Had I known it was Blue Monday I might’ve acted a little differently. Softened the blows for them instead of taking them on, toughening them up for the real world.
Late on the Sunday night marque 4 approaches me. ‘I forgot to do my research on Gandhi. Can you wake me at 6.40 and I’ll do it then?’
A serious business, this 6th class lark. They’ve been researching key historical figures and having debates about them. A novel approach and we like it. I prepare for the morning. Five uniforms/PE gear. Which reminds me. There was talk about swapping PE for uniform for marque 5. A choir day. I’ll double check in the morning.
It arrives, sooner than we’d all like, and I start into it. Lunchboxes. Fresh sandwiches. Some day I’ll cop on and do this the night before I promise myself each morning. Although I have improved somewhat. There was a time when I baked rolls for their lunchboxes in the morning. Blessed is this unfurling maturity.
I go to wake him. Whispering cruelly into the dark, dark room. He stirs not a jot. Then I hear another woman’s voice.
‘Time to get up for Gandhi’ she says. She’s louder than me. More assertive. Clearer. ‘Stop’ he calls out. She doesn’t. She says it again instead, as if she hasn’t heard him at all. Persistent as hell. I’m picking up a trick or two. ‘Stop Alexa’ he implores. I leave them to it. Gandhi, Gandhi she says. She’ll have him up in no time. I jump into the shower, and then linger. It’s a cold old morning after all.
‘Mu-um, you didn’t wake me up’. It isn’t a roar exactly. An undulating whine of sorts.
‘Yes I did’.
‘No you didn’t and now I don’t have my research done’. The tears are thick and fast. Furious indignant tears.
‘I did wake you and so did Alexa and you told her to stop’. Ah sure it’s great deferring responsibility onto a robot.
‘What kind of a mother won’t wake her own child to do research?’
Say what now?
‘Don’t worry about it. I’ll write you a note’.
‘You don’t understand. It doesn’t work like that in SIXTH class’.
‘Well, if you think you’re getting a day off because you forgot all weekend to do your work and then you wouldn’t get up for me or Alexa – you can think again’.
Floodgates. A change of tack required.
‘Okay so let’s get some research done now instead’. I shoot a meaningful look at a competent person who immediately asks his phone to tell us all about Gandhi while toast and marmite is being chewed. There’s a sudden crescendo of a wail.
‘Not the GOOD stuff – NO – I need the BAD stuff about Gandhi’.
The what now?
‘Mum have you seen my tie?’ Marque 2 stands before me, bedecked in his shirt, jumper and trousers. He hasn’t been in school since before Christmas courtesy of Transition Year work experience. Over a month now since we had all the bits together. The tie could be anywhere, little slip of a thing. I hunt. Run up and down the stairs to ill effect. He’s dying to get back into school to hear about and share the work experiences. Something as simple as a lost tie will thwart it. His excellent reports/references from the jobs lie waiting for him to pack. We’re all organised, except…
‘Mum is it uniform or PE today?’ Oh god, I was supposed to check.
‘Can you remember what the teacher said?’
‘Yeah, no, I don’t no. We have choir with the girls and then we’ll have PE on Friday instead’.
‘So it’s uniform today?’
‘I don’t know’.
Hell. I send out a WhatsApp message. I get a confirmation that it’s uniform. Phew. Thank god for WhatsApp on occasion.
A red and black tie glints at me from an unfamiliar pile and I seize it while the dirt is dished on Gandhi. Getting there.
‘Mum, have you seen my shoes?’
‘They’ll be in your room, as always’.
‘They’re not. I’ve checked’. He knots his tie while I search. The dread comes quickly. Didn’t we do a big clear-out of the room over Christmas. They could’ve been put anywhere.
‘Just wear your runners, sure what does it matter, you’re in TY.’
‘You don’t understand, it doesn’t work like that…’
He mutters and I mutter. I’ll be late for work searching for shoes for a – what age is it you are now? Little bits of blame are bandied. They do it so well, mimicking their mother, great role model that she is.
Hang on a second, I begin to think. How has it come to this? Have we not just had a wonderful weekend? Was that not us last night, out on the West pier chasing the full moon for the best photographs, searching for a premature hint of the magical rare eclipse? All five boys, mother, father and the dog. How has it gone from that to searing blood pressure and cortisol, tears and dismay?
They all leave except the shoeless one, so I can’t quite sigh with relief. I crunch on muesli which doesn’t taste so good with a thudding heart so I swallow some fish oils and hope for the best. I try to match up some of the father’s old shoes to no avail. I close the front door behind me and breathe a deep dissatisfied breath.
As I hang up my coat in work I notice a WhatsApp message.
‘I’m so sorry, I mis-read your text.’ Turns out it was PE gear after all for marque 5. He’ll be the only one in a uniform, mortified, singing all day long with some unknown girls’ schools. Fantastic.
Is it possible to feel any worse? I’ve failed three of them – and probably the others but they’re just not saying – at the very start of the week. It’s over tea-break that it becomes crystal clear. The talk is all about Blue Monday. A super high absenteeism day. A day for diving under the duvet and indulging the low on this, the most depressing day of the year. Something I hadn’t paid any attention to before. But next year I’ll be up all night preparing. Shoes and ties and Gandhi galore. I’ll ease them over it and take a day off for myself too. I swear.