Back to school for us all

My husband and I are scared. Very very scared. There is a dark and dirty cloud hanging over our heads and in moments of anxious insecurity we whisper surreptitiously to each other – “Do you know the laws of physics?” While we wash the dishes we mutter under our breath, “Any idea why the sea is salty?” As we get ready for bed, we eye each other up across the duvet and query, “Why do stars twinkle?” Our daughter has just started Montessori and we know the Age of Questioning is going to start soon. The Spanish Inquisition has nothing on the relentless quizzing of a toddler on the cusp of a world of wonder. Are we up to the job? Haven’t a clue.

I have hot flushes just thinking about what I don’t know – and should. Like how things work for instance. Seriously, just how does a computer actually function? This is going to be the mainstay of my kids’ lives, as fundamental to them as food and drink. Yet I’m 38 and have only now just plucked up the courage to join Facebook. I still don’t get WiFii, and after three years with our current computer, we still don’t have connected speakers. How does it all work? Haven’t a clue.

Ok, maybe I can justify not knowing too much about the technical stuff, but what about a clock for example. Pretty basic you’d imagine. But to actually know how it works? I presume it has something to do with finely tuned cogs… but how exactly? Haven’t a clue.

Or how does an airplane actually fly? I get in them all the time but still can’t figure out how me, 200 other people, and all our over-sized baggage actually lift off the ground. We take our girls on lots of flights so I really should figure out the answer to this one soon, but for love nor money I’m stuck. I know it has something to do with big fans on the sides, but really? Actually? Haven’t a clue. As for helicopters? A complete modern mystery of the world as far as I’m concerned. And where do things come from? I have the basics – I can even show my girls a loving variety of vegetables from the garden. But how about pineapples? Watermelon? And why and how do certain things happen? Early this year my daughter experienced her first real snow. It was fun, and ‘cold and wet’ was about as deep as our conversations got. But next year, can I tell her where it comes from and how it is formed? Do I know why every snowflake is different? And who the hell figured that one out anyway? What’s the difference between snow and hailstones? And for the love of god, will someone please tell me exactly how the globe is warming??

With these questions furiously spinning around my frenzied brain, I realize I have some studious cramming to do. Never mind waiting until they bring back homework and I have to revisit the mental anguish of Pythagoras’s Theorem, and multiplying fractions; it’s back to school for us now.

In moments of anxiety, we make all kinds of promises. We could watch desperate documentaries instead of watching Desperate Housewives. My extravagant subscription to Hello could be replaced with an exemplary subscription to National Geographic. And while we currently curl up on the sofa together and watch TV after putting the girls to bed, we could seriously contemplate reading encyclopedias of an evening. Aloud. To each other. If we feel really fun, we could even crack open a bottle of wine and quiz each other!

But as we eye each other up at the dinner table, worried in case one of us has been doing some secret swotting, we come to our senses and chuckle. This is what makes parenting such fun. It’s an ever evolving journey of never-ending learning, and as we prepare our children for the years of study ahead of them, I guess it means we are all going back to school. How does a vacuum cleaner work? Haven’t a clue. But I’m sure I’ll figure it out along the way. In the meantime, I’m off to watch Desperate Housewives. Desperate ain’t the word.

(c) AKG 2008

About Grin & Tonic by Alana Kirk

Bouncing into middle age armed with courage, ambition and a pair of tweezers (chin hairs for anyone over the age of 45 reading this) I am a writer with a mission: to redefine this midway point in my life when the last thing I want to do is hang up my high heels and become invisible. This is the end of the beginning, not the beginning of the end. A single mum to 3 fabulous girls, an author, and a fundraising consultant, both ends of my candle are on fire. As I enter this new stage of my life, I want to explore what it means for 'mid-aged' women today, who were promised they could have it all, ended up doing it all, and just do not identify with the traditional image of middle age.
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1 Response to Back to school for us all

  1. cath c says:

    wonderful blog, alana. i think my best suggestion to remove the anxiety is to realize and let your girls realize that not everyone knows everything all the time. go on the adventure of finding the answers with them! this advice comes from working in educational support since 1990, and life w/my very inquisitive 13yr old who began asking why before 2. and not just practical whys but ones like why do cats and grammies die. (19mos!) now his whys are more along the political variety, but i think you can see why i gave up long ago trying to keep up with him. thank goodness for encyclopedias and google.


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