Dot writes: poor Hugh. He is pleased to be back at school, but not at all pleased to be returned to playschool each afternoon. Unfortunately this is what has to happen, since Ken has another three weeks to go on his placement and until it finishes we somehow have to patch together full-time childcare. I’ve already taken as much time off as I can possibly justify.
The arrangement is not ideal: every day I leave college at 12.30, cycle or DART home, take the car or cycle the mile further to Hugh’s school, and then bring him back to the creche, which is in our street. When I meet Hugh at his school the first thing he says is “At least I don’t have to go to that horrible creche,” to which of course I have to reply that he does have to. Then he spends the journey asking WHY does he have to go, and why can’t I take time off, and why do I need to work if Daddy is working, and why can’t he just come to work with me, and failing that why can’t he have Julie (who’s in Italy right now, I think, and then about to start a PhD). Today I pretty much had to drag him across the road, and then for about five minutes he refused to go through the door. The creche is a good one, small and friendly with well-qualified staff, and he attended it for a year before starting school and has just been there for most of the summer, but he seems to have had enough of it. Poor boy. I daren’t tell him that when I drop him off I just go home to work, only a few hundred yards away from him.
I don’t think anybody ever feels they get the childcare question right. With both of us working this summer the boys haven’t had much time off, and I’ve noticed the want of that time: it would have been nice, for example, to spend more time teaching Hugh to ride his bike (as it is he’s still on stabilizers, but at least, thanks to Grandma, he now has a bike that fits him). One thing we have managed to get going since the start of August, when I stopped being at conferences all the time, is reading practice. I learnt to read very young myself, and I can’t remember what it was like not to be able to, but it isn’t coming that easily to Hugh. However, in early August I started doing a daily reading exercise with him. I began with a story that I was writing a sentence at a time: each day he had to read the new sentence and copy it out, so I cleverly got in some handwriting practice for him as well. There was some resistance, especially to the writing part, but we kept it up to the end of the story (a bad monster stealing another monster’s cake). Now I have started anew with a reading chart. Every day he does some practice he gets a smiley face on the chart, and at the end of the month I buy him a Lego Chima toy that he covets. We’re using Usborne Very First Reading books and he genuinely seems to like them. So at least I am being a Good Mummy in some respects.