Geeks2

The school uniform shop

So back to school – it’s complicated.

On the one hand, you’re reminded how fast time is passing and feel nostalgic about years gone by when your kids wore pint-sized uniforms and looked so cute and small in their back-to-school Facebook photos.

On the other hand, you’re doing a happy dance and ready to pop some bottles because, HALLELUJAH, the summer is almost OVER.

But first, there’s all the organising to do – the buying of supplies and uniforms, the labeling of clothes, the food shopping for snacks and lunch boxes, the fitting of school shoes, and the brow-beating of your children to get them to finally do their holiday homework.

I saw a Tweet the other day that made me smile – Real American Dadass wrote: “Back to school shopping is kinda like Christmas shopping. It’s an expensive pain in the ass but it leads to a great celebration.”

How true this is, especially when the school uniform shop is as packed as the malls just before Christmas. Of course, we could have gone weeks ago, but that would have been too sensible and anyway my boys – who are shooting up like beanstalks – might have outgrown everything.

Screen Shot 2017-09-04 at 02.06.34Son1, fast approaching his teens, was barely speaking to us as we drove to the store; Son2 wanted to know what reward he’d get for coming with us. I’d persuaded DH to come too, and he looked grim, the memory of being dragged to school uniform stores and made to try on countless items of clothes by his own mother still fresh in his mind.

The queue to park was the first sign of the upcoming chaos, then there was the look on the other parents’ faces: a sort of hollow-eyed, tense, almost defiant refusal to engage: I know we’re all in this together, I know it’s hell, but I’ve been waiting for 25 minutes so just let me hog this poor salesgirl for a bit longer, ok?

I joined the throng at a desk serving uniforms for our school, and tried to block out the soundtrack of impatient exclamations: “You’ve given me the wrong size!” “Do you have this in a 12?” “Don’t you have intermediate sizes?” “There’s threads coming out of this!” (Ironic that the store is called Threads.)

My children were jostling with each other like hamsters, and when made to try items on they pulled faces like they’d eaten a lemon.

“It fits fine Mum,” huffed Son1, even though the trousers were so tight they’d have cut off the blood supply to his lower body. He pulled a face again. “Can we go now?”

“Try these!” I handed him a larger size and he eyed me like I was giving him explosives.

In all fairness, the lady who helped us was fast and efficient, but then in the queue to pay, our escape plan came to a juddering halt. The dad in front was on a mission to organise tailoring. Our school requires blazers and the kids have to be measured so they fit properly. I’d accepted my fate that the tailor wasn’t available until Saturday, but not so this Dad. He wasn’t here on Sat. The woman on the only cash register began making phone calls – all round Dubai to track down another tailor.

Why I thought we’d get out of the shop anytime soon, I don’t know (Open more than one cash register? How ridiculous! That would be … customer service!)

“Excuse me, is there another till?” I ventured after a while. I tried to be polite.

“We’ve been waiting a long time too,” growled Frustrated Dad, deep lines burrowing their way across his forehead as though his kid had drawn them with a pencil. We glared at each other – unwittingly pitted against one another in a who’s been waiting the longest? contest.

But it worked. All of a sudden, a young salesboy woke up and noticed the queue snaking round the shop. We got out … just. Thank God that’s nearly (there’s still Saturday to go) over.

Geeks2

Throwback Tuesday: Underhand school run tips

Mothers across Dubai are either breathing a huge sigh of relief or sobbing into their hankies this week as they drop their children at school for the start of the new term.

But rather than simply depositing your offspring into the classroom roughly on time, it seems there are plenty of tactics you can use (some of them underhand) if you want to achieve a flawless drop off. Much is doubtless universal, but there are certainly some skills that are specific to Dubai schools.
cartoon-shopaholic
Tips and tricks:

– Pay special attention to your chosen outfit. Currently trending is gym wear, preferably black. Whether or not you actually go straight to the gym from the drop off is entirely irrelevant.

– Make sure you and your children are perfectly laundered. Even the slightest trace of toothpaste, breakfast cereal, chocolate, snot, vom or poo will make itself glaringly apparent at the worst moment.

Creating the illusion of a six-hour workout is a useful skill
Creating the illusion of a six-hour workout is a useful skill

– Although a huge pair of sunglasses will hide a plethora of cosmetic tardiness, make sure your nails are perfect and your hair is pristine.

– Prepare to race other parents from the red light, bully your way round the roundabout and take every opportunity to jump the queue.

– Even if you only drop off one child, make sure you drive your seven-seater SUV right up to the school gates.

– Ignore the car parking attendants and remember to cut up your best friend to get that prime parking spot.

– When alighting from your car, greet your friend with a cheery smile and a wave.

– Do not rush or run. Do not push or drag your child. Irrespective of what is actually happening, glide serenely through the school with a relaxed and happy expression.

– Greet each member of staff and wish them good morning. Train your children to do the same.

– 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.

– Of course, all of the above also applies during pick up – although you must ensure that whatever you wear is entirely different from the outfit you were sporting only a few hours earlier.

– The only possible exception to this rule is you may return in the same gym wear, creating the aura of a potential six-hour work out. Sweat patches, however, are not acceptable.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00064]Are you a school mum in Dubai? You might enjoy my short e-book: Cupcakes & Heels – I don’t know how she does it abroad. Download it for 99p here. THANK YOU!

Geeks2

Summer is over: Time to remember the day of the week

The radio silence over the past week was because we were moving house. We couldn’t have picked a better time really – it’s as hot as Hades (see temperature, according to the car, below!) and as humid as a steam room. Needless to say, it was all rather fatiguing, and that was with packers who did an amazing job carting enormous pieces of furniture out of the house in the furnace-like heat.

Is it humid today?

The movers went by the name Delight – and, quite honestly, they lived up to it.

All my back-to-school chores were promptly forgotten during the chaos of moving, and so when we surfaced from the remaining boxes, it was with some trepidation that I turned my thoughts to the fact Son1 was starting a new school in three days’ time, and had NO UNIFORM whatsoever.

Cue: urgent dash to the Meydan Racecourse, where there was a pop-up shop selling the red-and-grey uniforms.

An odd place to sell such items, you might think. All the horses were gone (beating the heat in Europe), and the shop was located there as the under-construction school was still in a rather unfinished state with hoardings all around it and builders hammering away.

Dubai has a habit of pulling these things off, and today, the school opened! (Read: Thank God). Son1, who we’d pulled from a school he loved due to distance, had a great day, to my relief. And I finally got some peace, after two months of holiday.

I think maybe all boy mums will know what I mean when I say that after a prolonged period of noise so loud and jarring it could even rattle the pans on the shelf in the kitchen (think: stampeding around, crashing and yelling and fighting – not all the time, but enough of it to hurt my head!), it’s just so nice to have some space to think.

Enjoy the quiet mums!

Geeks2

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.

Geeks2

The 4-year-old’s bedtime shot

Here in the Circles household, we’re trying hard to yank the children’s bedtime (and mine) forward so that when the new term begins in three days’ time, those red-eye early school start times (7.45am) don’t give us jet lag, all over again.

Of course, stopping wild horses in their tracks would be easier.

536794_639927182698099_1374862493_n“C’mon boys, bedtime!” I said last night.

Repeat x10.

“Can we have a day off from shower? We want a day off from shower!”

“No, look how dirty your feet are. Upstairs, now.”

Son1, who is getting more compliant as he gets older, climbs the stairs, leaving Son2 rooted to the sofa.

“I’m NOT going to bed. I’m not.” [pauses for effect]. “I hate you, and I DON’T LIKE your hair!”

Three days Son2, three days…

That’s all.