Back to school in eight steps

It’s a week of mixed feelings here as the old routine kicks in again. Last week, my mornings were quite tolerable (and I say this as a non-morning person). Up at 7.30am, out the door by 8.15am, and, wallop, I was at my desk by 9am. No cajoling children into school uniforms, no bullying them out the door and no 30-minute detours to deposit them at school.

At exactly 6.30am today, this all changed – thanks to the early-bird school starts in Dubai, which, quite frankly, make my workdays with no school drop-offs seem like a leisurely lie-in in comparison.

Aside from the early-morning mania, there are – as every school mum knows – numerous other factors that can make the back to school routine something of a challenge after two months of free-fall.  My eight-step refresher regimen runs as follows:

Step1: Return from overseas and get everyone over a flu-like case of jet lag. Once back on a semi-normal schedule, do this all over again when the alarm clock starts going off at what feels like the middle of the night.

Cheers fellow mums! We made it!
Cheers fellow mums! We made it!

Step2: Visit the uniform shop at the same time as 200 other parents, all accompanied by whinging school-sized offspring needing kitting out with uniforms, PE clothes, hats, shoes, lunch boxes and water cups. Try to avoid Organised Mum – yummy-mummy-of-three-hen-pecked-children extraordinaire, in the store to buy a wall planner with extra space for their endless after-school activities. (She bought new uniforms in June, long before the store ran out of book bags and PE shirts, and can also be found at the spa having regular back rubs to counteract the stress of educating her gifted girls.)

Step3: Spend an evening labeling your ‘shopping’, using iron-on labels or, preferably, a sharpie marker. You can practise for this by writing your child’s name neatly on a postage stamp in permanent ink.

Step4: On the first morning, pay special attention to your chosen outfit. Currently trending is gym wear, preferably black, with a ponytail that swings. (Think pert bottoms strutting into school in tight spandex). Whether or not you actually go straight to the gym from the drop off is entirely irrelevant. Hint: You may return for the pick-up in the same gym wear, creating the aura of a potential six-hour work outA huge pair of sunglasses will hide a plethora of cosmetic tardiness, but make sure your nails and hair look groomed.

Step5: Channel your inner drill sergeant to get the children out the door. Drive 20km on Emirates Road  – try to avoid trucks and tyres on the road. As you get closer, be prepared to race other parents from the red light. Even if you only drop off one child, aim to manoeuvre your 7-seater SUV to within a hair’s breadth of the school gates, avoid eye contact, and lean across the steering wheel to call out urgent information about Henrietta’s tap dance class and Harry’s speech therapy.

Step6: If you’ve cut up a friend to secure a prime parking spot, give her a cheery wave as you alight from your car. Do not rush or run. Do not push or drag your child. Irrespective of the chaos of the first-day back, keep a relaxed, happy expression on your face as you wade through a 1400-strong crowd of children and parents, all jostling to find the right line and blinking in the bright sunshine. Greet each member of staff and wish them good morning. Train your children to do the same.

Step7: When engaging in small talk with other parents keep to the following subjects: how charming the children are, how much the children are growing, how lovely everyone looks, the weather. Never admit to another mother any homework not done, lost library books, tantrums endured either at home or in the car, diarrhoea or head lice. And have a story ready about the luxury, handmade yurt your family stayed in on holiday. (Yachts are so yesterday.)

Step8: Repeat, another 180 times, until the summer vacation rolls around again.

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