This post was first published in Practical Parenting Magazine, February 2016
I’m sorry the children were late for school this morning. I am as surprised as you are, to tell you the truth, because I made a chart for the children to help with the school-run, and I thought that would fix the problem. Shockingly, this Morning Chart did not work.
We’ve been away for five weeks, as you know, Office. I’m transitioning from Road Life, where everything is managed on the fly and clean undies are just some kind of fancy dream, to Real Life, where every day I have to bang out lunchboxes and spare clothes and signed paperwork for three small children.
I know I’m no rocket scientist, Office. But I’m ashamed to admit that the school run feels just a hair beyond my skill set. Yesterday morning, our first day back at term, was a shambles. I couldn’t find the hats, which is fairly standard, but I also struggled to find shirts, trousers, shoes, socks, underpants, bags, water bottles and my will to live.
I finally packed all the school stuff, but then four-year-old Pudding started to cry. She had lost Elsa, the dead caterpillar she had been keeping in a Tupperware container, and she had set her heart upon showing Elsa for news at day-care. We ransacked the bedrooms looking for the poor creature and finally found her in the laundry basket, under the school hats. (Double win!) I strapped the girls in the car, and then realised that seven year old T-Bone had taken his shoes off and gone back to bed to read Zombie Bums From Uranus.
I took action, Office. After the drop-off, I picked up a powerful wand of organisational magic (new texta) from the corner shop and created a Chart when I got home. I ignored the towering piles of road-trip unpacking and washing. The school run had so unsettled my holiday equilibrium that Chart took priority over all else. ‘The Happy, Chilled-Out, No-Stress Morning Checklist’ I titled it. My husband Keith raised one eyebrow at this. ‘The kids are already totally chilled out,’ he said. ‘You’re the only one that’s stressed.’
This is true. The kids are oblivious as the clock creeps ever forward to nine am, and so is Keith. He’s just as likely to try and squeeze in a quick piano lesson as check teeth-cleaning status. I’m the one with mayonnaise in my hair and an eye-twitch.
I attacked Chart with zeal. Clean teeth! I wrote. Make Bed! Find Hat! Put Lunch in Bag! I added cheery exclamation points to all these tasks in order to add a sense of zany fun to the whole sordid exercise. And then I pinned all my hopes and dreams to the bloody thing. This morning: chaos as ever, with the added addition of my screeching ‘Check your chart! Check your chart!’ as the children wandered about, free as sparrows, happy and unencumbered by responsibility of any kind.
I have a creeping suspicion that a Chart has never, ever been shown to actually work in the history of modern parenting, Office. Surely it cannot be so? Hopeless optimism maintained through all contrary reality is my primary parenting tool, Office. If I lose that, who am I?
Apologies again, Office. I’ll keep trying.
Rachael Mogan McIntosh.