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.
Son1, 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.