You know when you get that piece of paper – inevitably, in my case, a couple of days late (and after another mummy has asked me all about it, prompting me to remind my child to remember to give it to me) – announcing the impending school trip? Does anyone else feel a slight dip in enthusiasm, before glancing at the note, the deadline, the cost. It’s definitely not that I don’t want my kids to participate in all the extra curricular (but of course enhancing to their education) activities, it’s not even particularly the cost (although nearly £2000 for a cricket tour to Barbados curbed our summer hols big time that year) – it’s the packing.
I know, ridiculous. Especially as I am well travelled and went to boarding school from the age of 10. I am an elite packer. I can pack for England – in fact I could probably pack England in a rucksack and take it on as cabin baggage. But getting all the stuff ready for an away school trip is a nightmare. For a start, you realise that your kid has been existing on four T shirts (the others deemed unsuitable for some reason or another). Normally this would not be a problem as the washing machine is on permanently in this house. But when they are away for more than four nights, and they are hot and sweaty, it becomes a bit of an issue. So that’s a shopping trip. Then there is the inevitable ‘Kit list’ that helpful teachers put together – this always includes waterproofs (I agree, the British weather is not predictable) a torch (why, I know they are staying at a cheap hotel, but surely they have lighting?) and the request for plastic bags for dirty clothes.
I have three boys, one of whom is too young to do overnighters, but the others are dab hands at it. Eldest Son, having been through the ranks of Beavers, Cubs and Scouts, is, like me, an uber packer. After a trip his plastic bags are crammed with washing, and the torch has moved in the bag – so he obviously found a use for it. Middle Son is a disaster. The last trip he did, he found the plastic bags (for dirty clothes) blew them up and then burst them noisily behind the teachers who wrote the kit lists. He arrived back dirty and happy, with a bag considerably lighter, having managed to lose a number of items and gained some from another child. And it didn’t matter that he only had four T shirts, because three of them appeared to come back absolutely spotless. We won’t even go there with the pants and socks…
The other thing of course is that your child grows – often without your realizing, and all the stuff that you packed away from the last trip, or the last child, suddenly doesn’t fit. And so we have gained several pairs of waterproof trousers (all unworn), the ‘spare pair of old trainers’ isn’t, and the wash bag suddenly becomes heavier, because your child has discovered ‘products’ like hair gel and cologne.
Eldest Son and I worked through the list yesterday for his impending few days away on rowing camp. This list required four sets of clothes to row in, because they would get wet (or hopefully not…). We duly located four pairs of jogging bottoms – some smaller than the others, four hoodies, and so on. We bagged them up into individual days – stopping short of labelling them Day 1, Day 2 – he is 14 after all… I talked him again through his enormous holdall –telling him to put the rest of his wash stuff Here before he left in the morning, that his socks were in this bit and so on.
He rolled his eyes.
‘I know what I’m doing Mum’ he said, slightly belligerently as I put the list in the bag for him to check he had everything on the way back. (None of the kids ever use this itinerary, or check list, but it makes me feel efficient).
And so it was, at 5.30 this morning I waved him off as he left to catch the coach to his destination.
He’ll have a fantastic time.
(Without the soap, hairbrush, and deodorant, that are sitting unchecked on his bed).