I am one of life’s tardy people. My father always says that my mother has no appreciation that time is finite and I have inherited that flaw. I always think things will take less time than they do.
Yesterday I had to take leave to mind sick Daniel (poor Daniel, he’s fine today, thank you for asking) because, alas, my husband is off in foreign parts and I am holding the fort. In between being sick Daniel slept, so it could have been worse. At 5.30 our student babysitter came to mind him (he had been made safe by a motillium suppository and, if you don’t know what that is, you’re better off) and I drove off to pick up Michael from the creche and the Princess from the childminder. The traffic was dreadful and I didn’t get back until (eek) 6.30.
I fed the children and the babysitter (well, otherwise when was she going to get dinner?) and then we bathed the boys and put them to bed and then while K got the Princess cleaned up and ready for bed, I got ready for my dinner with a delegation visiting Brussels for work. I felt mildly self-conscious applying my make-up in front of a beautiful 21 year old but, never mind.
At 7.30, I drove to the school in pouring rain and finally found parking at 7.45 and ran in, late, for the parent-teacher meeting that started at 7.30. This was a mildly depressing experience. Mostly from pragmatism but partly from principle we put the Princess into the school nearest to our house. It is a school with pupils who are overwhelmingly the children of poor immigrants and the remainder are the children of poor Belgians. On the whole we have been very happy with the school and very smug about our choice. However, it is undoubtedly true that we were also aware that a lot of the children in the Princess’s class didn’t speak French but, to be honest, I would have thought that in their third year in the school system (Belgian school starts at two and a half – it keeps them tough) with significant extra language tuition, that problem would have disappeared. Apparently not. Madame Christine tells us that she is still gesturing to get her meaning across. There are children who do not understand “folder” (OK), there are children who do not understand “school bag” (less OK) and there are children who do not understand “put” (not OK at all). Lots of the children don’t know their colours. This is daft, they’re FOUR. I was telling the Princess an edited version of last night’s encounter this morning and asked her did she know her colours and she said “oh yes and when Madame Christine does the exercises on colours, she keeps saying to me ‘stop, you’re going too fast, give the others a chance.'” I don’t think this illustrates that my child is vastly gifted but my smug four year old clearly does.
At the end of last year, the teachers found that the children didn’t know what things were made of. Sample dialogue:
What’s this made of?
Yes, I know it’s a fork, but what’s it made of?
Sample dialogue with the Princess at breakfast:
What’s my spoon made of?
What’s your spoon made of?
What’s your bowl made of?
What’s the cornflake box made of?
I’m hoping that this business of what things are made of is not the key learning for the year. I know that she needs to learn lots from school other than ‘academic’ things, how to socialise, how to work out her place in the world, how to become autonomous but I know that the problems her classmates are having are almost certainly not experienced in the posh communal school down the road (which had no places by the time her feckless mother called them).
Funnily enough, the Princess’s school is private (as it’s Catholic) and the posh school is public. The fact that it was catholic was one of the selling points of our school for me until the head ‘reassured’ me that it was Catholic in name only. I see where he’s coming from, although there are lots of statues of ‘dead Jesus’, if the Princess is to be believed, there doesn’t seem to be any religion in the classroom. This is also funny when you consider the situation with faith schools in the UK as outlined recently by the GPmama. In fact there is a (Catholic) friend of Mr. Waffle’s in London who is still doing the flowers in her local Protestant church because she cosied up to them in the hopes of getting her daughter in. Unfortunately, the daughter didn’t get in despite all that creative use of oasis.
So, 8.15, I really had to go though I would have liked to stay until the end because, you know, when you get worried about things like this, you like to have a complete picture so that you can drive yourself insane. Bucketing down and I was supposed to be at the restaurant near the office and was striding womanfully across the school yard. I rang and said, quite mendaciously, that I was circling looking for parking and they should go ahead without me. Oh no, they would wait. Alas. Mercifully parking very easy on arrival so no one was forced to eat the table.
My delegation being on a bit of a break from their day jobs were very relaxed. I meanwhile had my mobile phone on the table waiting for a call from the babysitter to tell me to come home because Daniel had been sick. She didn’t which was just as well because we were paying for dinner and it would have been difficult to do before people had finished eating which they didn’t until gone midnight; you will recall that they were relaxed. I dropped a couple of my Brussels based colleagues home (because I am kind) and pitched up about 12.30 all apologies to saintly babysitter who had an 8.00 am lecture next morning. Called her a taxi, put out the bins and went to bed at 1.00. Up with the boys at 3 and 5 and the Princess prodded me out of bed at 6 so that we could have breakfast alone together before the boys woke up.
Arrived into work this morning to hear young colleague complaining that she is exhausted; jet lag from her trip to LA. Firmly buttoned my lip.