issues surrounding elephants, he might be more engaged. But no it has to be local. Not many elephants round here. That site visit would have been more fun too…

Or it could be a history project which would get my juices flowing and therefore by default his. And we could visit castles and I could once more coo over medieval plumbing (still find that fascinating…the forethought to build drainage through those thick, thick walls, mind blowing). In fact for me it could be any other sort of project really; history, geography, art, politics etc. Just not the same one as last year.

But, no, we are stuck with these parameters. Yawn. I spent six weeks plus of my life living, eating and breathing the last ‘issue’. Spending our weekends trawling round our local Community Forests. I like a woodland walk. I enjoy birds and wildlife. I like feeling that I am ‘contributing’ to such a worthwhile cause whilst eating organic flap jack. I just don’t enjoy having to do all that with half an eye on chapter eight whilst photographing every information board and surveying cyclists. And I certainly don’t relish having to come home and force a child to sit down and write about it. As such I have no enthusiasm left.

It is safe to say that when Eldest got 39 marks out of 40 (he lost a mark for his slightly ‘thin’ Conclusion…. by that point he had truly HAD ENOUGH) my heart sank a little. For now we need to replicate that this year. Or else Middlest will plead favouritism. Again.

I truly hope that in another two years when it is Youngest’s turn the subject will have changed. If not it will be severely tempting to recycle Eldest’s. In the name of the environment.

Footnote: After writing this I was inspired enough to e mail the Council. I got the standard ‘Our turn around time is 10 working days’ response. This is why I need to start now. Weep…

Stuff what I have learnt today — October 8, 2015

Stuff what I have learnt today


So here goes. Some random stuff I have discovered today.

  • It is possible to drive to my kids’ school and back in under 15 minutes when on a games kit/ cello induced mercy dash.
  • If you turn up 15 minutes late to an exercise class you just miss the boring warm up and only semi important station explanation. Although I may discover tomorrow how vital that warm up is.
  • Deleting about 18 months worth of text messages will turn your phone back into a relatively responsive tool.
  • The shops are no longer full of orange hued home accessories now I have decided that orange is to be the accent colour for our newly decorated lounge.
  • It is apparently Christmas already.
  • Allowing the kids off music practice in the morning so they can get more sleep after a school induced late night will see us all falling out.
  • It is quite pleasant to write blogs in Costa.
  • Belgian chocolate tea cakes make that even pleasanterer.
  • My phone’s predictive text will predict good when I want home and home when I want good. Which makes that sentence really hard to get right.
  • One should keep an eye on boiling potatoes rather than ignoring them to write.
  • It is best to wait for the ceramic hob to cool down before clearing up boiled over water. Unless you like the smell of burnt J cloth.
  • Allowing Eldest to have a phone not only heads off games kit/ cello induced emergencies but also allows him to text me cute messages which make me feel better about the tiredness induced morning arguments.
  • I enjoy employing deliberate grammatical errors in my writing. Not sure why. Probably so I can claim any actual errors are supposed to be there. And to annoy pedants.
  • My reverse parking sensors are wildly over cautious. And I actually need gate post sensors.
  • Asking Middlest to be quick out of school will make us late for football training.
  • People are still wearing leggings that are see through enough to be correctly categorised as tights.
  • It is impossible to watch the final of the Bake Off a day late and not discover who the winner is during that day. And I don’t mind that much.
  • As much as I love Billy Joel he doesn’t cut it driving music wise. And I still prefer soft rock.
  • If I would like Youngest to practise her times tables I must threaten the removal of football training.
  • I can’t do bullets on my phone and will have to add them at home later before the scheduled publishing time. Home more to do at good I mean good more to do at home.
  • We can still name all the characters on In the Night Garden. And Makka Pakka is still our favourite. Isn’t that a pip?
  • I still don’t know when to use practice and when to use practise. So I looked it up. C for noun, s for verb. So I need to practise and get some practice in.
  • I care about accent colours.
  • That last discovery worries me most.

So there you have it. Just a normal day. One is always learning.
If you are my husband then obviously the Costa is not part of my normal day. Honest gov.

Have you seen my…? — October 6, 2015

Have you seen my…?


We have a saying in our family. And it goes like this.

“Have you used your Lady Eyes?”

There are a lot of us in this house. Sometimes it feels like there are far too many of us. But the number of children I decided to have is maybe an issue for another day.

So there are a lot of us. And so we have a lot of stuff.

And it appears that it is my job to keep tabs on it all.

I spend a fair amount of my day mentally logging the position of many useful objects, most of which do not belong to me.

