There is a secret language spoken only by parents. We start learning it as soon as that little wee-stick shows two blue lines, and it contains strange phrases like ‘mucous plug’ and ‘stomach-muscle-separation’ and ‘perineal massage.’ After the birth, it adds concepts like ‘trampoline-induced-incontinence.’ And once our little people are old enough to spend time in the company of others, the phrase ‘double drop-off’ enters our vocabulary.
This is not to be confused with the southward journey knockers can take after breastfeeding, but to the preschool/daycare/big school loop we must start driving once the children come of age. Ivy is spending Thursdays and Fridays at pre-school this year and Teddy, on Fridays, is entering the world of family day-care with Wayne (whom I like to call his manny.)
The actual dropping-off part of the process is painful, even when I can hear the crying stop before I reach the door. As I drive away alone, a little part of me (OK, a big one) is shouting ‘Free at last! Thank God Almighty, I am free at last!’, and yet, that first solo latte is tainted just slightly by the acid bile of guilt eating away at my stomach lining, no matter how many times I compulsively check my mobile. If my phone does ring my heart stops and my brain says ‘Appendicitis! Head injury! Random pre-school shooting!’ And then I pick up and my mother says ‘Your father is doing my head in with this EBay business.’
Our new weekly rhythm is an adjustment. The babies must get along without Mum, and I have to re-learn that when alone in public, grown women don’t usually talk out loud: ‘Ooh! Look at that mans hat!’ or sing a rundown of what’s next on the daily agenda to the tune of ‘Do You Know the Way to
In practical terms, I must start preparations the night before because I am enthusiastic, rather than organized, and it takes me a long time to infuse all my love and affection into lunch and morning tea. Mummy can’t be here, kiddos, I want these little packages to say, but she loves you very much and she made you a blueberry muffin with special powers to dry tears and repel bullies. Bag-packing is more layered and potentially disastrous than a
Once I’m on top of the bag-packing, the last step is learning the new social rules. To be honest, I’m a little off in that area so far. When saying hello to a new mother on the path last week I accidentally sneezed and farted at the same time. But it got worse. Just this morning, I was bent over into the car, strapping Teddy into his seat, when my fisherman’s pants undid themselves and slid to the ground. Other mothers may handle this aspect of parenting with poise and glamour but for me, it seems, the double drop-off equals twice the chance to do the mothers walk of shame.