“Mummy, how do octopus sit down?”

mummy how do octopus_horzOf the many things my daughter has asked as we walk to and from school each day, this is perhaps the one that tickled me most. The delightfully innocent way that her 5 year old mind ambles along leisurely paths, before taking giant leaps of randomness. This particular enquiry was born from her observation that dogs shouldn’t be allowed to sit on a sofa (in her mind they’re for humans, obviously) and the subsequent idle curiosity of how and where other animals relax, finally resting on this specific mollusc behaviour. And one I was supposed to answer….erm….

My least favourite line of questioning was in response to her seeing a local election poster in a neighbour’s window which required me to explain ‘Council’ at 8.30am on a drizzly monday morning. By the time we reached the school gates it had escalated to a full on evaluation of parliament. But “WHY, mummy, what do they DO?” It’s a good question, and one I’m still trying to formulate a suitable explanation for in time for her younger siblings questioning that will surely follow.

For me, it’s mornings such as these that most acutely define the term ‘school run’. Not a school amble, or a school walk, but a run. Specifically fast paced and furious to reflect the stressful military precision required to get four small children up, washed, dressed, fed and headed vaguely in the right direction, simultaneously no less, all ready for an enriching day of discovery and learning. While shepherding said curious minds along narrow paths, between discarded wheelie bins and illegally parked cars, balancing lunchboxes and book bags on my last nerve, and dancing the dog-poo-dodge.

The walk home from school is equally entertaining, in my experience. Tired feet drag slugishly home from a full days activity, all exuberance lost as the end of school bell chimes. Only a waffer thin modicum of tolerance remains, and is one that should be handled delicately lest it collapse spectacularly into a pit of exhausted misery. And that’s just me. The kids are worse. The three little ones at least, are capable of screaming the whole way home. Now proudly perfecting their simultaneousness in an ear piercing, cringe inducing shriek. When floral curtains twitch and old people with their rose tinted memories of their own preschool cherubs tut loudly enough to be heard over full volume episodes of Countdown watched in overly heated living rooms. But I digress.

I love it when my children ask questions. That their minds are exploring the world around them as they discovers their place within it, is truly inspiring. I believe we should all ask ‘why’ more often. So when they do ask questions, I like to be able to answer. Or at least try.

Everybody knows about something, we all have skills of some kind and things that we are good at. Should homework involve anything creative, I’m confident that I’d be able to help. I’ll give languages a go, and have become a dab hand at cutting, sticking and wiping (invaluable skills, no?). The only time I remember ever really impressing my daughter was the day she started tap dancing class and I showed her the time step. Yep, this mummy still taps! The questions that arise in a year 1 classroom are mostly within the boundaries of my comfort zone. I can google ‘split-diagraphs’ as efficiently as the next mummy (yes, my five year old told me all about them!) But what of things to come? The steep academic learning curve of GCSEs, A-levels – not to mention key stage 2?! At what age will I cease to become supportive, when they’ll stop asking me for help; “never mind, daddy will be home soon. I’ll just ask him.”

Like all good pub quiz teams, I think there should be a mummy-knowledge-network. We each have our specialist subject and can be called upon to answer homework questions accordingly. So rarely at toddler groups or the school gates do women discuss what they ‘used to do’ before children. Scientists, teachers, astronauts, brain surgeons; do we cease to become these things as we take our maternity leave? Our identities as mothers are most commonly badged by our children. I’m ‘Ella’s mum’.  But if anyone needed to know about designing a magazine, then I’m your girl. I know how to file an end of quarter VAT Return, I once gave historical tours around the oldest inhabited house in the country, and there’s a dusty rowing trophy somewhere with my name on it. I can sew swimming badges onto a towel and am embarrassingly knowledgeable about characters in Vampire Diaries. I’m sure I know about other things too, but they’re buried beneath nappies, Nescafé and nonsense.

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