S03, Episode 4: Volunteer
It's just like herding cats...
It's just like herding cats...
'Daisy's mum...I need a wee, wee.'
I'm in the science museum with a gazillion children under 7 years old.
'Daisy's mum...can you swim to the moon?'
'Daisy's mum...I'm hungry.'
Arg. In an effort to ingratiate myself with the school I volunteered to be a parent helper for an educational trip. When they say 'parent helper' they mean anyone daft enough to want to spend three hours of their life with snot-smeared goblins who make the rowdiest stag do seem like afternoon tea with the Queen.
I thought that a trip to a science museum would keep the little darlings occupied and I'd get to join in their wonder at the universe.
Little did I know.
You might manage the peculiar vagaries of your own little brats but other people's children. Oh, my fucking life! Don't they know what tissue is? Toilet usage is entirely optional - after all, why bother when Teflon-coated trousers with do?!! And sticky fingers on everything...how? But sure enough, a big part of parent helper duties does rather seem to be racing around after gelatinous beings with an industrial amount of wet wipes.
The only thing that's really making this bearable is the other parent who is helping too.
Kate is the bubbly owner of Ben. Ben had the misfortune to find himself being dressed as a pink princess, complete with glitter makeup and nail polish when he came for a play date. Credit to him he took it in good spirit. Not that he had a choice. Daisy may seem sweet but there is a core of steel and you will do as you are commanded.
Now, Kate is my saviour, her good humour and experience in dealing with these hell trips is a balm. She is also a fellow wine drinker and can swear like a seasoned sailor. In the short time, we have known each other our 'sessions' have become legendary. To the extent that when I enter her house both Ben and her partner, Steve, automatically get several bottles of wine lined up, tissues and brace themselves for 3 am runs to the chip shop.
We start planning one of these sessions to recover from the brutality of noise that thirty-odd kids can make on a coach. Mid-week be damned, merlot is needed.
Arriving back at the school just in time for the bell and home we bump into Sally. She gives us the once over.
'Good trip, gals?' She asks stifling a laugh.
'Ha, ha. Where is the wine?'
'Oh god, there isn't enough wine in the world.'
'Some of us are heading to the Boat Inn, fancy com...?'
'Yes!' we both respond before Sally could finish.
The Boat Inn is a handy 5 minutes walk from the school, a pretty 18-century house converted to a hotel with great food, a bar and a child-friendly garden.
Lily joins us muttering something about there having better be chips and juice. She isn't as keen as Daisy who has all her friends to keep her entertained.
'Can I use your phone?' I hand it over, I am not about to endure a complicated argument over technology when the wine is in sight. Daisy is happily playing in the small hut and swings in the hotel garden with her friends.
That first sip...bliss.
'You think this has been nuts...' Kate takes a long drink, 'Just wait until the Christmas term!'
'Oh, I love Christmas!' Exclaims Sally.
'What? All the nativity and tinsel? And the singing! Bloody singing.' Caroline puts in. 'Does ma heid in.' She is forthright, west coast Scottish and takes no prisoners.
It doesn't take long for a quick drink after school to descend into calling older siblings, partners and grandparents to pick up the kids.
Yep, we are bad mothers. The very thing we end up bonding over.
Because as much as we love our little darlings, the days are interminable. No one warns you about the sheer bloody effort it takes to orchestrate school life. The grind of the school run, the gauntlet of the school gate politics, the inordinate amount of forms and letters you have to sign. Just so your little poppets can walk through the gates, go on trips, get jabs, have lunch and probably have a crap.
It is good to have someone or three to share the moans with and cackle too loudly in the pub. I must get out more.
It is an unreasonably late hour on a Tuesday night to be rolling home.
'Hellsho...darling' I try to kiss Ross but end up on my arse in the hallway, obviously it is some obstacle in the way. I try again, getting up and bouncing off the wall...
He gently guides me to bed.
'I lusvh you.'
'I love you, too.' He's a very patient soul.
I think I black out.
6.30 am: bleary eyed I peer at my phone, oh my head. Taking a slurp of life-giving coffee I open my emails. Sitting bolt upright, ignoring hot coffee spilling on my boobs. What the hell???
Why do I have an iTunes bill for £189?! And what is An Enchanted Treasure Chest of Rare Unicorn Gems?
I remember those days quite vividly. It's part of why I left teaching 🤣🤣🤣🤣