Tag Archives: September

Don’t worry, mama: the first day of school makes you cry for a reason

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So anyway, that was the first week of school.

H went back on Monday. My social media feeds have been full of kids going to school for the first time (and the accompanying parental meltdowns). It brought back last September for me in a great, vivid wave; I could almost taste it: the fear and the excitement and the pining, almost. I saw a lot of mothers apologising or feeling embarrassed for getting so emotional – as I did too, last year. What is it about starting school that means so much to us? Perhaps it’s the first determined step in a long road that leads away from us? Or maybe it’s because we’re sending them deliberately, and for the first time, into an environment where they have the possibility of being hurt. In a lot of ways, it represents an ending for us as much as a beginning for them. I know I worried that I hadn’t done enough, been enough, tried hard enough, during that time when I’d been everything to him.

It was less, this year, that feeling. But still there: he’s not the baby anymore, and watching him march into the big school building towards proper Maths and Stuff, tearfully clutching PE kit and book bag to his chest, was a bit of a killer. It was a big deal for him, but he did it, all week. I was proud of him, and so were his robots and superheroes (they are too manly and stiff-upper-lip to say so, of course, so they expressed it through the medium of doughnuts).

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I saw someone say online that the first day of school and the first time they learn to ride a bike are the same sort of milestone, the same sauntering off into independence while we hurt and hope behind them. As it happens, he learned how to ride a bike this week, too. GOOD TIMING, BUDDY.

We cycled to and from school for two days. He’s weirdly happy and confident about it – willing to try again when he messes up, improving astonishingly quickly, and asking for extra cycling sessions with Tim after dinner. I was surprised, but I think he’s just stumbled across his freebie: that thing you’re good at without having to try very hard. He’s found his Nimbus Two Thousand, basically. See also: me and eating cake. See not also: me and riding bikes (I crashed more than H did. T is heavy).

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Then T, who had two settling-in sessions at nursery towards the end of the week. I was totally blase about this one – he isn’t afraid of anything except invisible spiders, and definitely not rooms full of toys or new people. He had a blast, and was about as loud as one. And yet I STILL got ambushed by Feelings: if anyone knows how to look at your three-year-old stomping off in his miniature shiny black school shoes and too-large trousers without whimpering audibly, let me know. It didn’t happen here.

So now, a new frontier: T starts properly on Monday, and I’ll be without them both for two hours a day. I’ve been trying to think of useful things to do with that time – my first regular, unbargained- and unpaid-for time alone for some years – and so far all my brain’s come up with is naps.

Anything else, brain?


I guess we’ll start there, then.

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This is September calling. It’s time to change your life.

You guys, September is in the air. Can you smell it? It smells like freshly sharpened pencils (tm Tom Hanks).

A whiff of September is irresistible to me. Eau de New Start. I buy stationery I don’t need and embark upon life-improving projects. It’s the sort of month where I start feeling like I might want a new lampshade, because what COULDN’T you accomplish with a fancy lampshade in your living room? The Cakery Bakery project was a product of September. It’s a good month for beginning things you’ve always wanted to begin, and that is the truth of it.

Today, poorly Henry and I have been holed up in the house with rain spattering the windows. I have cleaned and thought, stopped cleaning out of boredom, restarted and thought some more. Here’s what I want from myself in the last leg of this year:

Write well. Work hard at it. Write about things that matter.

I just don’t know anything better for understanding myself and my surroundings than working it out in words. I love this little blog – it’s become something essential to me, unexpectedly – and I want to make it a place worth visiting.

Make definite, uncrossable, computerless spaces in our day.

Did you know, Henry knows how to switch on an iPhone? He can’t talk, but he can swipe. The phone signal down in Dorset was awful, and I was surprised (but not really) by how clearly I can think, how many more things I notice, when cut off from a screen. I would like to resurrect our computer-free zones and the iPhone spirit prison, and maybe September will help them stick.

Read. Poetry and all. 

A bit of literary criticism does me a heck of a lot of good, even if it’s just by myself.

Really, truly listen.

