schoolgates

Just another WordPress.com site

Welcome to SchoolGates

I’m a full-time mum, voracious reader and amateur blogger who spends a lot of time at the school gates.

This is my take on what I hear, what I do, what grinds my gears, floats my boat and works for me.

Feel free to read, comment and contribute your ideas to help other mums embarking on a similar journey at the schoolgates. Trust me, despite first appearances, we’re a pretty friendly bunch…

Leave a comment »

20 things you will never hear your child say

Recently, I was watching a programme about the funny things children say and laughing about it with the other mums at the school gates. It struck me that there are certain phrases that conversely, you will never hear come out of your child’s mouth. Here are my top 20:

  1. Shall we watch what you want on TV today?
  2. I know we’ve just passed the last services for 50 miles but guess what? I don’t need the toilet
  3. Can I go to bed now?
  4. Can I do my homework now?
  5. Not McDonalds again…
  6. But I really want the comfy shoes not the horrible glittery heels
  7. I love going shopping
  8. Please can I have more sprouts?
  9. I’ve had enough chocolate today
  10. I really love my little brother / sister
  11. I don’t want to have a party this year
  12. Cartoons are boring
  13. Right, who’d like a cup of tea?
  14. Tell me again what games you played as a child
  15. This is interesting
  16. Vegetables for dinner? Yummy
  17. Why not? Let’s try it
  18. You’re right, it does stink. Let me clear it up
  19. Thank you for kissing me goodbye at school mum. I want my whole class to know how much you love me
  20. It was me
2 Comments »

Sick note

The girl has spent most of Sunday throwing her guts up and is feeling a little rotten today to say the least. Going to sleep on an empty stomach is an alien concept for the girl that eats everything and I did feel very sorry for the sad little figure who went to bed last night with a face the colour of unbaked cake mix. I have had to take the day off work today as a result – not ideal since I’m self-employed – and am in a quandary about what to do tomorrow. I know that school rules dictate she must not go back to school until 48 hours have passed since her last bout of sickness but who’s to know? I could say she was sick on the Saturday instead, send her back on Tuesday (24 hours vomit-free) and get back to earning the pennies myself ASAP.

I have had discussions at the school gates before about parents sending their children back to school sneakily early following illness and have been irritated beyond belief that such people are putting their own needs before the potential health of every other child in that class. However, now that the shoe is on the other foot, the little devil on my shoulder (I think it’s Dad) is saying ‘sod it, it’s every woman for herself in a situation like this especially as work has been especially slow the last few months ‘ and it’s true, I can ill afford to lose another day. Besides, no-one else seems to have a strict moral code of ethics about sending their sick child to school so why the hell should I? But then the nice little voice in my head (I think it’s Mum) tells me not to be such a sheep and that two wrongs don’t make a right, yada yada, yada. So what to do? What to do?

Hmmm, I have always been a bit of a Daddy’s girl, so…

Leave a comment »

Blog of the Week – 20 things I want my teenage daughters to know

20 things I want my teenage daughters to know.

Leave a comment »

Out of school experience

I recently had a weird experience with one of the teachers at the girl’s school. She seems perfectly nice but insists on talking to me as if I’m one of the pupils. There’s a lot of over-exaggeration with her hand and facial gestures and she uses sign language in conjunction with regular speech. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for my kids learning signing as part of their education (very handy when communicating with hard-of-hearing classmates and grandma). However, I do object to being summoned to the classroom to discuss my daughter and being pulled down into a semi-crouch in order to communicate on her level. Seriously, is this taking things a little too far? I know that the teachers probably employ this tactic during their working day but frankly, I was a little taken aback with the approach and was hardly dressed for the occasion (too tight trousers and no belt). Anyone walking in behind us must have thought they’d veered of course and into the scooter rack by mistake.

Still, uncomfortable hunched as I was, I endeavoured to try and keep my mind on what she was telling me but in actual fact, I was so desperate to get vertical again, I just nodded along with what she was saying; anything in fact to get this woman’s increasingly animated face out of my own. I have to admit, I found the experience faintly terrifying. I’m sure the kids must be just as bewildered when faced with this approach during the school day and probably fess up to many a misdemeanour they may or may not have committed just to get away from the crazy lady. She would have done a roaring trade back in the days of the Spanish Inquisition I’m sure.

