They say all good things must come to an end. And so it was with the school summer holidays.
I always have mixed feelings about the half-term and end-of-term breaks. On the plus side it’s fantastic to have an extra hour in bed in the mornings. It’s also brilliant to enjoy some quality time with my children. On the minus side, my working day is severely disrupted because – oops – they’re children only in name. The reality is I’m living with teenagers. Young adults. And actually they don’t want quality time with their mother. What they absolutely do want, however, is knowing whether I’ve washed/ironed/sewed a button on their jeans/skirt/shirt/blouse because they are needed. Now. So anticipated moments of happy togetherness would instantly disintegrate into a frenzy of mutually soaring stress levels.
Other disruptions were unscheduled taxi services. The nineteen year old had a habit of suddenly saying, ‘Any chance of you quickly chucking me over to so-and-so’s house?’ By using the words quickly and chucking I was instantly misled to believe that the so-and-so in question lived just around the corner. Not ten miles away. Or even twenty miles away. Which made for rather prolonged round trips. Especially in rush hour. I only wised up to this ruse in the final week. ‘I borrowed some stuff off Harry,’ said my son, ‘and he wants it back. I don’t really want to see him though. Would you mind quickly chucking it back for me?’ As Harry lived 30 minutes away and I was desperate to hit the supermarket, my response was swift. ‘No problem. Just so long as I can quickly chuck you at Tesco’s en-route.’ Touché. My son looked suitably gobsmacked. But he dutifully did my shopping while I returned a stack of CDs to his mate.
My daughter, just 15 and not yet ready to totally sever the invisible umbilical cord, had far sweeter tactics. ‘I love you Mum. What about we have some girlie time together and go shopping?’ For this, read her shopping and me paying. But I fall for it every time.
I'd drive us to Bluewater, full of anticipation. That fizzled out upon being dragged into the type of shops that were only a teenager’s paradise. Not a middle-aged woman in sight. Well not on the shop floor anyway. Instead they were standing with hunched shoulders and resigned expressions outside changing cubicles, credit cards clutched possessively to matronly bosoms. Yes, they were waiting for their own teenaged daughters to finish slithering into fabulous figure-hugging jobbies. Take Lipsy for example. Gorgeous dresses in sizes small, medium and large. But in Lipsy these sizes actually translate as 6, 8 and 10. I do not know any truly large woman who would fit into a Lipsy dress. Not unless she wanted to look like a particularly porky sausage in the grip of a very tight bandage.
‘Let’s go to M&S,’ I eventually suggested. As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I cringed. They were the same words my mother had dared to utter decades earlier when I was teenager. Back then my feelings about M&S had been the same as my daughter’s today. A shop for old people. ‘You sound just like grandma. You’ll be admiring that polyester dress next.’ ‘Don’t be ridiculous!’ I spluttered. And moved smartly away from a dress that was...no it couldn’t be....hell it was. Polyester. Needless to say the only shopping I achieved was in the M&S cafe, Revive. If my credit card had been human I’d have offered it a cappuccino. For it certainly needed a bit of reviving if my daughter’s copious shopping bags were anything to go by.
But suddenly peace reigned. My son went back to uni. I waved him off, wiping my tears with a less than fresh tea towel. And instantly broke out in conjunctivitis. My daughter went back to school informing me there was a forgotten academic review we both needed to attend. I binned the manky tea towel and took my red eyes off to meet the new form teacher - who looked a dead ringer for a twelve year old. I hope the form doesn't gang up on her.
Which reminds me. Did you hear about the cross-eyed teacher? She had trouble with her pupils...