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Last week it was all about getting the kids started at school and kindy respectively.

We’d originally planned to keep both of them home for the first month or two after moving, but Finn loved his first term at Totara School so much we felt it would be less disruptive for him if he started straight into Wanaka Primary at the start of Term 2 in May.

We visited the school for the first time during the school holidays, where Finn pronounced the quality of playground satisfactory.

In the event, Finn absolutely crushed it – although his mum was pretty shit. The night before he started I decided I’d better read the enrolment pack, which was when I realised uniforms are compulsory and stationery highly recommended. I was so worried about being expelled for indifference to stationery, I couldn’t sleep.

Finn was shaky on the morning, but his teacher was lovely and the school is amazingly well equipped. As we were shown around Finn’s interest levels picked up to the point where every time his teacher addressed him he had to give a little jump of excitement.

There was a clang of potential doom when the teacher showed him the tadpole tank and Finn said, “Dey grow into FROGS!” and she responded, “Er, yes; actually they already did, but I forgot to put rocks in over the Easter holidays and they DIED. Here, you can look at the dead frogs through this magnifying glass if you like?”

Finn took it in stride, although he demurred looking at the dead frogs.

When the bell rang, he settled down on the welcome mat without a backward glance.

Later that morning I procured a stationery pack and dropped it back to school; along with his lunchbox and water bottle which I’d forgotten to stuff in his schoolbag earlier. Guess my Outstanding Mother Award is postponed another week.

Bless him; Finn is absolutely shattered and on several occasions over the last week, I’ve wondered whether he needs a good exorcising: by early evening he is demonstrably demonic. However, he is doing incredibly well now that he has a school uniform and full agglomeration of stationery.

Saoirse took longer to get sorted. About six months previously, she and Finn attended a kindy in Wanaka on a short-term basis, and something about it just didn’t click.

At another place I was so distracted by the administrator’s saggy red pleather trousers, I spent the entire time wondering whether there was any way I could appropriately pull them the fuck up on her.

Yet another kindy was promising until I clocked the 3yo with dreadlocks and it was all over, rover.

I had been keen on the Montessori school before we actually visited. Don’t get me wrong; it was lovely: all underfloor heated wooden floors and natural eco-sustainable toys – but one thing I learned at the North Otago Toy Library is that although the parents love the natural wooden toys, the kids always choose plastic. And while children shouldn’t necessarily always get what they want, if the objective is stimulating play, the best option is probably the garish plastic abomination that is the distilled antithesis of all that is pure and beautiful in this world.

We visited at snack time and I’d never seen an assembly of such perfectly mannered children – but it struck me that Saoirse would just eat them alive. And when I realised that despite my best efforts, I STILL can’t explain the Montessori ideology, I thought we’d better look into the last option available.

I’d been starting to get a bit desperate wondering how to go about weighing gut reaction, so it was a relief when The Last Option felt so right. The ECEs were gorgeous and welcoming and friendly; I loved the way they interacted with the kids; the vibe was kind and unassuming; the playground was entirely constructed of old tires and offcuts of wood that the kids can reconfigure as they please; and – most importantly – Saoirse loved it as well.

(Although admittedly she loved all the other kindies too.)

She started the following day: walked into the place as if she owned it, picked out a book and demanded of some random adult that they read it to her. Like Finn, she appears to have decided goodbyes are superfluous.

My kids have taught me a bit about holding shit together in the last week

Photobomber continues her campaign of terror

 

Dublin Bay

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Thermonuclear guilt

Still relatively unscarred

Still relatively unscarred

Aw do I have to? Whyeeee? Alright alright ALRIGHT! Context, whatever.

So a few months ago I was at the local Toy Library, because now I’m the President I have important stuff to do there. You know, like naming our elk, and quality-testing plasma cars, and supergluing Strawberry Shortcake’s head back on because her neck is impractically flimsy. I also point at things, a lot.

Anyway, Fiona said, “I’ve gotta go soon. I collect Macey from school at three.”

At which point, my thought process went something like this: “Bo collecta! Makin moves yeah on the dance floor – what IS that song? I wish life were a musical. Then I could bust out the tunes and funky moves and people wouldn’t think I was crayzay. Re rewind. When the crowd say bo colleeecta. Crunch. Grindgrindgrindgrindgrind CLICK! FUUUCK!”

