Wednesday 22 November 2017

Why I can't wait to send my kids back to school

Jeanne Measom pictured with her six children
Jeanne Measom pictured with her six children

Jeanne Measom

Jeanne Measom (51) is a busy mum of six, including twin boys, who is counting down the days until school offers a reprieve from a chaotic summer.

In Ireland, you can ship your children off to school from the age of four. I know parents who feel their four-year-olds are not ready, opting to keep them at home for another year to mature. These are the parents you generally see crying at the school gate, struggling to say goodbye. I am certainly not one of them.

When my eldest was a baby, I remember wondering if I would ever get some relief, and then I remembered, “They go to school.” Yes, I thought. My children all started school as soon as they were allowed, and I never cried sending them off on their first day. In fact, I can remember skipping out of the school grounds and punching my fist into the air in celebration on the day my youngest started Junior Infants.

My kids have now been on their school holidays for 50 days (or, 1,200 hours or 600 waking hours), but who is counting?

Summer holidays always seem like they will be a break from the day-to-day school runs and never-ending extracurricular activities. The first day of the holidays seems brilliant: no making packed lunches, a bit of a lie-in, no weekly head lice checks, and no screaming to get the kids up and ready and out the door in the wee hours of the morning.

But as the rain is beating down on the windows, the kids are fighting, and the new, wet puppies are jumping all over the sofa, the reality is somewhat different. On day one I found myself thinking, How many more days?

Jeanne Measom's twin boys
Jeanne Measom's twin boys

The summer happens to be my busiest time, as I work part-time from home and part-time in a school. This means, when getting ready for work, I am also juggling childcare, ensuring kids’ chores are done and breakfast is eaten by all, and putting laundry out on the line hoping it won’t rain, all before cycling to work at 8 a.m. The husband always seems to slip out of the house before the kids are up and come home after dinner is served. You have to admire his tactics.

Like many families, our budget is tight, and I can't send the kids to summer camp or sports camps, as it is just far too expensive for all six of them.

And so, for the past seven weeks, my days have been spent breaking up fights, running an in-house restaurant, playing the entertainer, policing the television, and whipping away electronic devices, all the while trying to get my own work done from my home office: the kitchen table. I dream of a cubicle in a nice office, sitting amongst adults, as my workspace is overrun with milk spills, food messes, half-finished paintings, and sometimes children who aren’t even mine. It’s a miracle anything ever gets done.

When the bickering becomes unbearable, around 8 a.m., I sometimes manage to corral all of them and lock them out in the garden, demanding that they have fun 'Or else.' Everyone knows not to utter the words 'I’m bored', for fear of being assigned a task on what feels like my never-ending list of chores.

Earlier in the summer, I made the mistake of leaving my 16-year-old in charge of the “angels” while I went to work for a few hours. After he made his younger brother sit in dog vomit as punishment, and the 12-year-old threatened to light his brother on fire, we decided that perhaps a career in childcare wasn’t for him.

The minder I organised was 17, only one year older than my son, but most importantly, not a sibling. A better minder I couldn’t have found, as every day I arrived home, the children were all accounted for and alive, which is all you can hope for, really.

This morning, as the kids battled over breakfast cereals and argued about whose turn it was to use the iPad they share, I crossed off one more day on my special, survive-summer-countdown calendar that showed we are on the home stretch. The summer is almost over, thank God.

I am baffled by those parents who relish the summer holidays, because I've been dreaming about September 1 since the end of June.

Just ten more days until the mad school runs resume. After dropping them at the school gates, I will jump for joy and head into work for some peace. Just 240 hours or 120 waking hours until I can finally reclaim some of my sanity.

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