In our house, everything is a catastrophe, and I mean everything. Case in point, those bastard PTA Christmas Cards. Do all schools do this these days? For the uninitiated, the children illustrate a blank piece of card which you then send off with a cheque and a lot of aggravation to receive 6 copies back to show friends how talented your off-spring are.
Last year, I organised this whole fucking charade on behalf of the PTA and the whole experience put years on me- motoring back and forth to Holywood and counting cash that was actually labelled ‘dinner money’ or opening envelopes which allegedly contained £18 but were, in fact empty.
On Tuesday, the children arrive home in a state of excitement, bordering on agitation. ‘We have to do our Christmas cards! By tonight! Can I do a dog wearing a hat?’ I pass the felt tips and tell them the dog can be doing whatever he wants, as long as I don’t have to draw him. Off course, I end up drawing numerous dogs on a practice sheet, ‘just for ideas’ before the Small Child finally decides that her first attempt was her finest. I check my 900 What’s App messages and see that they have actually have until Friday, which gives them ample opportunity to decide they hate their designs and contemplate other notions.
The Older Child has been practising her reindeer drawing skills when she suddenly becomes distraught because she has LOST HER CARD. ‘It’s ok, don’t panic!’ I say, as I am trying to fry chicken thighs and onion, as I run between the laundry room unloading the tumble drier while I ask the Small Child her spelling. ‘But remember Georgina,’ the Small Child says gravely, her forefinger in the air: the teachers said ‘NO REPLACEMENTS’. Sobbing begins anew. I look longingly at the wine bottle I have opened to add to the Spanish Chicken. ‘There isn’t a bat in hell’s chance of only flinging this wine into the dinner this evening,’ I think to myself as I pour a glass. It is only 6.25 and I had hoped to hold off until 9pm, when I have an episode of ‘Big Little Lies’ to look forward to.
‘And Mummy,’ the Older One cries, I still have to make the robot!’
‘What robot?’ I growl. She came home on Monday wittering about this and I assumed naively that this was a product of her lively imagination, since there was no mention of it in her homework diary, and I continued to lie on the sofa like a collapsed lung.
She hands me a small crumpled note which I read, my heart growing wearier with every word. ‘This week, instead of numeracy homework, children are to make a 3D robot (not life size!) You can get plenty of ideas for these on Pinterest!’
I fucking HATE Pinterest. Nothing on Pinterest ever turns out to be ‘simple’: even navigating the site isn’t simple. Making a robot CERTAINLY isn’t simple: you end up needing a soldering gun and access to the technology department in local school.
Now you would think, what with me being a keen recycler and re-user of stuff, that this sort of project would have me skipping about with excitement, but you would be wrong. I am too busy to be painting yogurt pots and sticking them to shoe boxes with double sided tape. I am cooking meals from scratch and chopping up fresh pineapple and oranges to boost our immune systems so we don’t fall prey to the pestilences stalking the country.
I know that I’m missing the point, that of course it is my 8 year old, not me, who should be cutting and sticking and creating. Sadly though, it never quite works out this way does it? And you don’t want to be the parent who sends the child in with a pile of shite while everyone else’s junk model looks like something you might pay £40 for in St George’s Market.
The other day my godchild and her little sister came to visit and expressed a desire to watch ‘Peppa Pig’. ‘Alright,’ I said, because shoving small children in front of a television is a very easy way of looking after them. I recommend it highly. I thought that I must have endured every episode of ‘Peppa Pig’ ever made, but apparently not, as there was a new one. In this one, Madame Gazelle asks the children to make a castle out of junk, and Peppa and Suzy Sheep and Pedro Pony all clap and ‘ooh’ and ‘ah’. Their parents, however, exhibit less enthusiasm, and when they arrive with the finished articles their faces convey great exasperation. I saw a lot of myself in the grim expression of Mummy Pig.
It is now Sunday and the robot-making is still in the early stages. For four days the robot has consisted of the recently emptied shoebox, a pair of shit binoculars that my dad got for free on a cruise and part of a CD holder. It would not win any prizes for ingenuity. ‘I think it would look better painted,’ I say, ‘except obviously we’re not going to do that.’
The Older Child then, and I was rather impressed with this, suggested tinfoil, which obviates the need for any pesky painting and glue, and we might make some toilet roll arms. That’s as good as it’s going to get, I’m afraid. Tragically, all these creative ideas seem to have lit something within them, and late this afternoon they used my good scissors to cut up cardboard from which they plan to make festive elves to stick to the windows. These can jostle for room alongside the black cat stickers which are still up from Halloween festivities. I’m contemplating just buying Elf Hat stickers and adding those on. I may then pop hearts round them for Valentine’s so they can be ‘Love Cats’ and perhaps get them bonnets for Easter. I’m actually starting to embrace all this myself. How very odd.