Am I ready for school?

We’re taking the girls to meet their Reception teachers tomorrow, as we missed the proper welcome tea party and parents evening last week. The one week of the year we go on holiday…

I have filled out the school forms (endless paperwork and I had to do two sets of course) and Dh has double-checked them. The school sent through two welcome packs last week which included the various blank forms, information about the Early Years Foundation Stage, letters from older children to R and G welcoming them to the school (one of them told R not to be scared and I started crying as i read it out to her) and a booklet of self-portraits by all of the girls’ new classmates (as they’re in separate classes we now know the names of every child in the Reception year), which made me fret approximately 98% less than I had been as the girls can actually write their names and some of their classmates can’t. Naturally, there are some that have better handwriting than me, so you can’t have everything.

The girls and I went to the school fete a couple of weeks ago and picked up some second-hand school uniform. The school colours are yellow and blue, so R is going to wear yellow tops, gingham summer dresses and sweatshirts and G is going to wear the corresponding items in blue. In Winter they’ll swap the summer dresses for grey pinafore dresses. The PE kit is non-branded and consists of white tops and dark shorts or jogging bottoms.

The girls are very excited about meeting their teachers tomorrow. As Dh and I are both on leave until next week, we’re both able to attend. I’m really pleased as we’ll be sharing the pick ups and drop offs as we do now. Dh is keen on becoming a parent helper and reading with the children, so he’s going to ask about doing that. I think he’d be great as he’s extremely patient (let’s face it, in this house he has to be) and it’ll be good for the boys to have a man helping them with their reading as often it’s the mums that go in.

After-school club is sorted, for this year at least. I have already filled in forms to get the logoed bits of the school uniform and will be raiding M&S for the other clothing. Dh and I have bashed diaries and are able to juggle the staggered start dates and finish dates for the first two weeks of term between us (lots of people are complaining about this. I have lost count of the number of times someone has said ‘Just chuck ’em in!!’. It’s certainly a pain in the arse for us working parents.)

The girls are ready. Dh is fine about it all. Me? I feel oddly bereft already and they don’t start until September. That’s the thing with this one-shot parenting lark – once the girls are at school that’s it. They don’t have younger siblings to follow in their footsteps.

So, one phase of the girls’ life is ending and another one is about to begin. I think I’m scared because I didn’t have the easiest time at school. Some of it was of my own making, some of it was just…horrible and even now, 20-odd years later I find it hard to revisit. I can’t bear the thought of R or G going through some of the things that I did. They are their own people of course and they are a million times more confident than I was at their age. It’s that twin thing again…it seems to protect them from certain things but may yet cause other issues. They have also been at nursery since they were 5 months old, so they’re used to interacting and socialising with children of their own age. They won’t be daunted by the other children.

We don’t quite know what the next months and years will bring, but from September life is going to get that little bit more different again.

Class separation – the saga continues

I have been putting off posting this for a couple of days, but I have to do it.

Dh went into the girls’ school on Monday and they had already juggled the classes around so that G is staying put and R is moving to the other Reception class. This means that we have got what we wanted and they will be in separate classes from September.

Over the weekend, and indeed, on this very blog, a lot of people (including close family and friends) commented that it was perhaps best that the girls were in the same class. I have to confess, I started to waver too.  R and G have been together forever. Should we really interfere and socially engineer a separation?

Dh phoned me to let me know and I felt quite wobbly for a moment or two. We’d got what we wanted (and the school listened to us and acted, which bodes well) but were we deliberately being obtuse and defying everyone else just because we could?

As we chatted, my resolve hardened. They’ve put R into the class with the other children from nursery. She is the less confident and more sensitive of the two. She needs G around to give her confidence, but the familiar faces from nursery will give her security. Being apart from G for a few hours a day will – hopefully – give her more confidence and allow her to develop academically in a way that she may not have done had she been in the same class as her sister. G has a tendency to boss R around mother R and act as her mouthpiece. We know that R is bright but she tends to internalise things and will only demonstrate that she can do something when she can do it perfectly. Otherwise she relies on G to do it for her.

