It was going to be a better week.
My daughter and I weren't going to have to sign the late book at school because we would be so well-prepared. I'd remember to pack the all-in-one suit my daughter needed for a special project and make sure we'd gone through her bag and checked all her homework was complete.
Monday was going to run like clockwork. Her uniform would be ready-ironed and her shoes polished. I'd get up earlier than usual to prepare a good, healthy breakfast. I'd give her a ten-minute warning when we were leaving home and I'd get to school on time to find a parking space less than a mile away!
Lofty weekend ambitions have a terrible habit of crumbling against the reality of the Monday morning alarm clock. It doesn't matter how long you've had those good intentions for a fresh start and for being better-prepared: an evening, a weekend or even a whole week's worth of half-term... there's never enough time to get ahead when you're a parent.
It all started to go wrong when, over a well-timed breakfast, I was double-checking her book-bag and discovered a partially crumpled sheet of spellings… I was sure I'd been through the bag. I must have missed it. Heart pounding and panic taking hold I edged the sheet onto the table in front of my daughter and suggested as tentatively as possible that she should write them out a couple of times.
Needless to say, this did not go down well. Hadn't I checked the bag? How had neither of us spotted it? "I want to finish my breakfast first," she quite reasonably responded. "But we need to get this done before we leave!" Toast unhappily pushed aside, she begrudgingly completed her spellings homework. By that time I was already behind my carefully planned schedule, and the week proper hadn't yet begun.
"Come on, get your shoes on. We have to go or else there’ll be nowhere to park," I snapped. You have to time it to perfection. A millisecond too late and you're caught in the worst of the rush-hour traffic and you can't get near the school. She hastily got into the car, shoving her spellings into her book-bag as she went. When we got to school parking was chaos and so I double parked, blocking in two cars and willingly risking their owners' wrath over that of the teacher's.
As we approached the school gates, my daughter gave me an unsettled look and said, "It's forestry day today. Did you get my all-in-one suit, mummy?"
I hadn't. But that's why I'd been checking her bag - it was to see if the suit had been packed! Finding the uncompleted spelling test had thrown me...
And then, her tummy rumbled, because she hadn't finished her breakfast… Frantically I searched around the depths of my handbag, rifling through empty sweet packets until I came across an already opened Twix bar. I gave her the remaining finger and stood flustered at the threshold of the classroom door, as the teacher welcomed us with mildly reprimanding words.
I came away troubled, hurriedly moving my car out of the way and heading back down the road the way I'd come, hands trembling a little. I'd lost sight of the bigger picture. Instead of keeping calm and taking it on the chin, I'd set myself up for a fall, knowing that sometimes things just don't work out the way you plan. The most important thing I should have done was to ensure that my daughter started her day calmly, with a good breakfast inside her and with everything ready to go. I shouldn't have panicked about the spellings and I shouldn't worry that I didn't have a healthy snack to hand. I left her unsettled instead of starting the week positively.
So I've made myself another promise. From now on, we are just going to try our best to be prepared. We're going to accept that sometimes we'll forget to bring things into school and sometimes we'll forget, or even run out of time, to complete homework on a weekend. I know that I am supporting my daughter more than I'm not: we read together and we play games. We cook and we garden. We go on days out and we visit friends. Education is not just about what happens in the classroom. It is so much more. So when things don't go to plan… I’m going to remind myself that it's really not the end of the world! There's too much to remember to plan everything to the last detail. Being ready for all that life throws at you, and enjoying it: that's a good thing to aspire to.
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