My usual weekday routine is different this week. I am going to a new place for whole days to write, and listen and talk about writing. My friends are being stalwarts and collecting the children from school. I have not been around for the last two evenings and they have gone to bed without me.
When I finally come in, I go up to see them in their beds, asleep. I always go in just before my own bedtime, but this is an early, unscheduled visit, out of our routine. The youngest lies in a tangle of upside-down-bedding, the poppers on the duvet cover having burst open leaving half the duvet hanging out. Her sheet is not much better underneath her from what I can see. The cursory tucking in round the corners that I go in for seems to have come loose, again. I make a mental note to change her bed, but it will have to wait until she is not asleep in it. As if to somehow soften the jagged edges of unruly bedsheets and tangled duvet covers, she has wrapped herself in another patchwork cotton quilt. She is up to her ears in it like a Russian babushka, keeping out the cold. I kiss her and she opens her eyes and says something. It does not make sense. She is still asleep. I leave the room, treading on towels and clothes and the toys on the floor. Change the bed and pick things up off the floor…
The eldest has probably left her CD player on. She is in the habit of falling asleep to an audio book and as a result can quote the opening passages of Winnie the Pooh, Cat in the Hat and Treasure Island verbatim. I can do the same with the Railway Children, although I did not fall asleep to that – a vinyl record wearing out the needle on the turntable all night being an unacceptable addition to a 1970s nocturnal routine. The cat may be there on the bed too. As the weather at night has taken a colder turn my daughter has dragged out a terrible acrylic tiger print blanket that she begged off her grandmother. I hate it. She loves it. The cat loves it too. I am noting all the things I expected to see when I went in last night. In fact all I remember seeing is what I didn’t expect. She had taken one of my bed t-shirts I had been wearing, one printed in pink owls, and used it as a secondary pillow case. Smell is one of her things, a comfort she says when I am not there to put her to bed, although in truth she puts herself to bed now.
I asked her about it this morning. She said having the smell of me when she falls asleep stops her having bad dreams. As much as we rationalise and reflect and cogitate and ruminate, it is a good reminder that we are still very much governed by animal instincts. And that is not at all a bad thing. Not in my book.
Here is Edward Bear (later named Winnie-The-Pooh), coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping a moment and think of it. And then, he feels that perhaps there isn’t. Anyhow, here he is at the bottom, and ready to be introduced to you.
From Winnie-The-Pooh, by A.A. Milne
I wrote a post about this on September 7th 2 years ago which, for some reason, has been viewed *1393 times in the intervening period.
Given yesterday’s theme about Time, and it being a man-made measure of the universe’s physical processes, I feel more inclined to note the changes that have occurred between the last post about Going Back to School and this one; change after all being that which the time man makes the measure of. I’m not sure if that sentence makes sense, but if it doesn’t neither does a clock that ticks off 60 seconds in a minute and 60 minutes in an hour. Not really…
Two years ago the kids had heads full of missing teeth and I was on Tooth Fairy duty. Now the eldest doesn’t believe in the Tooth Fairy or Father Christmas and no-one’s teeth fell out this morning. Result.
This year I asked the youngest if she was taking her standard issue book bag with her. The eldest replied for her
Book Bags are so out of fashion in Year 3
Oh. That explains why she hasn’t carried one for the last two years then; she’s now in Year 5 and wants to play the violin. I don’t much care for the violin having tried it myself but I am rather keen on her getting to grips with mathematical concepts this year, never mind what bag she’s carrying.
I don’t share these views with them. I don’t share that whilst they are probably a little bit nervous, but mainly happy to be going back to school, I am keeping how I feel (tearful) to myself. It’s a balance as a parent isn’t it? Modelling appropriate feelings so kids learn not to be scared of emotions, how to handle their own and other peoples, but not burdening them with adult feelings when they have their own shit like which bag to take to school to deal with.
So I gave the youngest a hug, checking this was permissible; the oldest had already dropped my hand as soon as we crossed the main road near school because it was ’embarrassing’. I thought the oldest had vanished into the playground crowd, but she did look back and wave.
I have left them to their world of school and new teachers where time is strictly meted out and measured, and I have returned to my own world where time seems to fit neither the Greeks’ kronos or kairos concepts and instead wildly telescopes this way and that, and at other times, completely stands still.
Changing the subject because I’m not quite comfortable with it – we’ve not had a horse for a while on here. Here’s a rather nice one, with the youngest. She’s following a rather complex country sartorial code to do with trousers being tucked in/not tucked in to one’s wellies.
I have certain feelings about that last sentence, but I won’t burden you with them now.
*I only discovered that I could actually look this figure up when I wondered how many views the post had had. This post’s first draft read ‘hundreds of times’, the second draft a more modest ‘few hundred times’, third draft said **783 but I’ve since worked out that was for this year only. I feel a bit better now.
**Maybe it’s because it was tagged ‘Dentist’. Maybe I should tag everything Dentist…
to academic institutions makes me think, a lot.
Specifically, yesterday, it made me feel sick to think that whatever, and however, I regurgitate the received wisdom and body of knowledge from a prescribed list I am essentially being taught to think backwards and not forwards.
Because if you think forwards too much, no-one can mark it against the already determined learning outcomes…
Then I thought to charge people 9 grand a year for what’s already out there is a bit of a damn liberty and hardly a democratic education. And then I went home and told my kids to try and remember that their best learning is out in the world in the people they meet, and in the things they read, and the experiences they have and please not to think the only, or best, place for an education is in some ivory tower where you pay through the nose for the approved reading list.
And they said, Mum, you are random. And I suppose that is true. But I have learned for free that no-one ever looks their best in hammock.
Now we no longer send our children up chimneys, down the pit, into service and up yonder t’mill, they are a permanent fixture in the front room, hogging the telly and polluting the atmosphere with 21st Century noise.
I am sure we would be delighted to spend the day together under the former circumstance, especially if the children had walked miles clutching a posy of spring flowers; amongst the current din and general lack of consideration for others I would rather take myself off to the allotment with a bottle of booze.
Speaking of which, yesterday was a great day in the garden. I called it Lets see whats survived a harsh winter and six months of neglect? What came out of the regime best was the compost bin. Joy of joys, and totally unbelievably, I found I had converted all manner of doings into beautiful, sweet-smelling, light and fluffy rich compost. Well of course it was not I, it was the Universal Law of Energy: matter cannot be created or destroyed, only transmuted.
Now I just need to see if six months in the compost bin has the same effect on me.