G is a Monica. She is the child that will sit at the front of the class, hand shooting up in the air shouting I KNOW! I KNOW! to every single question. She is extremely confident and nothing phases her. She would treat the Pope and a passing tramp in exactly the same manner. She has absolutely no fear of getting something wrong. She doesn’t care what other people think of her. In short, she’s extremely resilient and I’m confident that she will make new friends very quickly.

In any case, it’s not like they’ll be apart for 6-7 hours a day. The two Reception classes share a playground (separated from the older children) and they’ll spend plenty of time together at break and lunch time. If it isn’t working after a term or a year, we’ll work with the school to review the separation.

Hopefully the therapy bills won’t be too large when they grow up.

Monday morning

BC (Before Children) I hated Monday morning as much as every other person on the planet with a job. Monday morning was God’s way of punishing you for having a life away from the office I used to struggle grumpily out of bed and throw myself in the shower, swearing and grunting until I was awake enough to face the world.

AT (After Twins) I now regard Monday morning as a rather wonderful thing. I adore my children. Honestly I do. However, I love going to work, docking my laptop and settling down in front of my computer, hot chocolate in one hand and a piece of toast in the other. I like the quiet hum of the office, the mumbled greetings and the office gossip. I like flicking through my e-mails, opening my post and checking my electronic diary for meetings and events. I like popping over to the tap to fill up my water bottle and wondering down to the canteen to see what today’s specials are. I like answering enquiries, dealing with requests and thinking, that in some small way, I’m making a difference to someone, somewhere. I like being able to go to the toilet in peace. I like the fact that no-one constantly shouts Mummy Mummy MUMMY at me with increasing urgency for some life-threatening reason like losing a Peppa Pig snap card, completing a drawing or needing yet another snack.

R and G are safely despatched to nursery, after a lovely weekend with Mummy, Daddy or both of us, eager to tell their friends about their adventures and do more of the stuff that pre-schoolers do. Dh is either (depending on his shift pattern) at work or pottering around at home. I get to have some ‘Grown-up’ time, which makes me appreciate my time at home even more.

I think Monday mornings are BRILLIANT.

Interview with dh – relationships

It’s a testament to our relationship that we still really like each other, considering. I’ve said to people that I don’t think having children is a remedy for a failing relationship.

You have to work together.

We’re a good team, even though we don’t get to do the things we used to, like going to the pub, watching rugby and cricket and going out for dinner.

Now we go to the park and the zoo!

Do you think that you’ve changed?

I don’t think so. I live a different life, but my attitude is still the same.

I’ve heard your shouting voice now, which I didn’t know you owned. It’s rarely deployed but I know it’s the end of the world when you go GRRRRRR!

I get frustrated more often. I’m not different, but it makes you look at things differently. You notice things…if you see other people or watch a film, you have a very different view of what’s going on in the world and a sense of responsibility.

I read somewhere that becoming a parent makes you harder on the outside but softer on the inside…

That sounds about right. At the weekend I found a little girls’ backpack on the train and I knew she’d be really upset. If you didn’t have kids yourself you’d think ‘Oh it’s just a bag’

I think it’s changed us as a couple in the sense that we used to be quite insular, but now we have to talk to people.

Yes. It’s like having two minor celebrities and they’re very recognisable. I’ve been to the shop on my own and people have asked ‘Where are the twins?’ I’m like ‘Who are you’. It’s a low local level of fame.

Sports Day

After missing last years’ nursery sports day to attend a wedding, Dh and I made a point of attending this years’. The girls were only eighteen months old at their first sports day two years ago and didn’t really understand what was going on. R was going down with tonsillitis but, bad parents that we are, didn’t realise and wondered why she spent the whole afternoon sobbing and chewing her fists off.

This year the girls were ridiculously excited. The running track (about 10 metres long) was set out a week beforehand so they had been practising. R’s pretty athletic and is a fairly speedy runner. G runs…like a girl. All flappy arms and excited squealing.

The children are organised into teams beforehand and a week before we received a note saying that R was in the orange team and G was in the blue team and had to wear t-shirts of that colour. Two years ago they had been in the same team (grr) and R’s t-shirt had matched her red angry face perfectly. So we had two teams to cheer for this year.

