My eight year old upset me last night by doing something really quite unforgivable. No, he didn’t tell lies, or steal, or bully. It was much, much worse…he messed up his brand spanking new school book with careless, untidy homework. Bad, right?
No, I know, it’s not really but for someone as anally retentive as me it’s akin to him mooning a coachload of pensioners.
I was the swot at school who always underlined titles with rulers, put numbers neatly in the margin and genuinely panicked (still do) if I had to cross something out.
It didn’t make me a good student; I did and still do leave everything to the last minute, only ever work under pressure and have pulled many an all-nighter revising and finishing assignments. Yet I’d go so far as to say you would admire, nay covet my colour-coded Post It notes and swoon over my meticulously labelled dividers.
None of this has ever worked to make me even one iota more organised, you understand, because I don’t read over the notes or look through anything once it has been neatly filed away but the point is aesthetically my books and files look great.
I’m the adult who derives genuine pleasure from highlighting and filing things in plastic wallets. Buy me stationery for birthdays and Christmas and I’m a happy girl. I know it’s sad but please, before you judge me, listen to the abhorrent crime my eight year old committed.
His homework book was beautiful, all virginal white pages and straight corners. He had used only two pages on which he had neatly written out spellings, demonstrating he is indeed capable of writing on the lines, spelling correctly and not making mistakes. I felt so proud. Then he got his maths homework and everything started to go horribly wrong.
It didn’t help that he was already sulking about having to do it, using an array of avoidance techniques until the threat of not going to his sports club later ‘encouraged’ him.
The first question required him to draw a thermometer. I can barely bring myself to type this but *whispers* he started to draw it freehand. I could feel my blood pressure already starting to rise like mercury even as I went to find him a ruler. But that was only the first of his many violations against stationery.
His answers weren’t on the lines; his numbers and letters were all different sizes and then he got answers wrong several times and had to RUB STUFF OUT (thank f*** he was using pencil or I may have had a nervous breakdown).
I realise I sound like the mother from hell but I can muster patience if he’s trying, finding it difficult and then getting answers wrong. It’s when he gets it wrong and he’s sloppy because he can’t be arsed that I get annoyed.
Although it was like getting blood from a particularly resistant stone, he finally finished and with a sigh of relief I went to make tea whilst he stuck the worksheet in his book. What could go wrong?
It was when I had my back turned that J uttered the biggest understatement in the history of man: ‘Mum, I think I’ve used a bit too much glue.’ I turned to see his book glued to the table and literally oozing. His Maths sheet was so soaked with glue that it had shrivelled like hands that have been in water for too long. The dripping edges that hung over the sides of the book (why not just fold it?) had welded every single page together.
It was what you might call a ‘sticky situation’ boom boom (even though I was a million miles from laughing at the time). As J was also covered in glue, when he tried to smooth the paper he smudged his answers beyond recognition and because the paper was so soaked with adhesive it tore.
I thought I might cry; J looked at me strangely, wondering why I was hyperventilating and unable to speak, then shrugged and went into another room. I had no choice but to leave it to dry and then this morning had the unenviable job of studiously separating each page without tearing it.
The poor book is a mere shadow of its former self and I am in mourning. I can’t help thinking maybe it’s a metaphor; I too was once smooth, glossy and blemish free. Now, like my son’s homework book, I have crinkled surfaces, wonky bits and unsightly markings and I fear it’s going to take a lot more than a bit of colour-coding and highlighting to redeem either of us…