When my friends at the school gates asked what I’d been summoned about, I honestly had no idea and was still a little dazed by the experience. I was fairly sure that I’d agreed to something judging by the amount of frantic nodding and over-exuberant clapping that ensued following my smiling agreement but only time will tell what, if anything, is expected of me over the coming weeks. One thing I do know for sure though, is that I’ll definitely be wearing more comfortable clothing on subsequent school runs.

Leave a comment »

Top 10 money spinners for working parents

I’ve finally reached the point during my child rearing years that I would actually like to go back to work and earn some money of my own. After being a SAHM for three years, it appears that I am no longer in demand in my previous career (Marketing) as everything has moved on rather swiftly since I left and so, I am left with two choices; 1) accept a huge pay cut in Marketing and work my way back up the career ladder (unfeasible given the hours I would need to work and the associated childcare costs) or 2) find an alternative career.

Now, I’ve been thinking a lot about this latter option recently. I’ve been racking my brain trying to think where my skills lie so that I can launch myself on the world all focused and rebranded but that, pretty much, is as far as I’ve got with the process. It’s not that I don’t have skills, it’s just that there doesn’t seem to be much call for (nappy) bomb disposal, crisis diverters or expert negotiators except for maybe in the Middle East and I’m not sure that’s entirely where I see my new career heading.

So, after various discussions with other Mums and Dads at the school gates who have re-branded themselves, I’ve come up with a top 10 of potential money spinners for other parents who may be looking for a career change or a way of working round the children either by re-training completely or by working with the skills they already possess.

  1. Reflexologist – A one year course which involves attending one or two-day seminars spread over this time period. It requires around 8-10 hours of home study per week and a small amount of written assessments with an examination taken at the end of the course. GOOD IF: you can touch other people’s feet without freaking and are over 18. BAD IF: corns, bunions and cheesy smells are not your thing.
  2. Cake maker – A couple of the mums have done this actually; one specializes in cupcakes and hosting cupcake making parties for kids and the other does wedding cakes and cake-pops in the post. GOOD IF: you can make a decent sponge. BAD IF: you can’t.
  3. Tattoo designer – GOOD IF: you have a fair amount of artistic flair. BAD IF: you’re needlephobic.
  4. Nail technician – Nail Courses cover gel, acrylics, manicures/pedicures, nail art, and maintenance and you can train at home. GOOD IF: you’re spare time is limited and you want to get started quickly. BAD IF: you’re not a people person.
  5. Copywriter /proof-reader – Companies, students, the press and plenty of others rely on people to proof-read their work before it gets printed to check for errors. You can set up on your own fairly quickly and with minimum outlay with this idea. GOOD IF: you have an impressive command of the English language and grammar. BAD IF: you don’t.
  6. Cleaner – Zero set up costs and everyone knows how hard it is to find a decent, honest and reliable cleaner. Once you’ve got a few clients, word of mouth will complete your journey fairly quickly. GOOD IF: you take pride in grime-busting and are a bit of a perfectionist. BAD IF: you hate cleaning.
  7. Childminder – You need to complete a pediatric first aid course and be ofsted registered (which costs around £90). These certificates have to be renewed annually but you can be up and running with this business very quickly. Earnings of around £4 per hour mean that if you take a fair few children, the money soon adds up. GOOD IF: you like children and need to take your own child(ren) to work. BAD IF: you prefer your house to be immaculate.
  8. Teacher – This is a good one if you already have a degree as the PGCE will only take a year to complete full-time (slightly longer for part-time obviously). Or you could work as a teaching assistant/classroom helper and beg the school to sponsor you while you train. GOOD IF: you have school age children as you can work round their holidays. BAD IF: you don’t like other people’s children.
  9. Photographer – You just need a decent camera, an eye for a good shot and a portfolio of your friends’ babies. If you have a room you can convert to a studio, so much the better. GOOD IF: you enjoy taking photographs and have a good ‘eye.’ BAD IF: money is limited as the initial set-up and cost of equipment can be quite high.
  10. Dog walker – There are literally hundreds of working people with dogs at home who need to be exercised during the day. The opportunity is there to make some decent wedge. Average charge is £5 per half hour and if you take three of four dogs at once, the money’s not half bad. GOOD IF: you like dogs and walking. BAD IF: you’re allergic to them.

