0 – 60 diddly squat

Children thrive on routine or so they say.

We nay sayers decided to adopt a more modern approach to our children. None of those strictures for our little free spirits. We planned to copy our laid back, easy going Californians cousins. No mean feat for the average Brit, and we are terribly average.

Despite our best endeavours, it soon became apparent that laid back was more like flat out, or rather, flat out chaos and a great many horizontal meltdowns. We went over to the dark side, made schedules and schooled our children to follow them. Schedules and routine produced predictability, and a certain degree of calm, or maybe just less chaos. Before too long we slipped into the groove. Before too much later, we found that the walls of the groove had grown so high that we were scrabbling around in the hollow, unable to deviate right or left. The schedule became iron clad. There was no room for spontaneity as the timetable was rigidly enforced, indirectly, by the children themselves.

It infiltrates every second of our existence, the necessity to maintain sameness. I hear that this is quite common, indeed my good pal describes her life as a perpetually reliving the same day, day after day. Sometimes we get “bogged down” in the mire. It’s hard to “escape” from the strictures of the schedule. There is no room for flexibility, merely crisis management.

Currently, our family experiences another peak in the “anxiety” roller coaster. It is exactly at such times, that it is imperative to maintain the routine.

Our routine is for me to arrive outside the boys' classroom at least five minutes before the end of the school day. I wait. When they come out, we meet and greet, exchange pleasantries and wait for their sister to join us. It is important to remain in the same safe 10 yard area and wait. Sometimes we wait a long time, as she is usually the last to leave.

I have learned that it is unwise to be impatient, foolish to seek her out with the boys in tow. I cannot leave the boys behind to wait on their own because they cannot wait and they cannot wait on their own.

The seconds tick by as we wait. As they tick, so the anxiety increases, “where is she be?”
“She'll be here any moment dear.”
“How many minutes? How many seconds. Is she be lost? Is she be selled?” He starts to suck his fingers and rock, small mewing noises get louder. I pull him onto my lap and he curls up small and tight. He slithers off and bolts. “We must be find her!” he yells as he charges off around the corner. I grab his brother and the backpacks as we scuttle off in hot pursuit.

It's only 25 yards away but the court yard is crampt with a sea of bodies, parents and children and siblings and strollers. I spot him, dressed in red from head to foot outside her open class room door, blocking the way as he peers inside. Every face in the classroom is turned towards the little boy in the entrance way, crouched, mewling and swaying. Wounded in distress. I slip through the crowd to him and point out his sister, a long straight arm to guide vision with a rude finger at the end. He yelps with glee as I herd him away to a safe distance to join his brother. His brother is gone. “Agh! Where is he been?”

I spot him ambling away in the opposite direction. We gallop after him. I can already see the lure, a baby. We catch up just in time. He's overtaken the mother, child and baby, to walk backwards in front of them whilst he asks questions to the mum but stares at the baby. I burble a torrent of compliments to the mum, child and baby. Yes, my nine year old is very fond of babies, all babies, and this is a particularly fine specimum of babydom, how could he resist?

Many parents have strong objections to large filthy children touching their purebred offspring, it's quite natural. Luckily, we are in luck. The mum permits touching, cooing, smiles and pats, very tender gentle ones. I prompt goodbye greetings, as busy mums can only be hindered and detained for a short periods of time. It can never be long enough for my son to get his baby fix.

I turn around with a firm grasp on each boy as we stride back to the classroom. The class room is empty. “Oh no! Where is she be. We are be lost her! You and yur stoopid babies. It's all yur fault.” The only reassurance that will work now is for him to see her, alive and well. Nothing else will placate him. The boys squabble as I haul them around the corner. They debate the merits of temporary relationships with strangers versus long term blood relations.

Animosity and anxiety vie for supremacy.

I see her waiting outside the boys' classroom in a state of confusion. I yell as I see her heels disappear around the corner as she returns to her own classroom. My son hangs on my arm, a dead weight, the child that cannot be hurried. I dither. Double back and cut her off at the pass or follow her around again? I shoulder two backpacks, secure my grip on the snotty hand, hoik the nine year old onto my hip and galumph back.

We stagger and stumble our way amid bleats and rooster crows of the truly desperate. I glimpse her again, just as she begins to retrace her steps but I lack enough oxygen to yell. The snotty one spots her too, slips from my grasp and careens over screaming her name at 50 decibels. I watch her turn, pause, tune in, align sight, open arms just in time to catch him as he collapses into her. A swoon, worthy of a Southern Belle. As we bring up the rear he has gained enough composure to machine peck kiss her inner wrist. He pants like a puppy, exhausted, “you are be alive!” he puffs.

Only just dearies, only just.

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