Just another brick in the wall

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.


11 thoughts on “Just another brick in the wall

  1. Ah my dear kenanddot… I felt your deepest saddest sigh. Please don’t. You’re a Good Mummy the rest of the time too… You are doing your best. You are devoted to your children. You put their welfare and their needs first. I had 9 years as a child protection legal specialist – and just know that your children will not suffer.
    That creche is a safe and happy place. Your lad is safe and will no doubt be happily occupied whilst there.
    It’s part of what we have to teach them: that sometimes we all have to do things we’d rather not; that sometimes we have to sacrifice what we want to enable others to do what they have to do; that we can’t always be the centre of our parents’ universe (even if we are the emotional heart of them)… Hard and harsh to learn. But important too.
    We’ve been very lucky. My Mum and Dad (fit and 68 and 71 respectively) now provide the bulk of any care required during term time – and my husband and I have the school holidays (he’s a headteacher and I’m a lawyer for a teaching trade union).
    But we’ve had 23 years of practice at the childcare frontline…
    I know that it might seem just too early to say this – but if we are to equip our children to become independent adults they need to begin with those safe little first steps. You are doing the right thing.

    1. kenanddot

      Yes, you’re right, they do have to learn that they’re not the centre of the universe, and also that their parents aren’t exclusively theirs to command. I think that latter lesson in particular can take a pretty long time to learn, though.

      1. kenanddot

        I realise I’ve caused confusion by revising my comment after initially posting it, so my first mention of wanting to do unreasonable things like read a book or visit the loo in solitude was deleted.

      2. Ooops! Now it just looks like I’m mad Dot (which is quite likely true after the week I’ve had). 😀
        But yes – that lesson does take a long time to learn – I’m 46 and my Mammy would tell you I’ve yet to learn it…

  2. Mairi Jay

    Dear kenandot, theglaiketstirk has said it more eloquently than I can; you’re a very good mum. You don’t need to feel guilty about not being a full-time mum. We have a gooey idea that primitive mums were around to give their kids loving care 24/7. But the reality was always that parents have spent much of their time on other things (e.g. collecting roots and seeds if they were a hunter-gatherer society, or weeding the rice paddies if they were agriculturalists.) Several of my friends come from large families and they hardly ever saw their parents. You are not short-changing your boys.

  3. Katimum

    And though I was at home when you were young, I screwed up your social assurance for life by making you wear home made/second hand/unfashionable clothes etc. You really CANNOT win.

  4. Helen Conrad-O'Briain

    I spent a lot of my childhood eluding my mother so I could do what I wanted to do rather than what she thought children ought to do.

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