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Redster: Five years and four days
Cutester: 21 months

and the Redster’s getting on alright too. This is the start of her second week, mornings only, and next week she goes full time.

All my worst fears were unfounded. Actually my worst fear, which cost me all but two hours’ sleep the night before she started, was not getting to the school on time. How would it be possible, when I was consistently 3-8 minutes late for nursery every morning? In the event of course, with babyfather pulling out all the stops for a change, we were standing at the door with our coats on about 20 minutes before we needed to be.

As for the Redster’s frame of mind – she has been excited about going to school all summer, all 12 weeks of it. She never once admitted to being nervous. On the big day she wore her Special Occasion knickers that are usually reserved for weddings (unfortunately they were in demand again on Thursday for her birthday and she had to wear her Second Best pair instead because the laundry service I provide is not efficient enough). The absolutely best thing was that we’d had two meetings with a classmate-to-be in September, and on that first morning they flung their arms round each other in the playground and walked into their class hand in hand.

The uniform renders me totally gooey. It’s seeing her little round face and dimpled hands constrained by stiff white collar and cuffs and the ridiculous elasticated tie. She marches on ahead of me and the Cutester with her pony tail and school book bag swinging, completely self-assured, and it causes my eyes to get misty and my throat lumpy and so on and so forth.

And then, as Chilled Mum pointed out, becoming a School Parent is like starting a new job. Not only am I trying to get my head around the fact that I will probably be turning up at this institution every weekday at 9 for the next seven years of my life, or ten, but I’m expected to read mountains of memos and newsletters and fill in forms for the next day and have money ready and know when school events are going to happen and this all on top of turning her out in a clean uniform every morning. If I’d applied for the job I’m not sure I’d have got it.

The Redster: Five
The Cutester: Twenty months

Zoes Birthday

N.B. She is not dressed for first communion nor do I think her dress is tasteful. She is in fancy dress as a princess courtesy of Woolworths, bought in those halcyon days when Woolworths still was

Here I am, a blogging cheat, because I’m really writing this in four months later – but if I don’t record this milestone moments in this blog, I won’t record them anywhere, certainly not my head…

As usual for a birthday party, we held it on the Sunday, took all of Saturday to get ready and were still working flat out fifteen minutes before the guests arrived. That Saturday the Redster had a party to go to. ‘I know this sounds pathetic, but I don’t think she can come,’ I explained to the mother involved, Glamorous Mum. ‘We need ALL of Saturday to get the house ready, so if I’m at a party…’

‘No problem,’ she said graciously. ‘Just leave her with us. And you can leave the Cutester as well.’

This was a novel idea. I did leave them both, and came at the end to find the Cutester generously smeared in a chocolate substance and sitting on her host’s lap.

‘She’s been here the whole time,’ he told me.

‘What did you do at the party, Cutester?’ I said.

‘CAKE,’ she told me.

‘Ate half of it. I hope that’s OK,’ said the host.

So it pretty much worked.

Our marriage was nearly over by the time the doorbell rang at 3pm on Sunday. Fortunately, the first guest was the Very Best Red Headed Friend and her parents, and somehow just the sight of them took the tension out of the air. It then proceeded to be a really enjoyable party. Babyfather and the VBRHF’s dad disappeared into the Middle Room where Babyfather was trying to construct something to hold the piñata up. This is a new trend at birthday parties if you’re not familiar with the term – imported from Spain, I’m guessing. It’s definitely not British. You have a papier mache thing, often in the form of a cute animal, in our case a unicorn, which you beat to death with a gaily-adorned truncheon thing, so that in theory all the goodies inside the unicorn fall to the floor where it’s each child for itself to gather them up.

The set-up was probably the most entertaining part. Each time I put my head round the door to see if it was ready babyfather and the VBRHF’s dad were in a different comical pose. (My favourite was finding the VBRHF’s dad alone in the room, pinata nowhere to be seen, poised and ready to swing with a baseball bat. I never asked.)

When all the other games were exhausted (Glamorous Mum had to take over the controls of the CD player for Pass the Parcel because I couldn’t work out why the radio tuner wasn’t raising the volume) we piled into the pinata room. We cautiously assigned two bashes per child, not wanting the unicorn to be disembowelled diappointingly early but to die in long-drawn out agony, but we needn’t have bothered. The kids made no impression, not even the one boy present, and then the adults did some anger therapy on it, but it was becoming clear that this was no ordinary mythical beast. (‘Is this violence, Mummy?’ one child was heard to ask.)

It took our new housemate, the Yankster, to show us weedy Brits how it’s done. Once she’d done serious damage with what was definitely violence the children were queuing up behind her to finish the animal off. The VBRHF was carried from the room in tears (but I noticed she rushed back in again and joined the skirmish when the goodies finally hit the floor).

Then came the crowning glory – the cake – the one in the photo – yes, I made it myself! You will only realise how impressive this is when you have tasted one of my flapjacks. After the oohing and aahing was over I reluctantly took a knife to her (this is the goriest blog I’ve ever written).

‘No! Cut it from the back,’ said the VBRHF’s mum.

I did, allowing everyone to admire the front for a bit longer. Slice, slice, slice – and I can’t remember whether it was a child or adult who began sniggering but shortly it was everyone, because Barbie’s bottom cheeks were now staring out of the back of the cake.

I can’t remember anything else. At least I managed to write this down before her sixth birthday…