Like millions of parents across the UK I ‘do the school run’ everyday, twice a day. The school the girls attend is 2.5 miles away from our house, so we travel there by car. Me, two eight year olds and the only-just three year old. Given the traffic it takes us an average of 15 minutes each way, half an hour in the car all together every day (an hour each for me and the small boy).
On reflection, I’m lucky to get to spend this time alone with my children, no outside influences interrupting us, no other distractions to their attention, a space to just be in, together. Just me and them for two and a half hours a week. What a lovely time we could all have, chatting about our days, sharing the ups and downs of what’s been happening during our time apart, using that valuable together-time wisely to practice our times tables and spellings, unwind from the busy-ness of the morning or the day that’s been.
In reality, obviously none of those things happen. What actually happens is the following, pretty much verbatim from our trip home from school on Friday.
In a scene reminiscent from a Hugh Grant film, I smile calmly, wave a cheery goodbye, wish fellow parents a good weekend. And then… turn around, climb into the car, slam the door shut behind me and yell “are you not strapped in yet?” to three grumbling children.
I quickly distribute snacks, everyone’s strapped in and this is what follows…
Child running on the pavement to the right of me, I ponder are they going to stop or run into the road…
Toddler to my left, running ahead of his mum who’s pushing the pushchair laden with school bags and calling behind her to her other school age children…
Further ahead, to the left, a mill of eight/ten parents and children staggered along the pavement, chatting, laughing, joking, jostling for space on the pavement.
Small Boy- I want two Jaffa cakes!
Mummy – Beth give him two Jaffa cakes.
Mummy – Kate have you had a Jaffa cake?
Beth – he’s had two Jaffa cakes.
Small Boy – but I want another Jaffa cake!
Kate – I’ve had one Jaffa cake.
Mummy – Beth give him another Jaffa cake
Beth – I got 100 dojo points at school today
Mummy – oh well done Beth, what for?
Beth – well, I was on 98 and I got two for my homework
Mummy – well done Beth!
Beth – Actually can I show you?
Mummy – mmm, well… I’m just driving the car at the moment…
Beth – (digs around in school bag)
Small Boy – I want a Jaffa cake!
Beth – Kate, how many Jaffa cakes have you had?
Kate – two Jaffa cakes.
Mummy – give her another one Beth.
Small boy – but I want another Jaffa cake!
Mummy – give Joseph another Jaffa cake.
Beth – …this is what my teacher wrote…
(shows me homework book whilst I’m driving)
Mummy – well done Beth, that’s lovely! (trying to read and not crash car)
Navigate road junction ahead, trying to pull out, cars queuing ahead, no one letting me out
Small Boy – I want another Jaffa cake!
Beth – be quiet Joseph mummy is trying to concentrate on driving
Mummy – thanks Beth that’s very responsible of you thinking of me.
Mummy – can you give him another Jaffa cake please?
Mummy – so does that mean you get a new monster?
Beth – yes
Mummy – so are your monsters on the computer?
Kate – well, you get like one on the computer…and then you add points to it when you click on your monster…and then you like say what points you’re adding to your monster…
Mummy – so how to dojo points work then?
Kate- well if you’re walking nicely you get three points, and if you’re not walking nicely you get two points and …
Mummy – I know that bit but…
Small Boy – what’s on Tuesday’s?
Mummy – Tuesday’s it’s playgroup!
Kate – …and then like you add them on the computer when you click on one point button
Small boy- what’s on Wednesdays?
Mummy – on Wednesdays we go to singing!
Mummy -okay so do you add a point for what you got your points for?
Kate – …well sort of, you click one point for when you get one point,
Mummy – okay I get that bit…
Busy roundabout ahead, other cars aren’t obeying the ‘keep clear’ areas and it’s all congested, we navigate through
Small boy- I want another Jaffa cake!
Mummy – how many Jaffa cakes are there left?
Beth – two
Mummy – one for Kate and one for Joseph.
Mummy- so do you click points for like one point and click homework, one point walking nicely,
Kate – well the teacher does it and you do it sometimes
Mummy – so…
Approaching a secondary school emptying its doors of pupils for the weekend. Lots of teenagers on both sides of the pavement, jostling, laughing, heaving big bags. Pedestrian crossing ahead
Kate – well there a bit like this thing you press to get the points and then you have to…
Small Boy- what comes after Summer?
Mummy – then it’s Autumn
Mummy – Beth I got you some tape for gym to strap your blistered hand up
Beth – what’s it like? Is it white or blue?
Mummy – well there are two, a white one and a plaster coloured one as I wasn’t sure which one
students span entire width of the road as they cross at pedestrian crossing and spill over walking diagonally encroaching on the cars
Small boy- I want another Jaffa cake!
Mummy – they’ve all gone!
Small boy – oh, but I do like Jaffa cakes!
Beth – I think probably the white one is best
Mummy – okay that’s good
Small Boy – I want a Jaffa cake!!
Mummy – they’ve all gone!!!
Kate – I’ve got 120 dojo points now
Mummy – that’s great Kate, well done
Teenagers pass by on the inside of us on bikes, looking wobbly
Small Boy – what’s on Saturday?
Mummy – On Saturday Daddy doesn’t go to work and Beth and Kate don’t go to school
We approach a road junction where more secondary school children are crossing another road, pouring on to and all over the road
Beth – which tape do you think?
Mummy – erm, I’m not sure maybe take them both in and ask at gym?
Kate – have all the Jaffa cakes gone?
Small Boy – what’s on Sunday?
Mummy – yes
Mummy – on Sunday daddy doesn’t go to work and Beth and Kate don’t go to school
Small boy- do fireworks do in the dark?
Mummy – yes you have fireworks in the dark
Another road junction, a twelve year old boy crossing the road to my right, not at a safe crossing point. He’s only 2 meters away from a pedestrian crossing, but won’t press the button. He looks, but not properly, crosses right in front of our stationery car and more by luck than judgement makes it to the other side of the road safely ?
Small Boy- who is Daddy’s best friend?
Beth – I think I’ll take the plaster coloured one in and see, cos we have bars first
Mummy – erm,okay
Mummy – erm, I’m not sure who is it?
Small Boy- is it uncle Richard? Is its uncle Mark? Is it Grandma?
We arrive home.
Mummy – bring your bags, packed lunches, gym stuff. Kate, bring this Hello Kitty hair band, I’ll bring the plastic knife!
The car doors swing open, the girls stumble out with their belongs, the small boy takes his time climbing out of his car seat. The doors slam shut and I can almost hear the car heave a sigh of relief!