Because it was then I realised I’d forgotten to pick up Finn from kindy at 14:30.

I squealed out of the carpark on a dense cloud of burnt rubber. When I flung myself into kindy half an hour late, all the chairs were upside down on the tables and Finn was sitting dolefully on the floor with his backpack on.

“Sorry!” I gasped.

“Don’t worry, it happens all the time,” said the ECEs kindly – but I refused to be appeased. I mean, I bet they say that to all the parents.

He probably had a better time there than at home, where there’s no playdough and he’s not allowed to stand on the sofa- ok look, there’s no way to make it better and I’m going to feel guilty about abandoning my child until my dying day.

So there’s the context: past, present and future.

Last week I was at the Toy Library, when I looked at my watch and it was-

“FUCKING TWO THIRTY!”

“Have you forgotten your child again?” asked Maria. I would have challenged her about the unnecessary emphasis she placed on the last word – I mean, I’d only forgotten Finn once – except I was thrashing it out the door.

I was only five minutes late and trying to gallop elegantly up the path when I met my mate, Maxine.

And her son, Q, said, “Hello, Niamh! What are you doing here?”

“Hello, Q! I’m here to pick up Finn!” I said, as if I were speaking to a four year old – which, in fairness, Q is – but also I admittedly gave Maxine a look conveying that perhaps she should spend more time doing some cognitive development role playing with her son because what the fuck else would I be doing there?

Then Q said, “Finn’s not at kindy. He doesn’t come on Tuesdays.”

While Maxine rolled around the ground laughing, realisation achingly slowly dawned that both my children, Finn and Saoirse, spend Tuesdays – pretty much all of them since Christmas – with their dad.

You think maybe that incident cancels out the other? Yeah no; I’m still dealing with thermonuclear levels of enriched, weapons-grade guilt. I imagine on my deathbed, saying: “Hey everyone listen up because this is my dying breath so it’s obviously pretty important – hey you! Put down the sausage roll and have some fucking respect! Dying breath, here! Ok anyway, look, I won’t draw it out much longer, but I really want to say this: I have no regrets in my life except that time I forgot to collect Finn from kindy: Son, I’m sorry! I’m so very, very sorry!”

<exhale>

<final curtain>

Blink of an eye

Life is a trickle of days and then you have kids and suddenly it’s a deluge. It sweeps you away, leaves you gasping for breath.

Finn started kindy last week.

It is such a privilege watching my children grow and I love being part of it but god, it makes my heart ache.

It feels like no time at all since I met that tiny scrap for the very first time. I remember the way he used to curl into me; the smell of his fuzzy little head; that gut-wrenching newborn cry; his gorgeous gurgle of a giggle; how I used to anticipate when he’d wake in the middle of the night, even when he was in another room. All the firsts: his first car trip; his first day home from the hospital; his first steps.

Over the course of your life, there are moments you never forget. Some are the obvious ones: your Inter Cert maths exam, the first day you arrive in the Middle East, your wedding day, the first time you whack a major commercial bank.

And many memories are surprising by virtue of their outstanding mundanity. One of the things that falls under this category is from when I was just a little older than Finn is now. The Oakleys occasionally drove me to school, and I still recall being dragged writhing, kicking and screaming, to their car. There are probably still fingernail-marks scored on the gate-post. I don’t know whether it was the same day or another, but I remember sitting on my teacher Mrs William’s knee, sobbing desolately.

The reason for it has not been preserved, but the memory is vivid enough that, even now, I can taste and feel and smell how distraught I was.

So I was anxious how Finn would adjust to kindy.

Well. My son walked into the place, threw off his jacket, cracked open a box of magnetic construction blocks and set into engineering a highway across the floor.

I stayed a few minutes to complete some forms and then said goodbye.

“Bye, Mum!” said Finn.

“Er. Can I have a hug? And a kiss?”

And Finn would probably have rolled his eyes if he weren’t giving me a look that clearly said, “Jeez, some people are so NEEDY.”

Since he’s a kind, thoughtful, considerate little fella, he was good enough to humour me.

There were tears.

I cried all the way home.

Finn at the end of the first day

Finn at the end of the first day

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