Back to school...

Image of children's green shoes sitting atop a toy blackboard and some pencilsFor me, going back to school means one horrifying, terrifying activity. For the uninitiated, I advise you to avert your eyes, to close your browser, to read no further. Nothing they tell you in antenatal classes will put you off parenting. Buying school shoes just might. Fortunately for our junior recipe testers, this dreadful activity precisely coincides with a time that it is too late to change your mind about being a parent. At that point, you can rarely give your children back.

I am yet to determine whether it is because I take great pleasure in self-harm, or because I think so highly of my parenting that I defy anyone to tell me otherwise, that I find need to take the old school shoes to the shop. Whichever it is, I make the same decision every year: the old shoes always come with us. And I get the same result. Every year.

Slow learner I may be. But I am continually filled with a sense of hope, that perhaps the juniors have not grown so very much that year. And then, perhaps we can squeeze another month or two out of the old school shoes. And perhaps then we can stave off, a little longer, the going to the bank to ask for a loan to pay for said school shoes. Who knew small feet could cost that much?

When we arrived, the shoe shop held a large number of harrased looking parents, accompanied by treble the number of bored children. Four competent, but panic-stricken staff attended the throng. We took a number and waited. Gazing into the bag of hope, I realised one pair of shoes had inexplicably fallen out. The senior, now giving me a somewhat whithering look, offered to walk back to the car to try and find it.

Once he was dispatched, I realised I had forgotten to bring socks. Shoe shops are generally obliging with lending socks. I am always a little wary of borrowed footwear. Now, I counselled myself, we were here for new school shoes and verrucae.

I handed over the bag of hope and asked the shoe fitter to assess whether or not we really needed new shoes today, or if we could perhaps manage for another month or two? She measured the juniors' feet. She inspected the size of the old shoes. She gasped.

She glared. She opened her mouth to deliver what I'm sure was some helpful parenting advice on caring for my junior recipe testers' feet. I decided to nip it in the bud. "We've forgotten our socks. Could we possibly borrow a pair of verrucae?"