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Tuesday 6 December 2016

Family Guy: September school mornings are like my Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day
Groundhog Day

SEPTEMBER is bewildering this year, mostly because it's still August when it first rears it's big cloudy mug in our house, dragging feet with it from room to room with grumpy, unreasonable demands.

"I'm confused," is what I moan into the mattress.

It's been 60 days since the level of activity at seven in the morning has exceeded the whip-crack of my wife turning the pages of her book beside me in bed; an occasional distant car alarm; or the dogs savaging our front window as the postman shuffles up the drive to deliver our bank deficit.

Suddenly, our only two remaining school-age offspring, who haven't seen sunshine this side of the yard arm since they were four inches shorter, are grudgingly digging out crumpled balls of last year's uniforms from where they were unceremoniously stuffed before summer, and presenting them through our bedroom door for ironing or replacement, hours before class.

"You were supposed to do this last night," bellows my wife down the hall.

Honestly, I ponder from beneath pillows as she rummages around for petty cash, someone should just knock five days off August and be done with it.

"Tell me this isn't what I think it is," I slur down a breathing tunnel in the duvet.

"It's been on the calendar," reminds my wife, presumably referring to what dawns on me is, in fact, the resounding death knell of sleep-ins.

"I need a new school bag," moans the tall, husky-voiced thing that used to be our little girl, at the bedroom door again.

"You tell me this now?" grumbles her mother, holding out what could be half a kilo of coppers.

"What's this?" gapes our daughter, teen-speak for 'thanks'.

"You told me you needed lunch money," says my wife, approaching exasperation point.

"I said I needed a new school bag," corrects our daughter who, I notice blearily, is now wearing eyeliner.

"Well," her mother tells her, dumping five cent pieces into half-hearted upturned palms and eliciting more sighs. "Ask your brother if he has a rucksack you can have, or use a shopping bag for today."

My wife is admirably pragmatic, a trait roundly unappreciated. "Ugh," our daughter manages, thudding off.

A rumble, like cascading boulders, signals her school-going brother falling up the stairs to present his own case for our being arraigned on charges of terrible parenting.

"Do you have a..." says his sister as he marches by.

"No," he barks.

She makes a noise reminiscent of a hand-cranked air-raid siren from an old war film. This ends abruptly with a thump. "Ow," says her brother.

GLUM

This shouldn't be happening in August, I wince, clamping my eyes to ward it all off.

"Could you be less helpful?" I think I hear my wife ask me, my cue to abandon bed and struggle to my lifeboat of a first cup of coffee. "Women and children first," I mutter.

This pattern is repeated over successive mornings with only the brief reprieve of a weekend: the early-morning thudding around, cascading boulders, air raid sirens and thumps, all through an ever-shortening breathing-tunnel of duvet.

September - 'real' September - when it comes, when the previous month on the calendar is actually heaved up and pinned back to reveal yawning weeks of similar days ahead, well, it's nothing short of an anti-climax.

I'm already the Bill Murray of Groundhog Day school mornings by now, though like glum weatherman Phil Connors in that classic movie, it may take me 300 tries to begin to get things right, to come close to redeeming myself - and then, school will be out for summer all over again.

Meanwhile, the case against us for being boring, irritating and neglectful parents, grudgingly fizzles, or perhaps just the 'neglectful' bit does - or we just remember how to stand our ground at an ungodly hour.

"I need a new calculator," tries the older one, an attempt, I think, to remind us of our role in this boot camp known as September.

"You have a calculator," says his mother. "I bought you a new one at the supermarket."

This earns a snort of derision. He shakes his head, smiles pityingly, then patiently writes down the brand he requires before handing this to her.

My wife glares at it. "Tell you what," she says. "You can give the one I bought to your sister and after school today, go to the credit union, withdraw your own money, and feel free to buy whatever calculator you want."

He looks at her. "Whatever," he says and lopes off.

As I make my way past towards coffee, I stop to grin at my wife and we bump fists. The defence rests.

Our younger one appears on the stairs, looking accusatory.

"There's no bread," she says.

My wife holds up her hands.

"Guilty," she says.

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