I wish I was The Boy. No, honestly, I do. Instead of being my cynical, sarcastic, unimpressed self, I wish I could wake up every weekday morning in the same mood that he does. Instead of rolling out of bed, grumpy, underslept, and already fed up, I wish I could greet the start of every day in his own unique fashion. Every day is a new, unexplored box of mystery, waiting to be unpacked. What will the day bring? What will happen today? Who knows where the path will lead? It is Monday morning! What new delights await me?
Seriously, it’s amazing. He’s ten years old, he’s been going to school now for nearly a full six years. And yet… every school morning, it’s as though this is a brand new experience, unheard of, undreamt of, a constant reel of surprises. What’s even more impressive is that The Girl, only in Year 2, has lost this capacity, and yet her brother remains stunned by the daily routine.
The Girl’s morning goes something like this: Get up at some ridiculous eyewateringly early hour. Shout at me for breakfast until I give up ignoring her. Whilst waiting for me to make toast, get dressed in the clothes I laid out the night before. Eats breakfast. Reads a book. Puts shoes on. Gathers school stuff. Leaves.
The Boy, however, shuns such mundane and predictable routines. What is life for, if not for rollercoaster adventure? For white knuckle rides, and crashes of emotion? Live a little! By contrast, his mornings vary, but the overall narrative arc remains the same.
Seven o’clock. Alistair and I are up, barely functioning, but out of bed, shuffling around the kitchen and making coffee. Alistair goes up to shower, and gently shakes The Boy’s shoulder ‘Darling? Time to wake up.’ The Boy responds with a sound that suggests we have constructed a Wicker Man and filled it with everything he has ever held dear. Alistair showers, gets dressed, leaves for work.
Half past seven. I am showered and dressed. ‘The Boy? Darling? Darliiiiiing? It’s half past seven sweetheart. Time to get up.’ A noise, perhaps best described as ‘GNARRRRRRGHHHOHHH’ rumbles from under the duvet. I spend several minutes lacing up my boots before returning to the scene. ‘The Boy? Come on, you need to get up now.’ There is silence. A visual check confirms that the Boy has gone back to sleep. It is now quarter to eight. ‘The BOY! Come on! You need to get up! School today!’ He stirs. His first words, upon greeting the glorious new day that has broken ‘Alright! JESUS! I’m getting up!’ He remains in bed. I stand over him. ‘WHAT? I’m GETTING UP.’ ‘No you’re not.’ His response to this is to rub his cheek against the pillow, make a comforting ‘mmmm’ noise to himself, and then extend his arms ‘Mummy? Cuddle?’ I bestow a cuddle, and then stand back. ‘Are you getting up now?’ ‘Yes. Can I have a cup of tea?’
It is now eight o’clock. A cup of tea has been made. ‘The Boy?’ Silence. ‘THE BOY?’ THE. BOYYYYYYYYYYY.’ There are noises, suggesting that The Boy has got up. Or perhaps a manatee is attempting to take a crash course in tap dancing on the landing. Around three minutes later, a sullen ten year old male child galumphs grumpily into the living room. The effort required to complete this task means a full physical collapse onto a sofa is deemed necessary. ‘The Boy! It’s nearly ten past eight! You need to get dressed!’ ‘A pale, wan voice, better suited to a querulous academic in his eighties, is heard ‘Where are my clooooooothes?’ ‘ON THE BLOODY CHAIR WHERE I PUT THEM LAST NIGHT’. For my efforts, I receive a pleading, hurt face, and mutter to myself in an undertone ‘oafuhfuxake…’ Go upstairs, retrieve clothes, bring them back down, place on sofa next to the Child of Woe, and resume getting lunchboxes prepared, swimming and PE kits together, checking that The Girl has everything she needs in her bag. As I walk past the living room door I call out cheerfully ‘Five minutes Blondi… WHY AREN’T YOU DRESSED YET?’