To both my boys. To the people I’ve asked how they are without stopping for an answer. For the things that are said and the things that aren’t said.

Vacuum at least once a week. Do laundry more often than that.


In addition, we are planning a month of diet detox and I just feel like life would be more sparkly with at least two more notebooks and a set of coloured pens. Paperchase, you and I have a date with destiny. Let’s get this month ON A ROLL.

The Sweaty Smell of Success

I miss academia most often in September. There’s something about all the irresistibly tempting Back to School stands in Tesco that makes me wish I were starting a new term of something – something that gives me an excuse to spend lots of money in bookshops, and write essays, and expand my soggy brain with lovely new words and ideas. There are things I don’t miss about school and university (falling asleep in the library and wearing the same jumper for days on end spring to mind), but at this time of year I forget about all of them. I’m overtaken by a vague, powerful longing to buy new pads of A4 paper and accost people on the street to tell them what I think about Restoration theatre.

It's like a drug.

It's like a drug.

I wonder how long it will take before September stops being my Month of the Fresh Start? It hasn’t yet, anyway, so in the three years (ulp) since I graduated I’ve attempted to do something different once summer is over, mostly to distract myself from that pencil case stand in Tesco. This year I decided to freshen up our flat. The shower was broken. A good start. Also, the shower curtain was about three bacteria away from moving around of its own accord. Time to get rid. The walls could do with some attention, too: the previous occupants left in a lot of random wall plugs, and we never removed or painted over them. A picture frame might be nice. Or a cabinet! My, the possibilities were endless.

The shower was our first mistake. You’d think that a simple desire to wash in the mornings would be easy to satisfy, but not so: having taken off the old, crusty shower once it had finally clanked itself into silence, we sallied forth to the DIY shops in Reading. We knew (although in retrospect, how little we knew) that our boiler wouldn’t take an electric shower, so we’d need…the other kind. Having accidentally bought an electric shower, we took it back, and sallied forth again with a little less enthusiasm. Turned out the ‘other kind’ was a power shower, now as rare as gold-dust and just about as expensive. We decided that an electric shower was our only financially viable option, and went back to pick up the shower we’d returned not an hour previously. Then we went to a different shop, mostly out of shame, and bought a glass bath screen. That evening, we discovered a) the new, electric shower wouldn’t fit into the space the old shower had occupied; b) some more tiling would therefore be required; c) the screen was missing half its parts. Tim went back to B&Q for supplies, and spent an hour chipping away at the wall before the very sharp and conveniently rusty chisel he was using buried itself into his hand. It bled rather a lot, unsurprisingly. Once we’d bandaged it up between us, I sent him downstairs and started cleaning up the mess we’d made. I came down to find him attempting to open an oven pizza with his head. Such was the stress of the day.

Monday saw the tiling finished, the shower fitted, the gaping hand wound healed and no resultant tetanus – so far, so good. We switched on the shower. It didn’t work. After a bit of fiddling, Tim concluded that it wouldn’t work, ever, and we definitely needed a power shower. We took the electric shower off the wall, and spent the remainder of the evening sobbing ‘I just want to be clean’ into our respective pillows. End of day two.

On Tuesday we took the electric shower back, having carefully drained it of water and packaged it all up as much as possible. Thankfully the people at Wickes accepted the return and gave us the money back, although they had no more power showers in stock. Tim went to Bracknell and bought the power shower. I returned home from my meeting at 10.30pm to find him banging his head against the wall in our cistern cupboard (quite a small space to conduct a tantrum): we were missing a pipe we needed. Still no working shower. We smelled, rather a lot. End of day three.

Wednesday finally brought relief. Not only did the shower work, but it was the BEST shower this world has ever seen, thus making up for the days of hell that preceded it. Still, it hasn’t been an auspicious beginning to the month – if replacing the shower turned out to be a seven-day wrestle with plaster and piping, what horrors might the wall plugs unleash?! We wait with bated breath.

Is this really what adults do in September? All things considered, I’d much rather be talking about Restoration Theatre. Get me an A4 pad, wide-ruled, sharpish. And one of those little coloured markers. I love those.

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