Wednesday, 27 April 2011

I hate homework

It all started when I was at school. That dreaded feeling in the pit of  your stomach on a Sunday evening, as you contemplated the mounds of reading, essays and sums you had conveniently shoved to the back of your mind for the rest of the weekend. That moment when you had to stop pretending to be engrossed in Antiques Roadshow and actually unglue yourself from the television and propel yourself to your desk.

It was horrible, and deadly dull. I think I can safely assume that I am not academically minded. The thought of the hours I spent locked in a dusty libraries while I was at university is enough to bring me out in a cold sweat. The ever present sensation that I had never read quite enough (or indeed nearly enough) to write anything close to a coherent essay, and then just winging it and hoping for the best, was not a pleasant one.

I was pretty good at fooling people, and have an upper second class degree to prove it. However, I will admit that my head of department once took me aside and revealed that he could only decipher about half of any essay I had written as my handwriting was so atrocious, so he was just assuming the other half was as good in awarding me high marks.

When I finally threw my mortarboard aloft, dumped my graduation gown, and headed off into the world of work, it was with a sigh of relief that my days of cramming were done with. Or so I thought, as now a few decades hence I find myself locked into homework hell once again.

I am sure when I was at primary school homework amounted to collecting a few pretty leaves to show off in autumn and keeping a scant diary of what you got up to in the holidays. Nowadays even in Year One children are given work to do every week, and by God is it mind numbing.

I am not entirely sure who the work is pitched at, apparently it is set across the year so every child in every class does the same assignment, which leads me to believe there are some real thickies out there. My boy is seven and he is 'challenged' by such conundrums as 'Which number is half of 8?' and the tricky task of working out that tortoises are slow. Surely only a half wit would be stumped by such questions?

The plus side of this is that it means we can whizz through homework double quick - hurrah. The downside is that whenever I 'help' my boy I get so frustrated that I am tempted to just answer all the questions and tell him to hurry up and write them into the appropriate boxes.

I can't shake the feeling that homework is a waste of time. Mine and his. He, along with most of his contemporaries, is too bright for the work to be an extension of his learning, and I can think of better and far more educational ways to spend time with my children. It seems that I am destined never to see the point of extracurricular study, I just hope my sons don't find this particular blog post when I am battling with them to get them to revise for their exams.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Babes on the beach

The sand undulates, white as snow, silken soft down to a jade green sea. The sun's rays dust the gently rippling waves in diamond shards. The clear sky is a bright turquoise, the blue horizon broken only by the lazy flapping of a pelican scanning the waters for a mid afternoon snack. White yachts bob serenely out at sea and children hunt for shells at the waters edge.

The beach is dotted with royal blue cabanas, each sporting a oiled pair of legs sticking out from beneath the shade, some sleek and brown, others toasting an angry, livid pink. As I recline onto my own padded lounger, sunglasses perched on my nose, an icy cocktail sweating in the heat on the table beside me, I sigh and think: 'This is the life'.

That is in the scant nanosecond of peace afforded to me by my relentless offspring, before one of them arrives by my side, to climb, scratchy and sandy onto my toasting belly, knocking over that well deserved drink in the process. As they drip chill seawater down my back the demands commence.

The twins want 'More, more water' to be fetched from the sea, even though they are both sitting right beside it, while I am happily ensconced halfway up the beach. The bigger boys want me to miraculously rid the sea of all of its salt, as this makes their eyes sting, and check each wave for an approaching stingray. The warning signs telling us to do the stingray shuffle in order to avoid injury, having left them paranoid about all marine life.

A beach holiday with the boys just isn't the same as those far off breaks we had a deux. While husband and I attempt to relax and enjoy they idyllic surroundings, the children seem determined to thwart our plans. If they aren't asking for endless cups of juice they are complaining that it's too hot. You just can't win.

I am beginning to wonder how old children have to be before you don't feel as if you need another holiday the moment you hop off the plane on the way home from your last one.

Monday, 4 April 2011

The pursuit of nothing

I can see the irony in the biggest treat offered to me on Mother's Day being some time away from my children, but all parents know that the most precious prize is a few moments to yourself. From the moment your baby is born you are made aware of the fact that you are now on call 24/7. If you dare to attempt to sneak off for an indulgent cup of coffee, sandwich or 40 winks, your newborn will instantly pick up on this transgression and sound out a wailing, screeching alarm.

It is a bit like living in a prison camp, as you are only left to your own devices when you are working. It is a strange phenomenon, but babies will peacefully nap while you wash bottles, do the ironing or puree them some lunch, but the moment you crack open the chocolate digestives and the latest copy of Grazia all hell breaks loose. It's the same with shopping, traipse around Tesco and they will sleep like the dead, attempt to try on a new top in H&M and they spring awake, alert as a meerkat and noisy as a banshee.

As the name of this blog has probably given away I have four children, and I spend vast portions of my day trying to get away from them. It's not that I don't love them, it's just that they are so very relentless in their pursuit of my attention. To be fair to the older boys they do have the consideration to go to school, which at least leaves me the inside of the day to contemplate my navel in peace, but the younger ones are still at home, all day, every day.

I do have a nanny, which gives me much needed respite, but sadly I have to waste some of that potential me time will less pleasurable pursuits like working and chores. If I do venture away from my keyboard the twins will instantly descend upon me with yells of 'Mummy, mummy', which is cute for about 30 seconds before they smoothly segue into screaming demands for mummy to 'Dit down', get 'More app juice', find a missing 'Ball, ball', or carry out a messy 'Nappy change'.

I soon turn tail and remove myself back to the relative peace of my office. I tell you I don't know how full time mums do it. I would have to have a specially built sound proof, child proof box built into which I could retire and recharge, like a maternal flotation tank, lest I implode with the incessant stream of demands and chatter.

I would feel bad, if I didn't know that I am not alone in this ruthless pursuit of doing nothing. When my husband is at home at the weekend he is an angel with the children, but he also spends many hours attempting to slope off and spend some quality time with his iPad. I don't blame him, he has spent a week earning a crust and now all his free time is eaten up by caring for our tiny tyrants.

If he isn't sweeping up discarded breakfast cereal, he is filling up endless cups of juice, removing and replacing socks on the whim of the twins, fixing up the varying different swings that suit all our different ages of children, continuing the unending task of loading and unloading the dishwasher, making one of the million meals our children seem to consume every day. I can hardly begrudge him a quiet moment or two with can of Stella while the kids aren't looking.

I suspect the answer lies in some kind of remote control device for the children. That way when it all gets too much we could simply stab at the pause button, sit down, relax with a glass of wine or two, after which we could press play again and let the games recommence - or not.