Wednesday, September 9, 2009

But the days grow short, when you reach September

It’s obvious TS Eliot didn’t have kids.

April is the cruellest month?

‘Cripes, what utter rot’, Viv would have cried, on hearing the first draft. If they’d had children, and if she wasn’t too incapacitated by her straitjacket for such forceful literary criticism, that is.

‘Listen love’, she’d have said, sweeping up rice crispies with a besom broom, ‘try again, but with the right month’, and to his blank, smoke-fugged face, would have snapped, ‘September, you rattle-brained rhymester. Now make yourself useful; take the damn rug rats to school.’

Ah, September. To the child-free, it’s merely a good month for a cheap holiday. To parents of school-age children, it’s the seasonal equivalent of a hearty clip round the ear.

I’m speaking in particular of that first morning back to school after what the pupils of Lewes Grammar might call the long summer vac. Well, OMG, as those pupils doubtless never say, unless extremely pressed by some tricky prep.

Even the least poetically minded parent will intone the modern blank verse of despair on that first day:

Oh bejesus I have quite forgotten
How to exit the house before midday
So what precisely is that festering
Greenly at the bottom of the school-bag
And hells teeth we didn’t buy new shoes she’ll
Just have to wear Crocs and tell me how did
We do this last year without a breakdown.

Of course, the first couple of weeks of August are also a shock, but for the reverse reason: the cold turkey withdrawal of school throws our quiet routines into chaos. At first, we attempt to impose order on the holidays with outings and structured activities and, okay, quite a lot of telly. Then, gradually, imperceptibly, we begin to go as native as our feral offspring. Meals only happen if someone can be bothered to nip down to Chaulas. Children scamper up trees you’re not allowed to climb in the Grange Gardens and won’t come down; they commit Lord of the Flies atrocities without reprimand; and bedtime is when they pass out on the floor after mainlining CBBC.

So by the time September comes creeping out of the dead land, we’re just not ready, frankly. We’ve finally worked out how to dance the ain’t got no childcare boogie, and settled hippy-like into our new random lifestyle. One minute we’re costing campervans on ebay, the next, we’re suddenly expected to spend whole days in Eliza Brown, helping a small savage shove their woodland-roughened Hobbit toes into fifteen variations of black lace-ups. Suddenly we’re expected to be inventive about making the first of that year’s 190 packed lunches (that’s per child and no, squeezy yoghurts are so last term).

Thing One’s school, thankfully, kicks off slowly this September with a couple of inset days, giving us one final straggly week of back to nature before shrugging on Viv’s straitjacket of disciplined life.

So excuse me for now: I see it’s three in the morning, and high time I got the dinner on.

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1 comment:

  1. September of course is when the weather cools down so that it doesn't matter which bench in Grange Gardens is free, it is a time to book that holiday to the English Countryside and walk through town without being pushed aside by those pesky anklebiters. In fact September is far from the cruellest month...