Submitted by Amanda Tsinonis, mother of three girls and one dog, living in London…
At 9.30am today, I was back at my desk, ready for a days work. My calm, very “zen” colleague Harpreet walked in and we booted up our computers. I sighed- looking somewhat dishevled, “What a day!” to which she replied “Don’t sigh yet, its only just started”
Oh noooo, no no. Not for me it had not. I got up as usual at 6.45am (after a coffee in bed, thank goodness I married a “morning person”). The deal I have with the kids is that on Fridays – IF the kids are ready and out the door for our walk to school by 8am (that is the condition), I buy them a yummy pain au chocolate from the baker en route to school which starts at 8.30. Eating slows them down so we need to make time for it! (this pic is one such morning). After much cajoling (did I say much, much, much cajoling?) we get out the door at 8.10am. So we are already cutting it fine:
blackberry, keys, money – check
2 school bags on my back – check
1 heavy sports kit – check
1 show and tell item – check
2 break snacks
1 crazy dog pulling on leash – check
tennis ball to tire crazy dog – check
pooh bags – check
pooh bags – double check
sanity – urm, no!
My shoulders are already up around my ears and I am sweating profusely in sub-zero temperatures. Off we set down the road and for the THIRD time this week Isabella lobs the ball into a garden – dog can’t find it and fun turns into tears. So I spend 5 minutes trying to find the ball. Finally we give up and have to keep going at which point I announce, “Sorry, no time for pain au chocolates, 5 minutes before school starts”. Oh and the tears… and tears. Its 8.25am, I am struggling with dog, bags and wailing children over Richmond Bridge. Bella turns to me and says ” Thats just not fair, we had a deal and you broke it!” Tatiana chimes “yes, thats right!”
Bella continues”Next time you have a tea party in the calendar, I am going to take a pen and cross it out, see how you feel!”
Interesting she said that because I find myself having a petty thought, “What tea parties make you think I ever have tea parties, I wish I had more time for a tea party – Desperate Housewives and all that.” Obviously I keep that thought to myself.
I turn to both of them: “Did you keep your deal and be ready by 8am?” Silence
“Tati, your hair looks like a rats nest, did you brush it today?” …Silence
“Did you brush your teeth Tatiana ?” Silence.
“Isabella – you were playing with your cereal today, you lost the ball, and now we are late. Just stop crying”. She cranks up the volume to intolerable levels of “fake waah waah”. All of a sudden – I snap. I go into mother rage and I find myself shouting and pointing fingers on Richmond Bridge as the traffic crawls by. People stare. Oh God, the parenting books! What did they say again? Oh please please remember.
Ah yes “Behave in a completely opposite way to what they expect, change YOUR behavior” and “Let there be a consequence for their behavior.” What consequence can there be 3 minutes away from the school gates in the full, glaring view of the London rush hour? Think, think!
So, I slow down. From raving, sweating, finger pointing monster to eerily collected with a lopsided mental-asylum smile. “Okay girls. I seem to be the only one who cares that you get to school on time. Lets swap okay? I’ll go slow, you rush me”. I get sideways are-you-serious glances (we always make it, not been late for school in over a year). I peer over the bridge to check the tide, give Jazz a little cuddle, slow my steps down – start pretending to be enjoying my morning (just short of whistling). At the bottom of Richmond Hill I stop at all the antique and jewelry store windows and have a conversation (with myself) about antique earings. I show Jazz a painting of a puppy window of an art shop and ask him if he’d like a portrait too. I stop to talk to an old lady. Kids are getting panicky as the last of school kids vanish off the sidewalk. Jazz decides to have a crap and I tell him to take his time. Kids are now walking 10 steps ahead of me, they say “We’ll just go to school on our own” to which I reply “Sure, but I have your bags – so wait for me at the gates. Dad would love this wine bottle opener don’t you think? ” Tatiana starts hopping from frustration (like she needs a wee). Bella says cautiously “I love you Mom, but I don’t like the shouting” (aaah, so it does sink in!!) I chat to one or two puzzled mums greeting me on the way home – and I give them the sideways-tap of my nose, “Mum’s turn to take her time today…” Aaah, they get it and chorus “gooood ideaaa! ”
Finally we get to school and they are locked out. Shock horror they have to go via the headmistress’s office. Wobbly bottom lips and lots of snot. I tie the dog up slowly, hand over the bags to the girls who give me the don’t-make-me-walk-in-alone -look. And I give them the oh-yes look. I give them a gentle shove into the doorway and a bimbo “toodles” wave, turn around and walk home.(Of course I waited around the corner to see they got in, plus I secretly phoned Veronica in the school office to make sure they were okay). She said she saw thin smiles, but all seemed fine. Some how I doubt we’ll be late on Monday. .
Now,anyone would be forgiven for thinking my morning got better from there. Oh no no no. I know what I did was a bit cunning, but actually it was alot of acting on my part – and it took me a good 20 min walk along the river to unwind. Jazz chased all the geese into the water like the lunatic he is. By the time I turn back up my road, I felt calmer. A lady opens her front door to let her friend in and says “Oh hi honeeeeey” in a high-pitched voice. Jazz thinks its Christmas and the welcome is for him. He races down her driveway, knocks her off her feet, runs into her house (dripping wet, covered in mud)- into her conservatory – and gobbles the cats breakfast. The owner is flailing about. The cat emerges, Jazz goes bezzerk and chases the cat up the carpeted stairs (sound effects of nails on carpets). I am a fumbling idiot, wresting with my slippery dog on my hands and knees in this woman’s hallway. She and her friend stare with open mouths at this comedy unfolding in front of them (although not funny at the time!) . I finally get my dog under control (desperate to smack the living daylights out of him, but would not dare – this is England, where they love dogs more than old people!). I stand up, leash in hand, dust myself off and with my last shred of dignity, look the woman in the eye and apologize profusely. She’s about to tell me off for not having had him on a leash in the first place, I feel it coming… pause…. “My, you – you do have an energetic dog…!” How very British – he’s mad, the whole thing was mad – the mud on my face, hands, jeans, carpets, cat – prove it. But I thank her for being so sweet, mumble my apologies and reverse out. When nobody is looking, I bonk Jazz on the head. HARD!
When I get home, I see Nina outside the house with our part time nanny Klara. Nina is refusing to walk to school. This time, I secure Jazz in our back garden, lock the house up for a second time and walk back down the road again with Nina. I force my shoulders down and she babbles happily. I put a pound coin in her palm and tell her – “Its Friday, lets buy you a Pain au Chocolat”
So when I sit down to work at 9.30am – I feel I’ve earned the right to say “Phew what a day!”
(Picture: What possessed me to buy the most energetic breed of all kinds? I think its time for “the chop” although George is trying to find him at least one shag first but he had better hurry. Time is running out and dog testosterone mounting. Maybe the snip can cure farting too)