Is it only me who’s been caught completely by surprise by the end of the summer holidays? It seems like only days ago that the entire holidays stretched before us waiting to be filled with sunshine and memories. There were days out to be planned, play dates to be arranged and picnics to be prepared. And just as I’m getting the hang of it, suddenly it’s time for the kids to go back to school again.
So now we’re into a whole new kind of planning. Every item of school uniform must be laid out on the bed, tried on and sorted into piles: a pile for clothes that fit the eldest child; a pile for clothes that fit the youngest; a pile for clothes that are too small for the eldest, but too big for the youngest (put them to the back of the cupboard); and one for clothes that don’t fit either of my children any more (donate to friends with younger kids).
Then there’s a shopping trip for anything we’re still missing, followed by an evening of lovingly sewing name tapes on everything. And, in case you’ve never done it, sewing name tapes on is one of the dullest jobs in the world.
The final item of school uniform is new shoes. All parents know that children make a point of growing out of their shoes as often as possible. Trying to keep your children in footwear that fits is like cutting an enormous hole in your pocket and then continuously filling it up with £20 notes. It is an expensive and demoralising task.
And somehow, between the last minute shopping and the final playdates, a haircut must be fitted in. I know, of course, that within seconds of arriving at school my children’s hair will look like a bush, and it will stay like that for the rest of term, but at least they will be presentable when they arrive in the playground on the first day.
This is also the point in the holidays when I generally have a bit of a panic-up that other, more diligent, parents have been practising the times tables with their children and reading War and Peace to them at bedtime. I have obviously left it far too late to do any of that, and my children stare at me blankly as I call out maths questions over breakfast.
So now we are ready. My children have had their hair cut. They have uniforms that fit and new shoes waiting to be scuffed. It’s truly the end of the holidays and the start of the new school year. I just hope that times tables are like riding a bicycle…