For instance my husband finds it really hard to keep track of his spectacles. They appear to be a mobile object despite having arms and not legs. Whenever he is home and I walk past them I make that mental note so that when the inevitable enquiry is made I can respond with a GPS location. Arm of sofa, window sill in bathroom, atop the laundry basket, on the patio furniture, beside the toaster. And such like.

Last Christmas I stumbled upon a fantastic stand for him to use. That is a picture of it up there. It is positioned on the window sill next to the front door. (And incidentally whilst we are there that is the place everyone should look first for any missing item. Just saying). And the stand helps slightly. He uses it when arriving home. Or when swapping from sunglasses to indoor glasses. But it hasn’t eradicated the whole problem. I believe a string around the neck is the only sure fire way. Or he could just wear them all the time…

And then we move on to my children. I suppose we must. The current items which cause the most issues are Eldest’s phone and Middlest’s I pod. In the case of the former we could ring it to find it’s location but unfortunately it is set by default to silent so he does not fall foul of the ‘no phone use in or between lessons’ rule at school. And Middlest’s is not ringable. We lost both yesterday. And then I found them almost entirely camouflaged on the black granite fire surround in the family room. I have suggested that putting their entirely black electronics on the hearth is maybe not such a good idea moving forwards. Especially when we begin lighting the fire.

When things are actually leaving the house the pressure ramps up. I seem to be the only person who does a mental check list when leaving a sports field. This weekend I had a ‘Lady Eyes’ fail.  We discovered this at 7.45am this morning when their school lift was revving on the driveway and Eldest decided he had better check his Games kit and found his Ripstop was missing.

The Ripstop is a compulsory item. A sort of semi-waterproof, pull over the head tracksuit top. There are three in this house. People scoff at my diligent name label sewing which I undertake annually each Autumn. They say I should use a laundry pen on the care label. They don’t have three sets of everything in very similar sizes to out sort from the laundry. A name in the collar is actually as useful for me, the laundress, as it is for keeping the kit ‘safe’.  I do not want to waste time hunting for initials on a care label on a side seam.

They all have red and black stripy games socks. I decided not to bother labelling them as it is quite hard to sew a name label onto something as stretchy as a sock. What a mistake. I often have 6 socks that look almost identical but are actually slightly different sizes hanging from my airer. I am sure I am probably ruining Eldest’s feet in the manner of Chinese babies and it probably explains the blisters Youngest sometimes gets after football training.

So anyway Eldest must have taken his Ripstop onto the field for his (very sunny) Rugby match on Saturday. And left it there. At the end of the match I did send him off for his water bottle which was clearly missing but as I hadn’t seen the Ripstop come onto the field and it was about 20 degrees it slipped my mind.

It will serve him right if he gets into trouble at Rugby training today. When heavy rain is forecast. I would laugh but it really isn’t that funny at £20 a pop.

Generally my kids do quite well at not losing their stuff. That is because I get very cross when they do. And I have a rule that if they lose something they will pay to replace it. I am training them early to do their own mental checklist. Obviously there is still someway to go.

I am also a name labelling maniac. I put sticky labels on everything. Including Eldest’s phone. Which he is surprisingly sanguine about. I put a sticky label on every one of the fine liners in the pack of 10 I bought Middlest this weekend. They cost nearly £1 a pen. I felt justified. A lot of stationary gets ‘borrowed’ at school. If stuff is labelled some other child cannot claim it is ‘their’s’. Middlest explained that actually each pen cost 99.90p. I retorted that I would allow him to merely pay 99p for the last pen he lost but £1 per mislaid pen up to that point. I think he got the message.

Compared to their school mates, and possibly because of my mercenary approach, they do OK. Already this term there have been impassioned e mails from other parents pleading for the return of black jumpers, entire Games bags with contents, mouth guards, blazers (yikes £75 a go) and odd shoes. The latter really worries me. How did they get home? Hopping?

When they come out from sports clubs in kit my Lady Eyes checklist follows a certain order:- Blazer, school shoes, mouth guard, other branded items, generic clothing of which I have a spare pair at home, generic items of which I have 5 others at home, black socks. I also try to remember to mentally note any lack of musical instruments but to be fair it is quite hard to miss that a cello is missing. If you see what I mean. The absence of a  violin my slip through the net however.

And so I am chief ‘finder/ retainer of all things’. Here are my maxims:-

  • Always put stuff in the same place.
  • Always label everything.
  • Ensure kids are on board by employing a mix of ‘mummy is very disappointed’ and financial penalties.

It helps. It hasn’t really dealt with the husband problem though. I guess he will get so short sighted at some point it will solve itself.

Just the four socks today...
Just the four socks today…
What do points make? — June 21, 2015

What do points make?