So there you go, my top 10 of potential money-spinners for those of us who need to work around the children and / or school hours and who may or may not have certain skills. The trick is to work with what you have or identify what you enjoy and go with that. Feel free to comment on your own career changes after having children; it would be useful to know what else is out there for the rest of us.

Leave a comment »

Feeling lousy

I was at my parent’s at the weekend and I happened to mention that the boy had some scratches on his tummy and one behind his ear which he’d obviously done himself during the night. My Mum jokingly asked if I’d checked him recently for headlice (we’ve never had them in our house before) so I half-heartedly pushed my fingers through his hair, peered closer and couldn’t quite believe what I was looking at. What at first appeared to be two tiny black-fly sized bits of fluff were actually filthy carnivorous insects nonchalantly sucking the blood from my first born son! I nearly died. I quickly checked the girl’s hair and saw nothing at all but, taking to her with a nit comb, a bowl of water and some tea tree conditioner soon revealed that she was just as riddled with parasitic nasties as her brother. One trip to the chemist, £6 down (2 x lyclear treatments) and 30 minutes later, I finally announced the house a louse free zone.

As I see it, the issue with headlice is threefold; they’re uncomfortable, they’re easily transmitted and they’re ubiquitous in school age children. Just the subject makes most people’s skin crawl and just writing about it makes me itch. *rakes fingernails through scalp in earnest* It’s rather like somebody mentioning pelvic floor muscles within a group and every woman present starts to clench and relax in unanimous response to the subject issue.

What makes me so mortified however, is that if it wasn’t for a chance comment made by my Mum, I wouldn’t have checked the kids’ heads. I never saw them scratching and I couldn’t see them in my daughter’s hair even when I looked closely. I would have blithely sent her back to school this morning and tutted along with the other mothers at the school gates when it was announced in Friday’s newsletter that headlice were doing the rounds again! I would have listened to the usual comments; “Why don’t parents check their children for goodness’ sake? Surely they can see them scratching” etc etc and I would have nodded gravely and agreed that yes, some people just really didn’t seem to bother much with their children. Thank goodness for loving, caring and attentive parents like me. Oh the shame!

So, just in case you’ve never been lucky enough to have dealings with these horrible little crawlies, just bear in mind you probably won’t see much without a nit comb and a bowl of water. The good news is, they only take minutes to shampoo out. And now I’ve dealt with the problem once, I’ll have more of an idea what to look out for next time which is handy because I’m pretty sure there’s going to be one. And if the parents at the school gates are as oblivious as me, it’ll probably be fairly soon.

Happy hunting Mums and Dads!

Leave a comment »

Driving me potty (training)

Well, it’s been decided. Tomorrow is the day when I get my son on the potty and out of nappies. It’s not just the cost of nappies (well, it might be one of the reasons) but changing a nearly three year old’s poopy pants is not a pleasant experience and frankly, he’s getting far too big for the changing table. I’m not entirely sure how long it’s going to be before the whole thing collapses under the weight of a wriggling pre-schooler.

I must admit I’ve been fairly lazy thus far and delayed the whole potty-training process mainly for selfish reasons. I’ve always found it much simpler to change a nappy (which takes two minutes and can be done anywhere) than approach the ‘drying out’ business which involves reminding them to go every five minutes, changing soiled pants/trousers/t-shirt/socks on an hourly basis and being effectively house-bound for around two weeks. Even if I do decide to venture outside, I’ll be responsible for carrying a potty EVERYWHERE and be charged with finding suitable locations to a) get the potty out to put him on it and b) dispose of the evidence afterwards. Having been through this once already with the big girl, I’m really not looking forward to it again.

