I was asked recently what a typical day in our family’s like. And, for the first time in a long time - well, since the school receptionist asked for three (three!) proof of address documents to enrol Frankie in kindy, and I was like, "Eh? I’ve seen you every day for the past five years, and you can see my house from the office, are you FOR REAL?" - anyway, for the first time in a long time, I was dumbfounded. Which is weird, because I’m all about routine.
We’re all the same, us Shearons. Throw a cog in the works - put an extra sugar cube in someone’s tea, or, heavens, run the bath before Ben and Holly’s instead of after - and the wheels fall off. We are creatures of habit. We get up at the same time, we dine at the same time (by which I mean that I throw scraps of ham and Jatz crackers in the children’s general direction), we go to bed at the same time. I’m a bit like Captain Von Trapp in that respect, without the whistle (note to self: get a whistle). So, you’d think that answering a question such as “What’s an average day like?” would be pretty straightforward. But, much like the days themselves, it’s not.
Here’s the things: my kids are nuts. My kids are forever throwing spanners in the works. FOR EXAMPLE. On Friday night, just before bedtime (7pm on the fucking dot, weekend or otherwise), I unpacked Ben’s schoolbag (he should’ve done it himself, yes, but because he’s a nine-year-old boy who forgets to put underpants on most days, he didn’t). Upon unpacking his school bag, and emptying out the uneaten crunch n’ sip (every. fucking. day), I noticed that his MacBook was missing. Oh I’m sorry, what’s that you say? What’s a nine-year-old who forgets to wear underpants doing with a MacBook anyway? It’s a VERY GOOD QUESTION. Ask the school - I’ve sent them enough letters (postmarked with my current address, natch) asking the very same one. But that’s besides the point. Well actually, it’s very much the point, but now’s not the time for a school-based MacBook rant. Now’s the time to tell you what happened when I noticed that Ben’s $1,500 MacBook was missing. Missing!
I didn’t shout. I prefer to save shouting for sand in shoes, tipped over the family-room floor type situations. This kind of went beyond shouting. Yes, it’s a THING. We sat Ben down, and asked him to recount his movements, from the last time he shut down Minecraft, at 3.05 on Friday afternoon to the point, four hours later, when he was facing the very real possibility of not seeing 10.
“So, ummmmm, I came out of class and, ahhhhhh, like, ummmmmmm, well, I went to play football. And I thought, like, ummmmmm, I should take my MacBook out because I was using my bag as an, um, goalpost so ahhhh, like, ummmmm … I’ve left it on the wall in the pre-primary area.” This, he tells us, as the grey clouds of a massive, relentless thunderstorm rolled across the sky. But still, I didn’t shout. I swore, yes, and I may have drawn my hand across my throat in a “YOU ARE DEAD” gesture, but I didn’t shout. Instead, I sent Paul out with his iPhone and a ladder while I got the three children - calmly - to bed. When Paul came back with nothing to report - apart from the fact that the torch on the iPhone is indeed excellent - I went out in the car, drove illegally up to the gates and high-beamed the school up. I could see nothing, apart from a Chinese man doing step-ups on the limestone blocks. Unusual, no?
The rainy, rainy weekend was spent sans MacBook. Obviously. On Monday morning I was supposed to be getting ready for my first proper day back at The Sunday Times - a day of interviews and meetings and grown-up stuff - and instead I was trying to get everyone dressed and ready to search the school at first light. No, this was not part of the routine. This was very much NOT a part of the grand plan. Which is possibly why I ended up crying in the office. Oh I know. It just all got on top of me. I’d been around the classrooms, searched the scene of the crime, interrogated the cleaning ladies, acted like a crazy lady in lost property, flinging jackets and goggles and hats and snorkels (eh?) around with gay abandon - all while trying to stop Alice shouting PUSH (don’t ask) and Frankie shouting PLAYGROUND - and then, when all avenues were exhausted, and the siren went, and Ben was still without his MacBook, I started to cry. A proper blubbery, big-girl, snotty-nosed sob. And, when I’d been given a tissue and a shoulder pat, I sniffled my way home, with Frankie still shouting PLAYGROUND and Alice insisting on PUSHING the pushchair, and the very real possibility of being late for my first meeting. All this before 9am!
And then mum turned up - to look after the kids - and made the astute observation, as only she can, that perhaps I should have insisted that Ben bring his MacBook straight home from school each day. And then, because she was obviously on a roll with her astute observations, said: “Ooo mummy’s in a bad mood,” which always makes one feel so much jollier, in my experience, doesn’t it you?
Hey! There’s a happy ending. The office lady rang about an hour later to say they’d FOUND the MacBook, in the after-school-care room, and it was in one piece, and had been hand delivered to Ben in his classroom, so he didn’t have to sit at his desk twiddling his shoelaces while the rest of the kids played Minecraft … I mean, broadened their educational horizons via the medium of online gaming.
So there you go. A typical Friday night. A regular Monday morning. Aren’t you glad you asked?