If there were no schools to take the children away from home part of the time, the insane asylums would be filled with mothers’ – so the quote goes. I couldn’t agree more. After a summer spent breaking up fights, sitting in playgrounds with my nose in a book ignoring endless requests to ‘push me!’ on the swings, or making round after round of sandwiches (my kids don’t seem to stop eating from the second they get off the plane in Dublin) it is with deep pleasure that I welcome those three tantalising words each September: ‘back to school’.
It’s not all good news. Along with ‘back to school’ comes the loathsome uniform. Whoever said that school uniforms are so much easier for parents, mustn’t have any children; that or they employ a full-time maid. Making sure the same items are clean every day is NOT easy in any shape or form, particularly if you have more than one child.
My laundry-room bears a strong resemblance to a village jumble sale and is strewn with piles of ‘clean’, ‘dirty’ and ‘not sure’ clothing (five children and a shopping habit ensures such large quantities). My poor husband has long given up asking if there are any clean shirts and instead takes them off to the laundry himself.
Of course I’ve tried to insist that the children remove their uniforms the minute they arrive from school, but that usually results in them just stripping off everything and wandering around in their underwear until I provide them an alternative, something which may or may not happen since I have little interest in dressing them more than once a day. Not suprisingly, this reluctance results in three uniforms covered in breakfast, lunch and dinner by 7pm.
I shouldn’t complain too much – uniforms these days are relatively child-friendly, especially in the UAE where a light school-dress will suffice for the girls or shorts and polo-top for the boys. Growing up on the wet and windy west coast of Ireland, I was unfortunate enough to attend a convent school where I was obliged to wear a heavy gymslip; a torture device not seen since the 1930s. Most girls arrived timidly into first year with her gymslip swimming around her ankles and emerged six years later with her hemline hovering dangerously above her knees. And despite the nuns’ attempts to keep us looking respectable, liberties were most certainly taken with the uniform (for some reason, shabby was cool: if you had all the appearance of living on a rubbish dump, you were most certainly hip).
I admit to taking liberties with my kids’ uniforms on occasion – like the times the children have rocked up to school wearing a uniform from a previous school (it’s still blue, what’s the problem?) or improvised with some PE kit (couldn’t find proper shorts). And there was the time my friend fell about laughing at the sight of my six-year-old boy emerging from the car wearing one navy and red striped sock and one white sock with a large lace frill (it was my daughter’s, for some reason we don’t own two of any given sock). Luckily my children don’t make too much of a fuss and accept that we wear whatever’s clean.
But there is light at the end of the tunnel. This term, I am pleased to announce, the children are starting a new school which (let me whisper) has NO school uniform! Yes it’s, true! While I can’t claim I chose the school because of this, it certainly sealed the deal. Of course, the school may be forced to hold an emergency meeting in order to revise this policy the morning I discover that the only clean item in the laundry room is an old bridesmaid dress or Spiderman costume…