Monthly Archives: April 2010

My Spotty Twenties

I always knew that the inevitable chicken pox would come at the most inconvenient time. I booked our weekend holiday to The Yurt Farm months ago, after being mesmerised by the broadsheet buzz about ‘glamping’. The great outdoors but with room to stand up and a wood-burning stove? Perfect. I’d managed to persuade a few carloads of friends to pile in and make it more affordable and we all began counting down the weeks. When the volcanic ash loomed over Britain and nobody could fly, I felt relieved that our holiday didn’t involve a plane. Then Tom got chicken pox, or at least that’s what the doctor said. There were other children in our party and the owners of the site had a baby – it looked as though the holiday was off. I tried to explain to Tom what it meant to be contagious….

“What if my chicken pox aren’t catching chicken pox, what if they’re safe ones?” he asked, as I threw tea together in the kitchen. I was chopping an onion and a tear trickled down Tom’s cheek. “Ooh, I think I’m crying,” he said, “but don’t worry, it’s not a sad cry, it’s an onion cry.”

After tea, I chucked the dishes in the sink and looked out of the window. Everything’s blooming in our tiny yard, which in a way makes me feel more claustrophobic than if I had just left it to be bare concrete. The little cherry blossom tree I bought for Tom’s 3rd birthday is spreading out all over and I think its roots might crack open the plastic pot before long. Sometimes I wish Tom had a bit more space to run around and I had really been looking forward to taking him to the countryside to do that. Of all the weeks of all the months of all the years for him to get chicken pox. I caught myself starting to cry and swallowed it back but Tom doesn’t miss a trick.

“Oh no Mum, have you caught my tears from before? Don’t worry, they’re not sad tears, only onion ones.”

At bedtime, I lined up the Calpol, Piriton and calamine lotion. Tom didn’t wake in the night though. I held my breath as I rolled up his pyjamas in the morning but the rash was just the same. He was fine, but I could’t take him to school and I had to work. At one point I was having to entertain Tom and move around the house to accommodate a gas engineer. He thought it was hilarious that Tom was playing his drums while I shouted out emails as I typed to avoid making mistakes. “You’ll be rocking over that laptop by the end of the week!” laughed the engineer, who was a bit too jovial for my liking.

After three days at home and no development on the rash front, I’d had enough. A different GP confirmed that Tom’s rash was ‘non-specific, possibly an allergy to something’ and gave us the nod to go on holiday. (In the doctor’s, an old note on Tom’s medical record glared out at me from the computer screen: “‘Radioactive snot,” says Mum’.)

We went on the holiday (it was brilliant) but that’s a blog post in itself, which I’ll write soon. Tom’s ‘chicken pox’ never materialised, meaning they will eventually arrive just in time for something very important.

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School Lotto

Sorry for being fickle, but I’m back. I did finish telling our story and most of it’s good, but there are still bad bits. I need to write about them because I know it helps my readers and to be totally honest, it helps me.

This morning, I heard the Thomas the Tank Engine theme tune on the telly and it filled me with dread. That’s because, on a school morning, if we don’t leave the house by the time Thomas finishes, we’re late. It’s not the same tune as it was when we were young, it’s a load of posh kids singing “They’re two, they’re four, they’re six, they’re eight, shunting bricks and hauling freight -” and they usually pipe up when I’m rushing around with a toothbrush in my mouth, trying to convince a stubborn Tom that his trousers are on back to front and mopping his nose with last night’s pyjamas.

It’s the Easter holidays and we haven’t had to think about school for a whole week. I almost forgot it existed. When I heard Thomas this morning though, I was reminded that school very much does exist. Tomorrow, we find out which, if any, primary school Tom has been allocated. It’s like I wrote exactly one year ago when I found out Tom hadn’t got into the nursery school I chose for him: I never expected this to be my realm.  I didn’t realise there were such enormous differences in the amount of funding and quality of education. Tom’s current school is too far away and far from brilliant. We’ve got the amazing, impenetrable one on the doorstep but sadly I still haven’t found out the secret of getting in there. It’s a real wrench every morning trekking miles in the opposite direction, seeing the lucky few walking to the top notch school around the corner. The best I can hope for is that Tom will get in the second best school I have applied for. Truthfully though, I want us to move. Most of our friends live across town in an area that’s just better for children with much more going on. If Tom doesn’t get in the second best school, then I’ll take it that my old friend Fate is telling us to pack up and move. The only trouble with that is that I can only get a one bedroomed flat for what I pay for a house here. Perhaps space would be a sacrifice worth making if I could guarantee Tom a place in a really good school, but the only way of finding out is moving there and then applying. Children’s Services told me that the worst case scenario would be Tom not receiving a school place until his fifth birthday and even then, it being miles from where we live: If Tom does get allocated the second best school, moving could be a big mistake. I keep dreaming about all of my teeth falling out, which is apparently about fear of losing control.

Doesn’t everyone want the best start in life for their child? I definitely don’t think Tom is more important than any other child, but it breaks my heart to know that he could be having an ‘outstanding’ education and instead he is getting one that’s ‘satisfactory’. It’s so difficult and it’s harder when you have to deal with decisions that affect someone’s future entirely alone. I can understand why people rent properties near good schools, or have their children baptised when they’re not even Christians, or even (almost) why some people pay for private education.

Last year, the decision about Tom’s school place came on an email from a  robot in the early hours of the morning. So here I am, wide awake, the Thomas the Tank Engine Theme Tune on repeat in my mind…

*After I clicked ‘post’, I spotted my Blackberry blinking out of the corner of my eye. He’s in the second best school, so it looks like we’ll be staying put for the time being. Seeing as how I have really missed this blog, we might as well stay here for a bit too.

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