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All I'm Saying is ...Kathy Griffiths on the mixed blessing of going back to school

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: September 04, 2013

back to school essential   The last-minute rush to buy new children's shoes before the new term.

back to school essential The last-minute rush to buy new children's shoes before the new term.

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ALL I'm saying is . . . forget Debenhams perfume counter on Christmas Eve or M&S knicker aisle on February 13, if you want to see real panic buying check out Clark's the Saturday before a new term starts.

A friend of mine (childless, need I add) scoffed at the fact I would be spending the morning shoe shopping for Child A, despite knowing that it would be packed and that the deli-counter style ticketing system would push my patience to the limit. Why on earth, he asked, had I left it till the last minute?

After all, he rightly pointed out, back to school banners had been draped all over Tesco after my kids had actually only been on summer holiday for approximately 36 hours.

Sighing, with the world weariness that only someone who has seen their offspring outgrow clothes in the space of a couple of weeks, I explained that if I had any chance of getting the new shoes to last until Christmas they needed to be bought at the last possible moment before term started.

If there was some kind of mobile footwear van on duty in the playground before bell went on the first morning I swear it would make a fortune.

Like a leg wax, it is a necessary pain to be endured for the greater good, and you just have to take a deep breath as you plunge yourself towards the counter, elbowing that dithery woman with several offspring out of the way.

The last thing you want is to be stuck behind multiple measuring and fittings.

Actually this year it was relatively painless. Boy-met-shoe after just two attempts and are now happily united until his toes start curling up inside or the seams split, whichever is sooner.

I carried out the whole process with Child B a few days earlier, realising finally that a policy of divide and conquer works best with twins. (They have a habit of ganging up to out-fox the parent but separated they become far more suggestible.)

And by the time you read this they will be happily back in the classroom, probably glad of the comfortable distance that the school day has restored to domestic life.

Now there is no seething resentment when asked to do anything other than play on iPods or watch Nickelodeon (no, I don't mean me!) and there is no sulking and rolling eyes when trip to the beach has to be replaced by a big shop (actually, that one is me).

Each day will not begin with the five little words every parent comes to dread in the summer holiday — "What are we doing today?"

I can now use my standard term-time response of "wouldn't it be lovely just sit and watch Honey Boo Boo together" again without feeling guilty that I should be working on a craft project or taking them out on a nature trail in Singleton Park.

Seven weeks of creative parenting takes its toll you know, especially as we are all expected to be so hands-on. I'm sure my mum and dad used to wave me off in the morning some time after Robinson Crusoe or Belle and Sebastian and then I'd turn up again in time for Crossroads after keeping myself entertained quite happily.

They got away lightly. Last night a quick recap of what we did in our summer holiday before lights out went on so long Mummy started nodding off before they were halfway through August.

It has been wonderful, of course, to spend time with the kids even the last few days spent trying to cram a month's worth of clarinet practice and times tables chanting into 36 hours. And, unlike me at that age, neither seemed to have forgotten how to write with a pen after a summer holiday, despite using their fingers pretty much exclusively for holding ice cream ("Awwww, Mum it's the holiday, we have to have an ice cream every day....." grrrrrr) , poking the TV remote control or jabbing away at computer games.

Hmmmm, perhaps it's best all round they are back in the safe hands of the education professionals again. I now have half a term to brush up on my parenting ideas before the next holiday.

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