You know it’s September when  you see once gloomy, slump-shouldered parents looking cheerful once more, whistling a chirpy tune and bouncing along with a spring in their step.

Not that we don’t enjoy the end of summer term — knowing that for several weeks we are freed from the misery of early wake-up calls, locker key search parties and Sunday night uniform washes.  But come September, we are more than ready to kiss their sweet-smelling cheeks goodbye (metaphorical kisses for some of our 13 yr olds) and pack them off for five whole days each week to wrestle with Caesar, the Irish language and their classmates.

There are two types of parents.  Wry Vita now operates an equal opportunities policy and anti-paternal propaganda is no longer tolerated otherwise we would be saying what we mean – There are two types of Mothers:  Those who are out buying the new school uniforms before the old year has even broken up and those who are dashing into town the afternoon before the new term begins to pick up a replacement school tie and to wander hopelessly through bedraggled racks of trousers, vainly hoping to pick up even one pair of trousers that might almost be the right size and colour.

No clues for guessing what type I am.  I’m proud to be a member of the second group.  Just-in-time parenting — just-in-time living actually — suits me fine.  Or it would if I could rely on my pack to keep their part of the bargain.

It’s not asking too much, is it, to expect your child to come home with his own trousers?  Knowing that last year his trousers had been on the long side and taken up quite a bit by the sister-in-law-from-hell (she is in fact a sweetheart with several uses), I wasn’t overly worried about him having grown out of them over the course of the summer.

So 48 hours (a personal record, I’ve never been that organised) before school re-starts, I think I’ll do a trouser search and freshen them up in the washing machine.  I discover two pairs (all ok so far) in his wardrobe but when I investigate the first pair they have someone else’s name inside.  And lo and behold if the second pair don’t also belong to someone else, a different someone because this pair are at least 6 inches shorter than bucko-me-lad’s britches.  I’m rather surprised I hadn’t noticed a Liliputian in his class – then again, perhaps not.

Helpfully, the mother parent of the rightful owner has sewn their phone number into their pair.  Wow, that’s world-class parenting, she obviously belongs to the first group.  I was about to call her, sure she’d be delighted with my find, when I realised it would be unnecessary.  She’d either bought replacement trousers over the summer and embroidered day-glo phone numbers round the hem or had already discovered Jake’s trouser’s in her lad’s bag and was celebrating having acquired a pair that would fit her tiny lad when he was 23.

Anyway, the rails in Dunnes being devoid of grey trousers for a 13 yr old and no point going to the school outfitters because aforesaid sister-in-law taking a late break in Tenerife means no-one to turn them up for me at a moment’s notice, we made do with the second pair which, although belonging to a stranger, appeared to be in the right ball park, if you’ll excuse the phrase.

So we’re now at the end of week 2 and life is good.  For me anyway.  Apart from having to play headlight chicken.  Do they play that where you live?  Because the day boarders don’t come out of school till 8.15, it’s almost dark as we drive home.  Living in the country, drivers have their full beams on and a good 50% of them refuse to dip their lights.

Being the Good Manners Queen (so dubbed by Judith Morgan who knows everything) and a townie who doesn’t understand such things, my wont was always to dip my lights the minute I saw another car approaching, only to be blinded by the other driver.  Now – in order to fight fire with fire – I have to remember to keep my headlights blaring and remain bullishly aglow till the other driver relents and dips. 

Much swearing meanwhile ensues, from my car anyway.  I’m never quite sure what the other driver’s stance is.  Perhaps they think I’m driving with my eyes closed, or in sunglasses.  Perhaps they don’t realise I’m a car, perhaps they think those two shining globes approaching at 60 km are low-flying UFOs practising their tandem

What do you think?

3 thoughts on “Playing Headlight Chicken

  • Marie Taylor

    This is highly politically incorrect- apologies.
    They probably think you are a man who can’t multitask the driving with turning the main beam off at the same time.
    Anonymous of Ealing

  • Nicola

    As one of the “not really in time at all” parenting brigade myself, I larfed out loud at this. You are ON FIRE madam. How on earth are we supposed to cope, what with kids who come home with other people’s clothes (or not at all!) growing in spurts (one day something fits, the next, not at all) and an unerring ability to find stuff that STAINS permanently (in spite of labels to the contrary). I have the answer to your headliight issue though, our eyes are failing due to advancing age and we shouldn’t be out after about 6.30. Except next weekend though when you come to London for the Brett McFall event LOL. Where are you staying babe? Nicola

  • Marion Ryan

    I love the way our first commenter signs off “Anonymous of Ealing” followed immediately by her name, a very un-blonde Marie Taylor.
    Nicola, I applaud your honesty in admitting to falling into the ‘Parenting Class 3’ group, the mums who come home from shopping and realise they’ve forgotten something. The kids.
    Yep, looking forward to the Brett weekend. I’m leaving home later today and the usual hundred last minute things to do including defleaing the dog and cats.
    It used to be the kids who got sick just as you were trying to go away, now it’s the flaming animals who go and get fleas.


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