Here in the UK we’re already in autumn and fast approaching half term. It’s as though the summer holidays never happened isn’t it? Here in Bewildered Towers we have not had a good run back into the so-called ‘fresh start’ into the new school year – it has been a very slow term. In fact I think it’s fair to say it’s been akin to landing when the parachute has failed to open – bloody painful. Getting Ben to leave Bewildered Towers and go school has been like dragging Kermit to nuptials with 20 foot puppet eating cobra. He refuses to go, well not until there’s been at least 6 arguments, 5 screaming matches, 4 temper tantrums, 3 shoe throwing contests, 2 bribes and 1 sobbing, exhausted mother. These past 6 weeks since Ben’s return to school for his second year have sent my hair grey and aged me so much that I now closely resemble Zelda from Terrahawks (for those of you born later than me and don’t know what the Terrahawks are, click here. P.S. I hate you).
As a result of the crap start back into school I have lost the school run and gained a ‘school slow’. I’m often still at home after the school bell has gone throwing tact after tact at Ben until he eventually agrees to go. I have been mostly always late, arriving when the other parents are leaving dragging in a kicking, screaming kid. Once in the playground Ben has to be coaxed into the classroom by myself, the teaching assistant, the teacher and sometimes the Head Mistress, and on occasions he just won’t let go of me, grabbing hold of my legs like a limpet and then some poor soul has to pull the screaming limpet off of me and into the classroom.
School slow mornings are horrible, not just because we’re late but because they are so negative, demanding and stressful. I’m not sure what triggers it, the mornings are often good when we’re getting ready and then as we’re about to leave the house the winds change and Ben says “No Mummy, I’m not going”, he stubbornly superglues himself to the stairs, crosses his arms, scowls and won’t budge. Why don’t you just carry him up to the school? I hear you ask, well there are two reasons for this. 1 – He’s a tall, strong boy and carrying him in a kicking temper is no longer an easy or possible task. 2 – I also have 2 year old Edi to contend with, sorry I mean care for, in the morning, I can’t carry him (see point 1) and push her in the buggy, I don’t have the strength or the extra arms I would need to do it. However I have tried to carry him to the car to drive the 400 metres to school in desperation before now, but it resulted in him hitting me, screaming, shouting crying, me getting incredibly angry, shouting, screaming, crying, Edi screaming, shouting and crying, and it then becomes difficult to tell the difference between the adult and the children.
I feel like such a prick on school slow mornings, vulnerable and exposed to the teachers, the other parents, the other children but worst of all, my own children. I feel like there’s a helicopter hovering above me beaming down a spotlight to highlight the situation whilst someone within the helicopter booms out “It’s her again, the one who’s always late and got an overly emotional and sensitive child”. There is no place to hide when your child’s naked emotion is bellowed out for all to hear and see. I wish I could be one of those parents who doesn’t care what people think, but I am and I do, not from a ‘keeping up with the Jones’ perspective, but from a wanting to protect my family perspective. I walk home from the school slow heartbroken for Ben, thinking I’m a crap parent and that I’ve done something incredibly wrong to screw him up and this is why he’s like this at the moment. I try to think of things to “fix it” looking for a one-wonder parenting swoop that will solve it, but I can’t find it and as a consequence I’ve been pretty stressed.
Trying to get to the bottom of it all I have spoken with Ben and other parents to see if there’s something the school aren’t aware of that’s making him unhappy, but nope, he’s all good when he’s playing in the playground and playing at friends’ houses. Which is great, isn’t it. I have also discussed the situation with his teacher to make sure that he’s not being teased etc. Again he’s all good, no problems at all and as reassurance the school have informed me that once the screaming limpet has been detached from my body and he’s in the classroom that he’s good as gold, as if someone flipped a switch and nothing has happened, apparently he’s a happy, bright little boy – “like a summer’s breeze”. Which is great isn’t it. Isn’t it?