However, tomorrow is most definitely the day. I have no parties, holidays or anything else important planned for the next few days and am fully stocked with spare wipes and an impressive supply of pull ups. All that remains is for me to take a deep breath, break open the wine (a well-deserved reward at the end of each day of the process) and go with the flow (as it were!)

I’ll be sure to let you know when we’ve cracked it (*ahem*)

Leave a comment »

Carry on camping…

Having just got back from a week spent in a caravan in Devon (courtesy of the Sun promotion) with my husband and three children, I feel ready for a fortnight in bed just to recover. After a nightmare three hours on the road with associated arguments from the backseats – she keeps humming, well, he said ‘go away!’, they’re ignoring me etc etc – we were just about ready to admit defeat and head for the nearest pub. Cream teas and beaches be damned; we needed something not just to numb the pain but to anaesthetize the arse out of this utter awfulness!

Were family holidays always destined to be this way? Why was I even bothering to take them away for a week when they were clearly having no fun whatsoever and obviously hated being away from home? I called my Mum to tell her we’d arrived safely and she laughed when I told her how fraught the journey down had been. She told me to take a deep breath and reminded me that all family holidays came with their own baggage (pun intended!), to pour myself a glass of wine (she knows me so well!) and just try to enjoy myself.  Her complete empathy caused me to reflect on our own family holidays way back in the dim and distant when I was a child myself and I wondered if maybe, just maybe, I had become a little spoilt somewhere along the way…

Whilst the biggest irritation for me was dealing with three bored children in the back of the car and a lack of central heating in the caravan, we did at least have an indoor pool, restaurant, cafes, amusement arcades, an onsite playground & shop, a launderette, a clubhouse with nightly entertainment, a kids club, an open top bus to the (nearby sandy) beach and most importantly, a bar!!

My Mum and Dad, God bless them, took me and my three sisters camping in a tent (and not the pop-up-and-peg-down-in-ten-minutes variety); oh no, where was the hardship to be had in that? What they had, was an honest-to-goodness canvas sheet that had to be moulded and sewn into place on-site and then held in place from the battering winds by about a million tent pegs and two parents taking turns to sleep. We holidayed in fields with a cold water tap in the centre and took our toilet with us. My parents would fill an enormous plastic water tank from the central tap every morning and boil and cool it every time we wanted a drink. They cooked our meals using a tiny one ring burner and entertained us with books and board games (over which we constantly argued and were ungracious in our losses). They washed and dried the feather sleeping bags we manage to piss in every single night for 2 weeks and it rained the entire time we were there. They made picnics, filled a 10 litre bottle of squash for us all (duly boiled and cooled) and carried the whole lot plus wind breakers, towels, beach balls, buckets and spades to the beach and back every single day.

We would argue and shout for the entire journey to and from our destination, forcing our parents to distract us with games of eye-spy and guess the animal, whilst simultaneously trying to manhandle a fold out map of our destination into position (no luxury of a satnav for them), locate potential toilet stops along the way with adequate space for exercising the dog and doling out sucky sweets, slaps and comforting words in equal measure. By the time we all arrived, Mum was a nervous wreck and Dad had almost dislocated his back in his haste to get the hip flask out. On arrival back home at the end of the holidays, Mum would have a heap of clothes to wash, dry and iron and Dad would be checking his watch to see when he could get back to work, desperate to escape to some realm of sanity.

I had all but forgotten this until I spoke to Mum to tell her we were back home safely and moaned about the lack of sunshine and cold mornings. She told me I didn’t know how lucky I had it compared to the family holidays they took when we were young and I had to admit, I was somewhat astonished when she explained. I racked my brain for memories of these alleged trips to hell but all I can recall are singing happy melodies with my sisters in the car, giggling madly during copious games of snap, unending beaches, 24-hour sunshine and the ubiquitous pot noodle. The only argument I ever remember having was about who had the pickled onion monster munch on our glorious sun-drenched picnics.

When, expecting the worst, I asked my own kids if they’d had a nice time inDevon, they told me they’d had the best time EVER and that I was so cool for taking them there and begged me to take them back to the exact same place as soon as possible as it was so amazing.