Every Bruce Forsyth fan (and I count myself amongst them, fond memories of watching idiots try to throw pots and ice cakes in 30 seconds on prime time TV in the 70s) knows the answer to that question, all together now


It is soon Prize Giving Evening  at my children’s school. All the teachers wear their university robes, which is a bit startling when you have only seen some of them in shorts all year. They get some old boy (there are not yet many old girls it being only 10 years since the school went co-ed) to present books with a plaque inside to children who have presumably shone in various areas.

We knew eldest would be there as he recently co-won the Year 6 Humphriss Prize for Music at the Music Prize day.

All three of mine took part. Eldest played the cello and clearly must have done quite well with his Tudoresque, semi quaver fest. Middlest played his violin and the piano (not at the same time) and got lovely feedback from the adjudicator but was pipped to the Year 5 prize by a wonderful flautist. Youngest banged out ‘What shall we do with the drunken Sailor’ in her pre grade piano way. I think the adjudicators words were ‘great enthusiasm’…

Then today the prize winners were awarded with their book tokens in assembly. Eldest has surpassed himself and also won the Robinson Cup for the Most Improved Sportsman and duly received 2 book tokens. Youngest won the ‘something something’ prize for best person at PE in Year 3- probably because she won the Cross Country for the Year 3 & 4 girls and also the ‘how far can you throw a rounder’s ball’ event at last week’s field sports day. And she can run up House Point Hill very fast.

And middlest won nothing. Nada. Which is fine. Unless you are middlest, sandwiched between your award winning siblings. He had some hopes for the Year 5 Science Prize as all his exams this year have been in the 90%s. But, no, clearly there are many brilliant scientists at their school.

And so here is the very fine tight rope that is parent hood in perfect relief.

I am of course pleased for eldest and youngest. Eldest works incredibly hard. He deserves that Sportsman prize as he regularly falls into bed in a state of physical exhaustion after yet another training session. He was determined to shine with that cello piece after (and maybe I am being a bit partisan here) the really harsh examiner in April provided him with barely a pass for it in his exam. It was better than that even then. Now after a few more weeks of practise we can play it in our sleep. And it showed on the day.

Youngest is a born sportswoman as I may have mentioned before. And whilst this prize may be for something she is naturally good at she does attend every sports club going and she did go out training for that cross country, including taking part in a very cold Duathlon despite being terrified. She has an amazing untaught mind set- when I asked her how she ran through her stitch during the 2k cross country she told me she merely thought about how good she would feel when she won. The rounder’s ball thing was a surprise though.

So I feel they deserve their accolades and want to tell them that. It is hard to do so without middlest in ear shot and actually he should hear it. But how to do that without middlest taking it all the wrong way. My kids cannot understand that when I praise one I am not automatically denigrating the others. That just because I say ‘Well you worked hard for that so you deserve it’ I am not saying ‘And you, you just don’t work hard and deserve nothing’.

Middlest works hard, he isn’t a natural sportsman but tries his best, he is a fabulous musician (who won over that tough examiner in his violin exam to get a merit and leads the school orchestra), he is a brilliant scientist. On this occasion though others were just that bit better.

I feel for him. I told him that in my entire school career I never won a thing. Ever. And yes it hurts. But then I turned out alright didn’t I? He looked a bit askance at this, as he thinks I am a bit mad, but I think it helped. A bit.

And yes this is life. Life is tough. Get used to it. And all such platitudes. But when he is dripping tears into his cottage pie I don’t want to say that. I want him to have a damn prize. Damn it.

Anyway by bed he had become more philosophical. He has decided he would win the prize for ‘Best at Never Winning Prizes’. I may buy him a book and put a plaque in it for him. Not sure I will use his category though… maybe he should just win a prize for being generally wonderful…because he is.

Your Children Are Never Too Old for a Dressing Up Box — June 4, 2015

Your Children Are Never Too Old for a Dressing Up Box

dressing up

My eldest is just about to leave Primary school. This is his last term before he ventures out into the world of Seniors. In some ways it makes me a little sad. But in others I am pleased. And one of the reasons I am pleased is because he is getting too big for a lot of our dressing up clothes.

I am a veteran Primary school parent. I have 7 years continuous service, with the last four of those seven years seeing all three of my kids attending. And so I am in a fortunate position and can pass on some of my wisdom. And the best and biggest piece of advice I can give you is to maintain a fully stocked dressing up box. Keep everything. Do not throw any garment away that could go in the dressing up box. Scour jumble sales for useful items. Keep everything they make at cub camp. Buy high viz vests in bulk and cheaply, buy face paint and hair dye. Keep a stock of Sharpies in various hues. Have snake belts. Keep old broken broom handles and cheap synthetic blankets.

