My eldest has made me inordinately proud this week. She had her first field trip away from home. Of course there have been the endless sleepovers, but it’s not really the same sending her to a friend’s house who texts you humorous updates, as being away with 90 other kids and not allowed to phone home. Charlotte, being Charlotte, was not even mildly fazed at this prospect – I mean why would you be?? It’s freedom after all!
The official list-of-packing included some great retro items like a disposable camera, which required some explaining, and aghast, “What – so you can’t see the picture straight away!?” And as we were shoehorning the necessary items into the suitcase to cover all weather bases - some of them not even labelled as requested – I must admit I was doubtful they would all come back from a room of 10 girls' paraphernalia. But amazing they did, and even more astoundingly the dorm came second in the ‘tidiest room’ competition. (Excuse me while I wipe away a maternal tear of pride). At home Charlotte has never even made her bed, so this seemed to be stretching the boundaries of plausibility slightly, but hey.
Three down to two is very strange. That’s not to say it wasn’t a treat getting extra cuddly time with H&K, and at every stage we had time to spare and things were relaxed and easy, but it also felt a bit eerily quiet. A bit like when your boss is away at work, everyone enjoys being able to do their own thing, but you can’t help feeling that the focus isn’t really there. By Friday afternoon, as luck would have it we had to be up near Charlotte’s school for a fair that Harry’s class were putting on, so we didn’t have the normal picking up/bus stop conflict and could go straight over to wait for the fieldtrippers’ return. I can only compare it to wives waiting for their soldier husbands to return from a posting, the parents lining the road with a concerned haggardness about their eyes, and no doubt breaking about 10 of the school’s various parking rules - which I imagine will make the subject of a passively aggressively worded email this week. And indeed with military precision they were all herded off the coaches, and different pieces of kit lined up for reclamation in different places, all tanned and tired looking. And looking about five years older than when we put them on the bus!
Charlotte looked a bit shell-shocked at first, and seemed to be communicating only physically in the form of hugs while in the school grounds, but as soon as we were outside started talking and didn’t stop for about quarter of an hour (putting Harry’s nose firmly out of joint, having become attuned to more listening space this week). Charlie took her out soon after we got home, for a bit of father-daughter bonding time, which they utilised by putting down a deposit on an almost totally non-functional van. They are both a bit obsessed with vans, and easily led astray. A sleepless night and exceedingly furrowed brow followed and they have now decided against said wheels, so the van saga rumbles on. (Possibly it should have its own sub-blog or Twitter account). Anyway, this gave Harry time to simmer back down to his usual laid-back self.
I feel like I’ve been on the fieldtrip myself now, having heard in copious detail the getting-on-for-half the class who spent the night wailing, the various bodily fluid mishaps, fall-outs, and agonising that must have gone on amongst the teachers about when to throw in the towel and send kids home. (I would have gone for sooner, mainly for mental health reasons). They sounded like they had seriously earned a stiff drink by Friday night. But despite all this, she had clearly had the time of her life, and it had done wonders for her confidence. She spent the weekend doing that thing of when you’ve spent a lot of time with someone, and you’ve picked up their phrases and occasionally even their mannerisms. I imagine when Harry goes in two years’ time, I’ll ask him how it went and he’ll say, “Fine,” before returning to the more pressing matter of a Star Wars battle. I shall probably need to deploy some more covert methods for information extraction.
But anyway, back to the proudness. I do worry more with Charlotte not having a left hand that she’ll run into a situation that is trickier for her than others and because she seems so capable and breezy it won’t get noticed. And that this will just be horrible and frustrating. But she seems to have coped admirably. I usually do her hair in the morning, which is really long and obviously gets knotty, so we’d come up with plans about buns and friends doing each other’s hair (she is fine doing others’ hair, and even doing a plait, but it’s still a bit awkward to manage herself). But she was absolutely fine, managed all on her own. She has a prosthetic fitted with a fork that she can use for eating, but she choose not to use it in the end (she doesn’t at home either), she doesn’t like the attention that these things draw. And best of all, they had a school disco, which provided the chance to acquire a set of dance routines that it’s fair to say are associated with a very particular stage in your school-life.
It’s taken a couple of days, but Harry & Charlotte have now attuned themselves back to their normal pattern of bickering interspersed with extreme sweetness. Exactly the way it should be. We went to an extremely un-PC village princess competition on Sunday, small girls are so often incompatible with feminist parenting, but she loved it and came out having told the judges that she loved pogo-ing and was going to be a writer (hey, it’s another chance to talk, isn’t it??). Harry also started a cricket club on Sunday, so they seem to be rebelling nicely against my attempts to subvert the gender conditioning of the whole of modern childhood. I wonder what Katie will add into the mix when she’s a bit older …
As an aside, we decided to ditch Charlotte’s lace-up trainers for the fieldtrip, as there seemed too much pressure to learn this skill quickly, and I could imagine the chaos of 90 kids trying to do laces on a muddy doorstep at once. Besides, I’m not at all sure that I could do laces very competently at 7. But it’s obviously been bugging Charlotte, and after her bath last night she set to developing her own technique. Which she’d mastered in the space of about 2 minutes! I’ve posted it up on YouTube here, as I know I search this for limb difference stuff and tips. She is indeed a star.