I have to admit I’m a little gobsmacked. I feel as though I’ve been in some alternate universe for the past week while my family has been holidaying somewhere else without me. And following on from the phone calls to my Mum, I’m pretty sure my poor old parents must have felt similarly bewildered when they got us home all those years ago…

Leave a comment »

The terrible twos – it gets better right?

My son started ‘the terrible twos’ aged about 15 months and as he approaches his third birthday, he’s still suffering (as are the rest of us) from his condition. What I’ve been forced to regretfully conclude is that what I thought was merely a rite of passage that all toddlers (and their families) are forced to endure might in actual fact, merely be his adult personality emerging. I mean the one we might be stuck with for the rest of our lives. And of course, I blame his father.

It’s not that I wasn’t prepared for the terrible twos; I do in fact have an older daughter who was particularly challenging aged 2 but she came out the other side a sunnier happier child. Not so my son however!

If I say ‘no,’ to anything, he cries, if I say ‘maybe not this time’ he throws something and if my daughter dares to object to anything, he slaps her. I’ve lost count of the number of times he’s been naughty-stepped, sent to his room, had toys removed and been forced to apologise, but it makes no difference.

When I mentioned this behaviour to my mum, she suggested that maybe my expectations of ‘the little lad’ were too high and that it’s nice to have a child with some get-up-and-go. WTF?

It’s not that he doesn’t have a sweet side (he does) and the kisses and hugs I get from him are relentless (and very much appreciated) but my mum admits he reminds her of a little girl she once knew who had a nasty temper, a tendency to throw things when angry and an olympic capacity for sulking.

I don’t ever remember meeting that little girl but mum assured me (with raised eyebrows) that she grew out of it all eventually and went on to have a lovely little family of her own. I wonder where she is now…

6 Comments »

The terror of the play date

Now I can’t profess to being an expert in organising play dates for my two.  One, because my youngest is too young to host them and two, because trying to arrange them is like entering into hostage release negotiations. When I was a kid, having someone over for tea involved nothing more complicated than playing with another child at school, enjoying their company, promptly asking them to come to tea and then informing our respective mothers at the School_Gates that that was the plan. The mothers would nod to each other and the ‘winner’ would take home her prize of 2 children whilst the ‘loser’ would shrug her shoulders, round up her other children (with any play dates she had accumulated for that evening) and head off home herself. We’d eat whatever was put in front of us, play upstairs and go home either when we were bored or it was time for bed.

Now, it’s quite a different story and the play date has turned into a regimented procedure that is run with almost Teutonic efficiency and goes something like this.

  1. Establish co-ordinates of target’s mother
  2. Approach mother with potential Plan of Action (PoA)
  3. Confer regarding possible dates, consult diaries, ballet schedules and football tournaments etc
  4. Allow 24 hours for affirmative confirmation

24 hours later…

  1. Commence initiation sequence
  2. Confirm date and issue password for collection at the School_Gates
  3. Establish dietary requirements, allergies and play preferences
  4. Draw up menu and request sign off by target and target’s mother
  5. Establish post-rendezvous collection time

Once I actually have these children in my home, I am amazed at the constant bombardment of demands bearing in mind I always thought that going to someone else’s house was supposed to be a treat. ‘Why can’t we eat in front of the TV?’ ‘I don’t like peas, can I have baked beans?’ ‘Why can’t we play in your (mum’s) room?’ And once, rather alarmingly ‘Why do you only have 2 toilets? We have 3.’ To which I replied, somewhat confused, ‘How many were you planning on using?’ My daughter, rather oddly spent much of the week following that date asking for another toilet to be installed in the house (!)

So, here’s the thing, I’ve decided that whilst having an evening free when my own kids are at after-school play dates can be rather lovely and relaxing, I’m not convinced that the pay-off of having to invite these children back to my own house is actually worth it. So there it is, decision made. I’m not going to have any more of my daughter’s friends over for tea after school unless there’s something in it for me which means a) I’m friends with the mum and we can sit and drink wine while the kids play and b) they’ve got less toilets in their house than us.

6 Comments »