The new day is utter perfection. The garden is awash in a vivid green that is all the more vibrant under the scrutiny of glorious sunshine. The rain of the last few months has everything in good health. The tulips are adding their colour, bursting from the soil beneath a tree that is displaying fresh shoots. A lazy bee drifts past, its wings working hard to keep its mass afloat. Its not working. The sheer weight of its body is starting to drag it down, the wings beat faster but only serve to unsettle its bulk. It starts into a spin, the nose tipping forward and it drops from the sky like a stone to crash onto a brittle leaf that immediately breaks into tiny pieces.
All is black. Above it, two young children poke it with the rubber end of a pencil. Its eyes flicker open. Suddenly I am seeing the world through them. I am the bee. The children are two girls – my two girls - both in nighties, their slept-on hair falling forward as they loom over. They are asking the fat, useless bee a question:
what are we doing today that is fun!?
I sit upright. My back is flushing hot, my breath comes out as a rush and my eyes move round to take it all in. I am in bed, in my room. I am no longer a fat, useless bee. I announce that loudly to my wife, the words tumbling from my lips along with the last of my confusion.
She calmly replies, ‘having a strange dream were we?’
‘Yeah. It was so real!’
‘I thought so. The girls have been poking you for ages. And I never said you were a bee.’
Today is day THREE. Today is to have a different slant. Today my wife is home. This should be a good thing, a problem shared and all that. Except it isn’t. Today I will have to be less sweary, maybe carry a knife less often, maybe even refrain from threatening the six year old with it.
The start to the day is different. My wife has been talking to other adults (actual adults!) in the last few days and they have all agreed that the best start to the day is away from maths, workbooks and bus stops. Instead, the children are instructed to stand in front of our television at 9am for something she announces to be “the nations PE lesson.” Right on cue, some bloke appears on screen who is so obviously carefree and cheery he reeks of being childless and I hate him instantly. He has a smug smile and a six pack and announces PE with Joe!
His enthusiasm has no place before midday.
But then I figure that it might not be a bad thing. I even smile. Let the kids can jump around and tire themselves out - I have thirty minutes spare time here – enough to desperately search Twitter for news of the return of live sport! The wife’s a genius…
Okay, all you parents are joining in, this is good for you too! This is getting us all motivated and up for our day!’ says the childless Essex bastard. I look up from my phone. My two children are facing forward but grinning back at me like that woman on the exorcist when she runs up the wall. My wife’s already started the warm up. No way I’m getting out to this.
Thirty minutes later and I’ve shed a layer of clothing, most of a hangover and the girls respect for me has dwindled even further when a certain type of hop seems to force wind from me on every landing. They counted seven in a row. I was secretly well impressed with that. The wife was not.
The six year old quietly opens a window.
Physical activity appears to be the new way to go about things. My wife’s adult conversation with other actual adults also included discussion around the importance of puncturing a child’s learning with physical activities at different points in the day. So after every lesson we are out in the garden throwing basketballs at a hoop as part of a light, family competition. The girls have a go – three each - the wife next and I can start to see the benefits. Out in the sunshine, everyone cheering and smiling. No signs of any fat, useless bees.
My go comes. My first throw skews off the rim to strike the six year old cleanly and firmly in the face. The next goes in the net but then straight down to bounce off the base and into a bush to strike and terrify the kitten, who runs off and we haven’t seen him since. This prompts the girls to cry solidly for almost an hour as he probably ran out in front of a car! My assurance that there are aren’t really any cars on our road and that he’s probably just panicked and now totally lost does nothing to ease their upset.
I decline the third go. I’m aware we have elderly neighbours and I seem to be on a roll. They have enough to contend with right now, no way they need the added issue of my balls in their face.
I run a lesson later in the day. My wife hovers at the back. Suddenly I reckon I know what it’s like to be a proper teacher when them audit people are in from Ofsted. Suddenly I can’t swear, make threats (even the subtle ones where you just happen to be using a knife to point out their incorrect answer and suggesting they get it right next time) or make that face at them where you push your tongue behind your bottom lip and make an er sound. Or even occasionally swig at my bottle of get-me-through-the-day rum.
The Ofsted-like report from my wife at the end of the teach gives the rating: requires improvement, which I feel is a little harsh. Still, it hasn’t been a terrible day – seven in a row!
The cat comes back. He gives me a knowing smile, is licking his lips and smells of someone else’s house. B@stard.
(The picture below is Isobel showing her working as part of her maths work:)