The Boy is standing, completely starkers, scratching his stomach absentmindedly, a faraway look on his face. My howl of outrage pierces whatever distant galaxy he currently inhabits and he proffers me the socks I had thoughtfully provided him with ‘Mum? Mum? Mum? Do we have any other clean socks Mum? It’s just that these are like, really hard to put on, and they’re quite tight, and I’ve got swimming today, and it’s, like…’ To my eternal, maternal shame, I swipe the socks from his paw, run upstairs, return them to his sock drawer, select another pair of socks more suitable to beginner level, run back downstairs, and hand them over ‘…and it’d just take too much time, and I’d be feeling really stressed out about putting them back on…’
He’s still standing completely naked in the living room, having made no effort to dress himself in any way. ‘WE NEED TO LEAVE IN TWO MINUTES. GET DRESSED. GET DRESSED. GET DRESSED. GETDRESSSSSSSSED.’ Infuriatingly, The Boy adopts a hurt look, and yelps ‘Sorry!’ as though he’s accidentally punched me in the face. I drop my shoulders, exhale heavily, and give him A Look. ‘Oh yeah, sorry, I’ll get dressed now.’
In order to be at school on time, we need to leave the house at twenty past eight. It is 08:19. The Girl is waiting at the front door, immaculately attired, coat and shoes on, schoolbag on her back. The Boy… is slumped on the sofa. I bark ‘SHOES!’ at him. ‘Where are my shoes?’ Somehow, without swearing, I suggest his shoes are likely to be in the place WHERE YOU LAST LEFT THEM FOR CHRIST’S SAKE. A full five minutes passes, during which time school shoes are located, and agonisingly, painstakingly donned. By this point I’m hopping from foot to foot by the front door, uttering a chant of ‘come on come on come on we’re going to be late come on come on WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW?’
‘I need to fill in my reading record. Um. What have I read? Hmm… what. Have. I. Read… Ooh. I know! Oh. No, wait. That was the other week. Hmm…’
‘JESUS CHRIST THE BOY, WE NEED TO LEAVE NOW.’
‘But I have to hand in my reading record. Can’t find my pen….’ He ferrets, unproductively in his bag, for what feels like several days. Wordlessly, I hand him the stub of a pencil. Tongue sticking out, he carefully, s-l-o-w-l-y, fills in five days’ worth of reading. Then ‘You need to sign it, Mum.’ I just about manage to resist the urge to draw a massive speedcock in the box allocated for parental signatures, and shove the reading record in his bag. ‘Alright! Jesus, Mum, someone got out of the wrong side of bed!’ An odd, not unfamiliar, sense of boiling frustration fills me. I avoid looking at my precious first born to prevent the simmering from erupting.
‘O-kay! Ska vi ga!’
‘Mum? Where’s my hoody?’
‘Which. Hoody. Do. You. Mean. You have at least five.’
‘The one that I normally wear. Y’know… the um. The one that… I think it might have been you and Dad got it for me? It’s…’
‘HERE. IT’S HERE. I AM HOLDING OUT IN MY HANDS RIGHT NOW. IT IS HERE. PUT IT ON AND WE NEED TO LEAVE AGES AGO SO COME ONNNNNNNNNNNUH.’
As I speak, I unlock the front door, The Girl steps outside, and we stand as The Boy wrestles fruitlessly with the final article of clothing. ‘Tsk’ he smiles. ‘Tried to put it on over my bag.’ Unable to multitask, he has stopped attempting to put on his jacket or remove his bag to provide his crucial piece of commentary. Never having really been a footstamper before, I can now empathise really quite sincerely with Rumpelstiltskin. I am beyond words. Instead, I do the universal gesture of despair, mixed with frustration, annoyance, and JUST GET A FUCKING MOVE ON that is holding up both hands, palms facing me, fingers splayed, accompanied by a face that would curdle milk. ‘Oh, yeah.’
And then, having pushed me beyond the bounds of decency, to the point that I’m seriously considering homeschooling because I can’t face yet another bloody morning like this… he’s ready, and bounces alongside me for the full twenty minute walk to school, chatting away happily as though none of this ever happened.
And the final, killer, suckerpunch, as I drop him off... 'Love you, Mum. Sorry I was late getting up. Bye!'