And here is why.

One day, probably within your first year of being a Primary school parent, you will be asked to send in your child in fancy dress. The school, of course, does not call it fancy dress. They call it Curriculum Enrichment. But it is actually fancy dress.

It starts off quite benignly. Usually with a super hero day. Or a ‘People Who Serve Us’ day. Most parents of four year olds have a Spiderman outfit or a nurses costume. Easy you think, I have this licked.

Ha ha ha.

Within months the school will be sending out requests for historic costumes. You will be asked to provide gear to attend a mock christening or wedding. Someone clever in the PTA will decide wearing spots is a good idea for Red Nose Day. Your child will be evacuated, transported back to Ancient Greece or Roman Britain, be flying in space. You will discover your child(ren) is (are) in the house coloured in the only colour they do not possess a T shirt in for Sports Day.

And here is a heads up. Generally the time notice period has been set by someone who has no kids. That is, too short. Certainly outside Amazon’s normal delivery time scales. And the letter will always says, ‘Please do not go to too much effort, it is about the taking part, but little Jimmy will get much more from the day if he comes dressed in a mop cap, doublet and full breeches, but please no swords’. Damn I have several hundred of those.

Again ha, ha, ha… One would love to ‘not make too much effort’. Again the non kid owning teacher has never experienced the mummy guilt which prevents one from sending in little Jimmy in rolled up trousers with a pillow case over his head. (Never throw anything away). Leaving aside the fussy and image conscious child.

Individually I can usually cope with these requests it is the likelihood of a co-incidence of costumier requirements amongst my three children that cause me headaches.

For instance that seemingly easy request for spots. I have two boys I can tell you how may articles of clothing they possess which have spots. None. At all. I had to cut down an old shirt of daddy’s and cover it in Sharpie pen. Times two. You see? Throw nothing away.

I have had some luck though. As my kids are close in age the Curriculum Enrichment opportunities often repeat themselves and I can re-use costumes. Its a shame then that my eldest is huge. And middlest is not. And youngest is a different gender. No matter. I am sure Tudors wore their breeches baggy. And she’s a tom boy anyway, so hey, suck it up.

And talking of Tudors. The instructions on HOW TO CHEAT to make the outfit required by this particular ‘full immersion’ day still required a sewing machine. That is not cheating. Anything involving haberdashery is not cheating. I went on e bay and looked up child’s Tudor costumes. Some enterprising soul was making outfits by hand to the exact specifications of the ‘Curriculum Enrichment’ venue my child was attending. Only a collar less shirt to provide. He went in with a collar. And was told off. And had to turn it inside. Making him hot and uncomfortable all day. In blazing June. Pardon me for not having ‘spare’ shirts I can merely hack the collar off.

Even such an easy request as a pyjama day can actually be fraught with issues. My children, especially middlest, who is a rake, struggle to keep up PJ bottoms. Which is fine in the privacy of my lounge not so good in double Maths. Snake belts, just saying, perhaps the single most useful items Santa ever brought. Also in this house PJs do not always fit. They are either too long or too short. Again not normally an issue. However it invariably rains, leaving dragging PJ bottom legs soggy and the child miserable. I have been up before now hemming pyjamas in the wee hours, after unearthing the letter from the depths of a book bag.

And then there is the annual jeopardy that is Christmas. Every year I dread the letters. I have had everything from line dancer to elf (green leggings for a boy, anyone?) to the traditional crib characters. Perhaps my most memorable year was when school decided in its infinite wisdom to ask both my boys to be angels. Whilst I applauded their gender neutrality providing white clothes for boys was less than easy. Luckily middlest was still in Reception and happy to go in one of daddy’s old T-shirts belted at the waist. Eldest, the year above, was less pliable and I had to beg some white jeans off a friend. They both agreed to tinsel, only middlest would wear wings.

I have only had a livestock request (sheep) once. And after a lot of time and cotton wool I can only say that the recent, if too late for me, boom in novelty onesies is every parent’s blessing.

Perhaps the worst of all will be days ‘left entirely up to you’. World book day is a classic example of this. Go as any book character. Please for the love of God narrow it down a bit. The stress of three of those costumes nearly un did me one year.

And my final bit of advice. Never volunteer. Unless you can rake up your own costume. And look good in half a bed sheet and your sandals from circa 1980. In the rain.

Eldest’s last hurrah dressing up wise is a WW2 evacuation. Luckily he did this in year 3. So upstairs somewhere I have a battered, small, hard suitcase, a flat cap, a knitted tank top, grey shorts, a ‘granddad’ shirt and a gas mask box. Of course he wore all this when he was about a foot shorter but hopefully no one will notice. Make do and mend after all.

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