The baby room had their (walker-assisted) race first (they’re so SMALL!) and then it was the orange team’s turn. R was in the same team as one of her friends (C) and they lined up alongside each other. Marks were called and R looked down the track. Dh and I stood at the finish, he had the camera and I had the video camera. Someone shouted GO and R and C sprinted down the track. They had left the others for dead. They were neck and neck with two-thirds of the race gone. Dh and I were cheering and we realised that the people standing next to us were C’s grandparents. R and C started jostling for position. I didn’t know whether to be terribly proud or slightly embarrassed when R, with one well-timed elbow managed to edge in front and win the race.

Well, after her first victory there was no stopping her. She decided to take part in her own races and everybody else’s. She even had a race against herself on an empty track between races. Unsurprisingly, she also won that one. I suspect that she’ll be giving Lordsiralan Sugar hell on the Junior Apprentice next year. There’s no ‘I’ in team, remember? Can’t think where she gets her competitive nature from…

G was surprisingly speedy but simply not as bothered about the competitive element of sports day. She was quite happy to take part in the running race, hopping race and potato and spoon race, but didn’t care a jot whether she came first, last or somewhere in the middle. For the record, she was first or second in most of the races she took part in. Ask her if she remembers now and she’d give you a blank look.

Of course there was no competition really…apart from the parents’ race. It was a warm day so I was wearing flip-flops and had to compete barefoot. I dragged one of my mum-friends over to run with me and dh set the video camera rolling. Some of the Dads strolled nonchalantly over to the start line. There was some banter. Someone called us to our marks.

Suddenly the men on the start line crouched down in starting-blocks poses. I was so surprised that I didn’t hear the GO command and started running about five seconds after everyone else. I wasn’t first…but I wasn’t last either. Maybe second-to-last. There’s a video of it but I haven’t watched it yet and Dh is banned from posting it on any form of social media on pain of DEATH.

I got a certificate for my efforts. Each child that took part got a medal. We have a wonderful photo of G messing about with her girlie friends while R looks on, furious that they’ve all been given the same prize as her for NOT WINNING, NOT TRYING and NOT CARING.

We emphasised that it was just a bit of fun. Secretly, R and I know that life isn’t really like that.

The end of 46 Days

At the beginning of March I had a crazy idea. Instead of giving something up for Lent, I would try to do something every day. The idea for 46 Days came from there. Today is the 46th and last day.

I thought I’d have a look back through the last 45 days and see what’s happened:

0 people offended (that I’m aware of…)

1 holiday booked

1 disastrous week of night training

1 graduation attended

1 Margot Leadbetter moments

2 bouts of nostalgia

2 guinea pigs (Charlie and Lola) arrived

2 fish (Eddie and Bob) bought

3 fish (Maisy, Eddie and Bob) died

3 Easter bonnets made

4 3rd birthday parties attended

4 One Born Every Minute liveblogs

5 separate illnesses (2 for me, 2 for G, 1 for R)

6 twinny observations (I could have written hundreds of posts on this)

7 Friday photos

8 rants (I’m amazed there aren’t many more)

That’s a fairly average seven or so weeks in the HoT. Ok, so you don’t buy guinea pigs and kill off goldfish every day, but everything else was pretty normal…for us at least. It’s a nice little snapshot of our lives.

I only missed one night – when I was away for work – and I made up for it the next night with two long posts.  I have to say, as the weather improved dramatically in April I found it much harder to generate enough enthusiasm to sit down every night and write a blog post. Last night I ‘cheated’ and uploaded the Friday photos from my iphone whilst slumped on the sofa after another busy day. Thank Steve Jobs for the WordPress app!

I speculated at the beginning of all this that a period of sustained creativity might make me want to do some creative writing. It hasn’t, but only because I haven’t had time after writing 46 Days posts. There are a couple of ideas percolating in my brain but I can’t commit them to screen just yet.

