I remember the sleepless nights when our eldest child was a colicky newborn, the frustrating times of him being a wilful three-nager, the daily meetings with his reception year teacher over his non-compliant behaviour, and I can even recall the times of the three hundred questions a day inquisitive six year old. However, I am still genuinely shocked, baffled and unprepared, that somewhere along the way, we have time travelled up to the point of now looking for our eldest’s secondary school choices. Our one hundred and twenty-six month old son is getting all ready to go from being a big fish in a small pond at primary school, to being a small fish in a big pond in secondary education, and I honestly don’t know who is more worried; him or me.
We have looked at no less than five local secondary schools with our precious little bundle, and the whole school vetting experience is a weird and wonderful adventure in itself, but sometimes more than others. As we started to work our way towards the end of our school list, one Tuesday night saw the whole school open evening malarkey, take on a whole new level of weird. So, picture this if you will, my son and I have quickly darted out to view a school, it is not considered to be one of our top three preferences, but hey, what could possibly go wrong? No harm in looking, and surely, it could not be any worse than the first school we visited, whereby we lost our tour group as I got far too carried away by enthusiastically playing with the bunsen burners, and chromatography in the science laboratory. Well, yes, it could get worse. My son and I are standing there in the school library trying to create some ancient Chinese book effect out of five lollipop sticks, seven blunt felt pens and two pieces of string with some arthritis ridden English teacher, and who should walk into the building but my ex, along with his wife and her son. Now, this is not too bad, as my ex and I actually have a great relationship, but his wife and I, well, apparently not, as the Ice Maiden entered the library, with a face that looks like it has sucked on a particularly sour lemon en route.
Now, those of you who know me, will know, I am not sour faced like this, in fact, I am more likely to be found lobbing lemons around for a giggle, as I think it is very important to stay connected with your inner child, plus I do not know what else to really do with lemons. So, here we are, standing in the library; my son, myself, the ex, the son, whilst Ice Maiden has marched off with a confidence that suggested she is sure her entourage will loyally follow her. They don’t. Instead, she is left alone to look awkward, standing there and pretending to read the book spines down a dead end of the library. I am not sure if that was where she envisaged herself ending up, down a paper-laden blockade, but that is exactly where she was, standing all alone, whilst the rest of us laughed about the lack of creative competence to make a Chinese book.
Thankfully, for her and myself, due to the nature of an open evening, we were promptly moved on to the next room, thereby being separated from the awkward encounters, and it was only when we later reached the GCSE Cookery kitchen that she actually took it upon herself to finally speak to me, so one assumes it was the heat from the ovens melting her frosty exterior, or it may have been from my annoyingly positive personality who will speak to anyone (the more miserable the better), and how I tried to create an ice-breaker over my love of chocolate Jazzies.
Now, I know it takes different types of folk to make the world go around (and the gravitational pull of the Sun helps too), but I stood there at numerous moments throughout the night, looking at this wonder of a woman, thinking how could one man, my ex, love two totally different women? Seriously, there was not one single connecting similarity between the two of us; she speaks at people with a harsh tone, I converse with people and use the gentle sense of touch, she doesn’t eat Jazzies, Jazzies (and bunsen burners) give me so much joy. And then, there is the dress sense, oh, man alive. This lady is not only harsh in her tone, but harsh in her attire; a fitted tweed blazer, tight jeans, and leather boots, whilst I am there dressed in a long, loose vest top, crystal necklace, leggings, strappy sandals and in your face nail polish to boot. Seriously, she looked like she had lost her horse, and I look liked I misplaced my yoga mat.
It truly was the most surreal two hours of my life of late, which just got more and more hilarious for me, (with the climax being my ex tripping going arse over tit down a school corridor mid conversation), and then finally, just as Madonna sang about making it through the wilderness, I nearly belted out a tune myself about making it through an open evening, at which point, Ice Maiden’s son came over to me and gave me an almighty, heartwarming hug. In the midst of all this adult madness and unresolved issues, this young soul spontaneously came over to me and cuddled me big time. I may be a strict mum, and I have no desire to be friends with my kids, as hanging out with a ten year old is just socially weird, but there is certainly a way to be a fun and approachable role model, and show respect for the world’s future adults, and not just be harsh i tone and nature like I had bared witness to all night. Am I a better parent than others? No, not at all, but when Ice Maiden’s child asked if he could come home with my son and I that night, it made me realise that I must be doing something right, even if my dress sense still leaves a lot to be desired.