Thursday, September 10, 2009

6 Bottles of Rubber Cement, Please.

On my first day of grade 1, my mum bundled me off into the car with my dad and my lunch and a too-big backpack, and told me to have a good day, listen to my teacher and, strangely, not to buy too many pencils.  I remember saying ‘Ok’ but thinking the 6 yr old equivalent of what the fuck? Was I going shopping? This was a private school, and so I assume now that my mother was told that school supplies would be, well, supplied. She must have thought there would be a stationary store right on site and that we kids would be given free reign to wander in and get whatever we thought we would need. Like we would know:

6yr old me:  “I’ll take 4 of those sets of markers please. And 12 rulers. And 93 pencils. No, wait, that’s too many. Just 90, please. No I don’t think I’ll need any paper. Maybe throw in a couple of those books that have the lines on the bottom half and no lines on the top half. And do you have any liquid paper? And I’ll take 6 bottles of Rubber Cement”

This was what I imagined all the way to school so imagine my dismay when there was no stationary store. Just a shelf in the classroom with jars of pencils and glue sticks and a pile of exercise books. Disappointing…. When I got home I told my mum right away that there was no store to buy pencils and that the teachers had obviously gone ahead and picked everything out for me already. She looked at me like was I feeling OK and then said something about an early night.

We mothers often fall back on the ‘early night’ thing. It’s a sure-fire cure for most afflictions that could befall any member of the family: your son has fallen off his bike and crushed his ankle? A good night’s sleep will make it feel better. Your daughter is figuring out that the tooth fairy cannot logically exist and wants you to break it down for her? Let’s deal with that in the morning. You have erased 43 hours worth of work on the computer? You’ll feel better in the morning. Your husband has misplaced his sense of humour? Get to bed, we’ll find it in the morning, Honey. Basically what this means is “ I cannot deal with this right now as I need all of you to go away and leave me in peace for a few minutes before I fall comatose into bed”. We then cross our fingers and hope that the problem will disappear of its own accord before we have to wake up and do this all over again. 90% of the time this is true. The other 10% of the time I don’t want to talk about.

I was relying on the ‘get the kids to bed early’ thing this week as we started gearing up to go back to school. I, model mother that I am, was going to ensure that the kids went to bed 30 minutes earlier each night for the 5 nights before school started. We would also wake up 15 minutes earlier each morning. By the time school started, the kids would spring out of bed before their alarms went off, smiles on their faces, clearly refreshed and well-rested and ready for anything. I would smugly congratulate myself. When we got to school I would smile kindly at the other bleary-eyed parents and mention quietly that I had been able to get my kids into bed early and that we hadn’t had any trouble getting up.

So when we didn’t get to bed early the first night, I told myself that it was no big deal really. Four nights was ample time to get the kids accustomed to a new routine. Things went sideways the next night too and I was starting to get edgy. When 9pm rolled around on the Tuesday night, I pried my fingernails out of my palms and told myself to BE FLEXIBLE. At our school, Zoe’s first day was comprised of an hour of school 9:30-10:30am on Wednesday morning. Jacob has two hours in the afternoon. So we didn’t really have to get up that early but even 9:30 was apparently early enough but we managed to get there on time .The afternoon was of course easier. Wednesday night was marginally better but not good enough. But needless to say, Thursday morning did not go according to my ‘plan’. My dream crumbling around me, I yelled up the stairs to the kids to HURRY-UP and 'did they know I was LEAVING SOON. Things almost came to a head as I sat waiting for Jacob to put his socks on.  If I had known how, I could have sequenced the gene code for the woolly mammoth while waiting for him to pull up his left sock. Actually, I could have probably learned how to do it during the left sock and then done it while he worked away on the right sock. We got him to school with seconds to spare. I then realized I had forgotten Zoe’s backpack at home and so we made a quick diversion home where I also discovered I was still wearing slippers, and then we made it to school.

I’m never sure who is more anxious on these first few hours of the new school year: the teachers, the kids or the parents. Kent must have asked me a million times what was wrong on Wednesday morning as I sprinted around the house locating boots, losing keys, and squawking out the time every five minutes. Anxiety was present in the school yard, too. Over there was a teacher mainlining coffee, here was a parent berating their child for not tucking in his shirt. We all milled around trying to remember each other’s names and asking the top 5 questions for first day of school:

  • Whether or not Summer was good (typically it was but you would hardly want to admit it if it wasn’t. Such an answer would throw everyone off)
  • Haven’t they all grown (yep, they have)
  • Weren’t we all thrilled that the KIDS are back (overwhelmingly, yes)
  • Hasn’t the weather been SMASHING this summer (yep)
  • Wasn’t it nice that the kids have so-and-so this year as a teacher.(definitely)

But however we all felt during those moments, the general mood was one of happiness.  And when our kids came tearing out of the classroom, their smiles were almost as big as ours. So in the end it was all good and that’s First Day #9, of the 18 that I will experience as a parent, under my belt.


Yep, that’s me in grade 1. Looks like maybe I had been into the rubber cement already. And I would like to publicly thank my parents for apparently combing my hair with a toothbrush before I went to school that day. And for those of you who know me, see, my hands have always been ridiculously small. or maybe it’s just the extra huge blazer…

Thanks for reading.

Cheers, Jane

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