Instead I’ve been exploiting my creative mind in different ways. I’m really into card-making at the moment. If there’s an event coming up I’ve probably made a card for it! My cards aren’t going to make me rich and they definitely look ‘home made’ but I hope people appreciate the effort. I attempted my first scrapbook – a graduation present for my Mum. I love getting creative with photos, bit of paper, a stack of embellishments and a ton of pritt stick. I have also made great progress with my latest cross-stitch and am already thinking about the next stitching project. I might do something really challenging this time…

As I get older I can no longer sit in front of the telly of an evening once the girls are in bed. I have to be doing other things, so that I feel my evenings aren’t wasted. That reminds me…I have very strict rules on my ‘me time’ activities. They are all done in the evening in the precious few hours I have when the girls are asleep and before I go to bed. During the day I’m either spending time with the girls or working.

I’m looking forward to having a few nights off (maybe even a week or two) from blogging – or the tyranny of the blank page (which only affected me twice in 46 days) and the feeling that I ‘have’ to write something. I might try something similar later in the year. November is my bogey-month so I might try 30 Days or something like that to ward off the SAD.

That’s all in the future. Now, I’m off to make a Mojito and await our take-away delivery.

Cheers and thanks for reading!

The Full-time father

Today’s post has been inspired by something that a friend shared with me (thanks T!) on the definition of a Full-Time Mother. The crux of the article was that whether we are stay-at-home mums or working mums, there’s no time at which we stop being a mother.

(It’s here is you want to have a read:

This got me thinking.  Does the same apply to Dads? I haven’t heard anyone use the phrase ‘Full-time Father’, yet surely men don’t stop being dads when they are at work or away from their children in the same way that mothers do? Or am I extremely naïve?

Maybe my perspective has been skewed (in a good way) by Dh. From the outset he’s been an extremely involved father. Partly this has been down to necessity. Becoming a father to twins and a having a wife that works means that he can’t easily absolve himself of all parenting responsibility. Plus, he really wanted to be a hands-on father. We’ve always worked as a team and consider ourselves to be co-primary carers to R and G.

It’s raised a few eyebrows over the years though. I remember getting quite angry with the health visitor that paid no attention to Dh on her (brief) visits when the girls were tiny and addressed the answer to any question he posed to me. Friends and acquaintances of ours have been quite surprised that not only does he know the exact size clothes and shoes that the girls wear, but he happily buys them items of clothing without my say-so and I don’t throw my hands up in horror when he arrives home. He’s got pretty good taste actually. He’s taken them to the supermarket on his own countless times – I’ve only been brave enough to do it once. On days where I’m at work and he’s on a rest day and the girls are at home, he’ll take them to the zoo or the park with the minimum of fuss.

Of course, the girls drive him mad at times. There are times when the girls are in uber-herbert mode that he looks visibly relieved to be going to work so that he can escape the madness for a few hours. He’s not a saint for goodness sake, and nor would I expect him to be. It would be a hell of a lot for me to live up to for a start. There have been times when he’s had a bad day with the girls and I’ve dispatched him to B&Q (his favourite shop) to look at manly things like screw-heads and hammers and things.  He’s not a wet lettuce either. He can do DIY, likes sport, plays extremely violent computer games (when the girls are in bed) and works in a pretty much exclusively male environment. Also, he puts up with me and I’m extremely high maintenance!

We’ve had glimpses of what a ‘traditional’ family set-up might be over the years. There have been (rare) times where he’s worked a normal day shift and I’ve been on leave. I thought he might really enjoy coming home to a clean house, quiet children and dinner on the table but while the novelty of the latter held some appeal, he confessed to finding it ‘a bit weird’. Of course, it works for plenty of families and that’s great. It just wouldn’t work for us.

I can’t quite work out if our situation is unusual or not. We live in supposedly enlightened times but I know plenty of men that would run a mile at the sight of a smelly bulging nappy and are genuinely surprised when they are informed that their lives are going to change dramatically when the baby arrives. I know that dh doesn’t stop being a father when he’s at work or out drinking with his friends. I wouldn’t dare to suggest for even a second that he’s a part-time father.

I think the difference is that there’s a perception that a man can ‘walk away’ from fatherhood but that a woman can’t stop being a mother. In my experience this is entirely wrong. Therefore, I believe that Dh can describe himself as a full-time father, as can every other committed dad. It’s doing them a disservice to suggest otherwise.