Every weekday morning our family goal is to depart for school and work at 08:15. The steps leading to this are simple and unchanging: get out of bed, get dressed, have breakfast, brush teeth, put on shoes and coats and exit. Extraordinarily straightforward.
However, in practice it’s more like this: wake up to hungry toddler cries at 05:55 – give him some milk to incentivise more sleep, fall back to sleep at 06:32 and ignore the alarm which sounds twenty-eight minutes later. Wake with a startle at 07:25 when Child Three slips into our room to do her morning wee. Leap out of bed and burst into the older girls’ room breathlessly exclaiming that we are half an hour late. Fling necessary clothes at each child and creep past the toddler’s room willing him to sleep for a further thirty minutes. My Lovely Husband (MLH) who has become aware of our critical morning error is in the shower – an indispensable cog in the wheel, it is he who must drive the children to school.
I hurl on some ‘clothes’ (for this read hoodie over redundant, yet still worn, breast milk stained vest and a pair of grey sweat pant cuts offs). In the kitchen, I address the tedium of school lunches. Chop and scrape carrots into sticks, pour raisins into tinfoil pouches (every small Tupperware box lid is missing), divide up a bit of leftover quiche, fruit – nutritionally balanced-ish – tick box.
Onto the porridge – in a genius move inherited from my Mum it has been ‘soaking’ since last night. I turn on the heat and focus on the day’s extracurricular activity – swimming.
In the hot-press I am faced with a mountain of clothes stuffed onto a shelf to ‘air’. I dump them all onto the floor and, trampling over the heap when unavoidable, I extract three swimming hats, three pairs of togs, three sets of verruca preventing socks and three towels. I mash them into three bags. It’s 08:00.
I peek around the bedroom door praying inwardly that even one child might be dressed. I find Child One wearing just her knickers and socks. She is lying on her bed reading the Twins at St. Claire’s.
‘What are you doing?’ I shriek disbelievingly
‘You only gave me clean knickers and socks, I didn’t know what to put on next!’ she replies. (She is 11).
I take a deep breath and point her towards the ball of clothes which she abandoned on the floor beside her bed the night before. In the kitchen I am relieved to find Child Two at the table – she is still in her pyjamas and is cutting a household bill into tiny pieces which are floating gracefully onto the floor. Child Two emerges from the bathroom not long afterwards. She, thankfully, is dressed. I stir the porridge frantically – it’s 8:10.
I dress Child Three, despite predictable but tricky outfit-choice-related-resistance. I persuade each child to eat an agreed minimum. I cram their homework and lunchboxes into bags. I stuff raincoats in too as I recall catching sight of a murky sky. I abandon teeth brushing and line the children up to squirt a tea-tree oil solution at each head (nit preventer I’m told).
I dispense multi vitamins, make them gargle with mouthwash, bundle them into their coats, tie their laces or fasten their Velcro, kiss them and bid them farewell.
MLH is dispatched with toast and coffee in one hand and phone, wallet, keys and bunch of autumn leaves for Child Three’s teacher in the other.
I quietly close the door and heave a sigh of relief mopping my brow and imagine a moment of silence. Hysterical yapping shatters any hope of this. The postman has arrived as he does every single weekday morning and despite his repeated efforts to befriend our manic Doggy he cannot earn the trust which will dampen her well-intentioned, protective but frenzied barking.
Right on cue a gurgle which grows into to a demanding squeal cuts though the millisecond of blissful quiet. Toddler is awake. It’s 08:25.