Well, part of me is extremely pleased with this, because obviously I don’t want Shittus Maximus for a child who creates chaos for all and sundry in his path, but on the other hand, honestly, it’s actually not ok – I want a reason please! I want there to be an obvious problem so I can make it all better and then we can go to school like normal people without having to bribe, cry, coax, carry, argue and feeling like a king size numpty at the school gate. And whilst I’m being brutally honest there is another, rather large part of me that wonders “Why do I get all the shit?”. Why don’t I get the bright, happy, summer breeze of a boy that they all get? Why do I get the miserable orangutan from the depths school slow hell? I want to enjoy my child too! I don’t want this stubborn mule to be part of my child’s personality, I don’t want the horrid, screaming oversized seagull that refuses to listen or co-operate on any level, I don’t want to keep using negative animal analogies to describe my child! I want to be the one to liken him to summer breeze, and mean it! I feel like screaming “Fuckedy, fuckedy fuck, fuck!” at the top of my voice in the hope that it will make it all go away. Which of course it won’t. Fuck.
On one particularly wonderful (that’s sarcasm, just in case it got lost in translation) school slow day a couple of weeks ago, I out classed myself in the shit parenting awards. Things were looking up until I heard a terrible whine out of Ben’s mouth “My welly boots are too tight” and I saw the look in his eye that signalled a school slow. I felt the tension tighten in my chest and a cannon ball appear in my stomach, he then flung his boots off across the hall and refused to wear any alternative I gave him. “Right then, I’m going without you!” I shouted and pushed Edi in her buggy out of the door, shut it behind me and then immediately opened the door and went back in. Ben then glued himself to the stair, crossed his arms and said “I’m not going to school today” and scowled angrily at me. I spent the next 10 minutes begging, coaxing, bribing and all the other fruitless tacts that always fail but the stubborn mule wouldn’t budge. So I did the only thing a mature and insightful parent should do, I blubbed like a dumped teenager led out on the hall floor in front of both children, letting out a body shaking, can’t breathe properly, squeaking occasionally, heart rendering crying. I was so tired of all the failed coaxing, the arguments, the stubbornness, the stress, his rudeness, my shit parenting, the being ignored, the being late and the constant exposure in the school playground. I was exhausted. Scraping myself up from the floor I called the school to tell them we’d be late (again) and as I was speaking to the school secretary my voice broke and I proceeded to blub on the phone to her. After hanging up, 20 minutes of crying in front of my kids and 10 sweetie bribes later I eventually managed to get Ben into school. Not long after dropping him off the phone rang, feeling fragile I answered it, it was the dentist to tell me I had missed an appointment for the second time in a row and consequently there was a £20 fine, so I cried on the phone to them too. Fabu-fucking-lous!
On Tuesday of this week I didn’t get Ben into school until 10am. This is the worst one yet in terms of time but in terms of stress it was the easiest school slow I’ve had, and dare I say it, I think I’ve cracked it.
This time when Ben refused to go to school I did the usual and called them to tell them we’d be late, as always they were brilliant (not sarcasm, they actually are amazing), the school secretary said to me “don’t worry, grab a cup of tea, calm down and get here when you get here. Show him that his behaviour doesn’t bother you”. It was then that the penny dropped, I was not only going to show Ben that his stubbornness didn’t bother me, I decided it actually wasn’t going to bother me. In that moment I realised the person making school slows stressful was, in fact, me, not Ben. I was making it stressful for myself and probably everyone else, so if I was the one creating the stress then I could therefore change that, I actually have a choice in how I react to this. Boom! Mind blown!
Because I have a varied and intellectual vocabulary, I said to myself “fuck this shit”, took Edi out of the buggy, made myself a cuppa, plonked myself down in front of the TV, put on the food channel and mindlessly watched people cook whilst Edi played shops with my handbag and Ben sat on the stairs in a grump, but I was completely oblivious to it. Ta Da! Stress eliminated.
Admittedly it took an hour for Ben to come around, but do know what? I’d take that relaxed hour over any of the shorter, far more horrible and stressful 15 or 20 minutes of shouting and arguing, any day. I may not be able to change how he feels about leaving for school, but I can change how that time is spent. That morning Ben pretty much skipped into school, there was no limpet, no crying, nothing, just a very late, but happy little boy. Since then Ben has gone into school with little drama and on time – hurray! Ok, it’s only been 3 days but they’ve been a great 3 days and I’m happy with that and although I can’t un-grey my hair, un-Zelda my face or get back the unhappy time I have expended on myself and my kids these past weeks, I can however dye my hair, pull my face back into a knot at the base of my neck and wear my newly dyed hair down for life and be safe in the knowledge that I am now more equipped and confident to face future school slows, ready to be the adult, relax and let the situation unfold itself whilst I drink coffee and watch Nigella pout over soup. Ah, lovely.