What’s That Sound? It’s The Back To School Alarm!

It was 7am on Thursday morning and a strange unwelcome noise crept into my consciousness, a noise that had been thankfully absent for the previous six months, the dreaded alarm clock (or as is more common these days, the phone alarm). Well I say absent but that would fail to take into account the times that my good lady wife (Niki) decided that she wanted to go for an early morning, pre-work jog and set the alarm for “ridiculous” o’clock. Now what invariably happened in those cases was that the alarm woke yours truly (a light sleeper) and I muttered something to Niki who slapped the alarm into submission who then went back to the land of nod (for she is a world class sleeper, a fact that I can testify to having seen her snore delightfully in the midst of North Atlantic storms, a noisy train journey through Thailand, a trek up Kilimanjaro and numerous other situations which were not conducive to catching a few zeds) while I had to stare at the ceiling wondering how my life had come to this! But I digress, back to last Thursday and that unsettling sound which indicated that the hiatus from school had finally come to an end.

Within five minutes of the alarm sounding it was clear that six months had done nothing to change my three boys’ attitudes towards the morning. Aaron (the eldest) was already up and dressed, in cheery form and ready to take on the excitement of the day, Lochlan (the next in line to the throne) was grumbling about not being able to wear a football jersey and shorts but was getting things done in a begrudging fashion, Oscar (my youngest boy) was still completely conked-out in his bed and refusing all attempts to rouse him. Now I know from past experiences that confronting Oscar head-on only makes things worse. So on my first visit to his room one shutter was opened and a few kind words were whispered into his ear, the second saw his light being turned on and his duvet cover being gently rolled back, by the third visit mommy Niki has been enlisted to fight the good fight and I have exited downstairs for the crucial sandwich prep! Oscar did eventually emerge but only after the dreaded threat of losing screen-time had been invoked.

Ah the school lunch, how I have not missed thee! We try to arrange things so that the boys get one source of carbohydrate i.e. bread and two sources of protein and / or fruit per lunch. It sounds pretty simple but our boys’ tastes come and go like the Irish sunshine. A frequent early morning exclamation is “what do you mean you no longer like ham / salami / cheddar cheese / tomatoes / etc?” the list goes on and on and on. In our favour this time round is that Niki has used lockdown to harness the power of home-baked sourdough bread. So now our sandwiches have a tasty and healthy base, albeit that Niki also decided at a later point during lockdown to go for a carb-free diet. As a result she is caught in an eternal circle of feeding the sourdough starter, baking the bread and then being completely unable to eat any of it herself. Sounds a bit too much like Sisyphus and his rolling stone for my liking but Niki has always been built of sterner and less selfish stuff!

Once school lunches had been successfully packed away, we then rushed out of the house in order to meet the earlier than usual drop-off time for Oscar. This had been arranged by the school in order to stagger the arrival of students and entourages. Of course it had to be Oscar who needed to be first to school, for he was still feeling aggrieved by his early wake-up time and decided in his infinite wisdom not to follow the lead of his siblings and use his scooter on the 2km journey to school. Now we live at the top of a hill and while the journey to Drumcondra is not a straight downward line it is pretty close to it so having wheels underneath you is a great advantage. Unfortunately no amount of reasoning with Oscar could convince him of this. In the end his marathon running mother had to pace him over the last km just so he wouldn’t get a late slip on his first day! She also agreed to carry his bag complete with wipes and sanitiser, although from watching Oscar you would have thought it was full of rocks despite the fact that it didn’t even have any books in it yet!

The elder boys reached school at their allotted time and were genuinely excited to be seeing their friends and classmates again. Once this was done myself, Niki and Ella (age 3) celebrated by enjoying breakfast at a local eatery which was very enjoyable. But it was only when I returned home that I realised how much I missed the calmness and the silence of not being stuck with three adorable but highly energetic and competitive males. I sat down and played a game of counting caterpillars with Ella and we weren’t interrupted once by complaining or shouting or screaming once (well I think Niki may have raised her voice while castigating some online retailer for not delivering on-time). Friday ran a bit smoother, Oscar was less grumpy and brought his scooter. People managed to get a bit more familiar with the routine and restrictions around COVID. The only issue was that the heavens opened up on the way home from the school so I was like a drowned rat while the boys were in their sanitised shelter. But still I had that silence, a truly golden silence.


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