September…. Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, well Autumn at least, and excitingly in 2020 the Grand Return to School after 24 weeks at home. When Mike came to me in my office in early May and said it was 17 weeks before he thought the kids would go back to school (and we were already a significant way into lockdown) I thought he was joking. I literally couldn’t fathom what the next 4 months would look like. Well from the other side, it looked like a wonderful mess of craziness! Great things like family bike rides, lying in the sunshine on a weekday afternoon, making and creating, Lego, so much Lego, freedom from routines, discovering audiobooks, Minecraft, lazy mornings, PJs all weekend, no plans, family Zoom calls, working our way through all the Harry Potter films in the evenings and endless time. That is how I hope the kids will remember it and I want to too, although my recollections are also tinged with relentless work schedules, squeezing work in in the early mornings, bargaining with the kids on my “childcare” shifts when I had to take meetings or finish pieces of work, trying not to think about the enormity of everything we are trying to do in order to deliver a good educational experience in the Autumn, some horribly difficult and tear inducing work situations and then some wonderful meetings with colleagues that induced tears of laughter. Bottom line I guess is that I am hugely aware of my privilege to arrive in September healthy and relatively sane.
So, here we are, all four children in school! And for the first time in 14 years I do not have a newborn, under 5 or am pregnant in September! That is a significant chunk of my life. The return to school is so complicated that I had to make a spreadsheet so that I could get my head around childcare, school drop offs and just generally where everyone was. As Antonia has just started school she has a phased start and Sylvia’s school has building works so she is doing a phased return with remote school in the afternoons – which actually was super handy for the afternoon school pick-ups which are all staggered!
I have to admit that I had forgotten (and did NOT miss in lockdown) all the admin around dealing with 3 childcare settings (actually 2, but Reception is different), the endless amounts of school uniform required – surely having had 4 children go through the same school we would have enough? but it seems children keep growing so always need pants, and the “presence” required for mornings. I had forgotten that getting children ready for school generally means hanging around in a central location in the house issuing “requests” that get ignored and being shouted out as well as being expected to know the location of every item that might be required in preparation for school. This could be anything from a random hair clip to a book or even a teddy. Sigh. This meant that my beautifully crafted early morning work routines have gone out of the window, even when I am not involved in the school run. That is why I used to leave the house at 6.45am on the days I commuted to work! I’m struggling a bit with this transition and I think I just need to hang in there. We’ve had three weeks of the transitional routine when we also had childcare and from Monday all 4 kids will be out of the house from 8.30am to around 4pm. And although we don’t have childcare I think I just need to accept that the mornings might have gone for now, however, I have gained time elsewhere. They are loving school though and its great to see how happy they are to be back. And I guess so am I – although I do miss them!