It all boils down to a flashing shoe. It’s as simple as that. One irrepressibly flashing shoe turns the morning upside down. If I could take back the time that we spent choosing them in Clarke’s shoe shop I would. Go for the ones with the little gifts in the soles instead. But the lovely funny shoe man showed us the off button. If you don’t want red and green neon flashing all day in school just press the off button. Sorted. Decided. Marque 4 and 5 chose the same pair of shoes. Deadly or cool or whatever the lingo is. Until the little off button no longer works.
Marque 4’s shoe flashes from the shoe box in the porch. Each time I pass by the glass window I startle. It magnifies through the bubble glass and I think it’s the police or the fire-brigade or some sort of emergency taking place at our front door. It must take some battery to power those relentless lights. Marque 4 hurls the shoe down the kitchen in a bid to make it stop. It doesn’t. I press gently and firmly and every which way on the ‘off’ button to no effect. One of marque 5’s shoes has been flashing merrily for weeks now. He doesn’t mind. He’s a senior infant. It’s allowed.
This morning I’m up extra early. There’s an emergency dental situation for marque 2 and we have to make it there, after the school drop off, by nine or we won’t be seen. I am cruising along. I’ve located and laid out all uniform bits and shoes for everyone. Lunch boxes and drinks are deposited into the relevant bags. Breakfast things and orange juice are doing the rounds. Shoes, hair and teeth. Almost there.
‘I’m not wearing the flashing shoe. I’ll be in trouble. It’s not ok in second class’ marque 4 throws into the mix with immediate impact on my pulse.
‘Why did you insist on having the flashing shoes if you’re not allowed them?’ I say, possibly muttering something about sixty bloody euros. I should’ve gone to Lidl like I did last year. Seven euros for full leather shoes. Nothing flash.
‘Because they have an off button’ he says logically and I suppose I can’t really blame him, much as I might like to, for that seizing and rendering the shoe a permanent flasher.
I root around in the shoe box and mercifully pull out another pair of matching shoes – last year’s, but looking good.
‘Here, wear these then’ I say, we are still on track, we can still make it. He squishes his feet in and lets out an exasperated sigh – he might have learnt from me – and claims that they do not fit. He opts for the flasher instead. But now, lo and behold the flasher has gone missing. One of the brothers helpfully tries to make it stop and then loses it. Now we are getting late.
‘You’re going to have to wear the old ones for today’ I say, but his shoeless heels are dug in. He’s going nowhere without the flasher. He is on the verge of tears now. Perhaps if I leave the room it’ll all get sorted. Head on out to the car and they’ll emerge, gleaming teeth, shining hair, two shoes a piece.
It is finally located. Someone has been cheerfully sitting on it while getting their own shoes on. We are a good ten minutes late leaving. The dentist is a far off aspiration. I start a little rant in the car. Along the cringe worthy lines of ‘when I was your age going to school’. How today the parents do EVERYTHING for the kids. Hand them everything. Dress some of them. Make sure they have every last little thing. And still they manage to be late. When I was…cringe. I tell them how I set my uniform out the night before, set my own alarm, got up and got my own breakfast, packed my lunch, and headed off to catch the 7.30 bus. Because if I missed that the next ones along were all full. All my mother had to do was sign my homework notebook, without checking if the work was done because she knew it would be. There’s a communal deafness in the car. Rightly so. But I feel better for having said it. If they’re going to morph into me then I’ll have to get out of their way and let them. If I do less for them they’ll be more than capable of doing it for themselves. I resolve to do less. From this moment on they are on their own I say to myself, pulling up the handbrake which seems to seal the deal.
We flash on up to the school and I turn around, hot tail it back to the car, and screech up to the dentist. It’s 9.05. They’ll probably turn a blind eye. And they do. All’s well as it happens. The emergency milk tooth can be pulled if it continues to be troublesome but it looks close to falling out so we opt for the natural way.
Back in the car marque 2 remembers that he hasn’t finished his Irish homework. No worries, I tell him, all relaxed now, sure I’ll get you a hot chocolate (don’t tell the dentist) and you can finish it before I pop you in. Only we end up chatting. He asks me some lovely questions about my time spent with my grandparents in England as a child and we are laughing and sipping and forgetting about the clock. Eventually he pulls out the Irish sheet. It’s one of those where you have to fill in the gaps. Not that there are words supplied for you. No. You’re supposed to know them or look them up in the dictionary. So at ten o’clock he’s writing speedily while I google, like a fool, crutches and stretchers and bandages. Some stupid Dad has, it seems, broken his leg playing soccer. Crutches. We definitely didn’t learn that when I was in school.
I write a note about being late because of a trip to the dentist. He goes in happy and smiling and warm from the hot chocolate. I start the journey home to clear up the mess from the morning. Somebody needs to teach me a few new tricks.