School rules 

We started uniform shopping as soon as the summer holiday started.It might even have been the first day actually. Our son would happily have waited for weeks but we were keen to crack on because we were so excited about it, possibly even more so than a lot of other parents we know. This was because we’d gone through so much stress and worry about whether our son would actually get into school at all!Our area is very competitive for school places, even primary. We knew that when we moved here a year ago. It’s a very popular school and demand for places is high. But we were less than a mile from the school and well within catchment so I wasn’t worried. My husband was though; he fretted about it for months after we applied for a reception school place along with 3000 other parents across the city at the start of the year. I just assumed it would be fine. Because why wouldn’t it? We were expecting a second child the same week as the council announced the results so I was focused on that instead. Then on the day we found out our son hadn’t got into any of the schools we applied for. It was awful. He was one of 11 children in catchment who didn’t get it – our direct neighbour did though. So our son was the first on the waiting list, and remained so for weeks. And weeks. Everyone accepted their places. Fellow pupils parents were outraged on our behalf but that didn’t help. We took on a solicitor to advise us and entered the appeals process. I had our baby 6 days after the announcement but the initial weeks of joy were tinged with sadness and anxiety about our older sons future. We tried to hide it from him but could tell he knew something was up. We visited other schools and considered moving as a last resort. It was horrific to be honest. I’d burst into tears about the thought of him having to go to a school where he didn’t know anyone and how we would explain to a 3 year old (4 just a few days before school started) that he couldn’t go to his school anymore, where he’d attended nursery for a year. My husband did everything he could to get him into the school, hardly sleeping for three months and researching every possible option. And then we got lucky – a place came up and he was offered it. We cried with joy and relief and our son was over the moon to visit his new classroom and teacher. And to know he would stay with his friends, at his school.

So we bought his uniform straight away, and he wore it beaming with pride for two days even though it was school holidays. Then we bought his new school shoes and he wore them for two days as well. And scuffed the hell out of them. Of course. But it’s ok, because that photo of him we will take on his first day of school will be utterly perfect anyway and nothing will ruin it.


Mambo madness

I’d planned to take the boys to a fruit farm with a heavily pregnant friend and her daughter. She had lovely visions of the children wandering through the strawberry fields filling their faces with unpaid for fruit, whilst I was up for anything which got the 3yo out of the house and burning off energy. Of course, the British summer is shit. So the day was grey and ground waterlogged from several days of rain, and we decided to abandon and go to one of the numerous indoor play areas in Cardiff instead.
Mambo used to be located on the other side of the city near our old house but has recently reopened in a larger, newer facility not that far from where we live. My husband has taken our son several times recently and said that it was amazing, so we decided to try it out. Evidently so had the rest of the city. Both car parks were full and vehicles were strewn all along the road leading up to it. Doubts were already setting in before we’d got through the door but i figured ‘How bad could it be?’ Well, it was like hell on earth. Every table and seat was taken by weary parents and grandparents, children’s screams filled the air and dance music was pumping through the air – to make sure you couldn’t hear yourself think. Maybe it was a ploy to make you buy more? As I looked around startled and wondering where to park the pram my son removed his shoes and absconded to the towering play frame, not to be seen for half an hour.   
I managed to grab a table just before my friend arrived, negating being forced to take advantage of her being Über pregnant to guilt trip someone into giving theirs up (wishful thinking). Her daughter went to find my son, we chatted for about five minutes before her daughter started screaming from the top of the play frame. She was stuck. We called to my son to help her but his idea of assisting was to talk to her for ten seconds and then run off again. In the end I handed the baby to my mate for safe keeping and then went and brought her daughter down. It was no mean feat, as she refused to take the slide and forced us to go down the ‘up’ route. Where a torrent of children were flooding up non-stop. I may have knocked a couple flying in order to get us down eventually, but no bones were broken and all was well. We didn’t see my son again for a while until he emerged dripping in sweat from the mayhem, downed an overpriced, sugar stacked ‘fruit’ shoot, begrudgingly let me remove his jumper and then headed off into the melee again.

Until she and my son got a little cocky and climbed up inside the spider webbing tower anyway. This time the girl had the common sense to stop halfway up and return to the bottom, but my foolhardy son kept going to the top. Then promptly started to cry and scream for me. An older boy did try and help him but in was in vain. So the baby was handed over once again, and I scaled the webbed tower to rescue him. There were five layers of webbed elastic cords but there might as well have been twenty five. I’m not a big build but struggled to slip quickly through the gaps, which are obviously constructed for the shape of a child. It felt like they were vines wrapping around my legs and arms, pulling me back as I tried to call out reassuringly to my offspring at the top being consoled by an older child. In fairness to him, it was pretty terrifying at the peak with nothing to grab above you and just wobbly elastic bands below you. Especially with other kids hauling themselves up, and hurling themselves down, with no thought for their own safety or the predicament of the wailing toddler above them. There was a tube leading back to the relative safety of the jungle gym on the other side of the webbing, and my balancing precariously with one arm and hoisting him along with the other, I finally got him to it. Where he just ran off again. 

When I finally managed to push my way back down through the maze and kids, the baby was hungry but we were in the middle of the tables and I felt exposed so we moved a couple over to a table by the wall so o could feed him there instead. We kept an eye out for my son but somehow managed to miss him. And the tannoy announcement saying he was lost at reception. But a nice lady finally brought him over to us and he was so scared by his ordeal of thinking we’d left him behind that he actually sat still on my lap for ten minutes. Until his bravery returns and he ran off to the ball pit to wreak havoc by chucking them at smaller kids until a mum told him off. So he started throwing them at her instead, forcing me to leave the baby once again and intervene. 

The visit ended as so many outings seem to – with the older child screaming and having a meltdown through exhaustion and over excitement. But this time he was at the very top of the jungle gym with his trousers and pants down around his ankles shouting that he had done a poo. Luckily another mum was up there and looked after the hysterical little fellow after pulling up his joggers until I managed to get up and carry him back down, still fighting against the torrent of children. 

And then I got to carry him out whist pushing the pram, both children crying. It was a fun day. We haven’t been back yet.