Stephen Fahey: Sympathy for parents as schools reopen

This week, when you’re on your way to work or dropping the kids to school or just out in public minding your own business and the awful truth of the schools being back is getting you down, take comfort in the knowledge that everyone else is in the same boat. The summer holidays are now indeed over. Autumn is here. The beach and sun block are but dwindling memories. And life as we know it has shifted back to that old, painfully familiar pattern of up, lunches, traffic, school, traffic, work, work, traffic, homework, dinner, sleep, repeat. But all is not lost. Yet.

That semi-dead look in the eyes of the person alone in the car next to yours as you inch forward through motorway gridlock, or that scarcely conscious person who is not with it enough yet to not stand just that little bit too close behind to you as you queue in a shop or as you wait to cross the street contemplating the damage your face wouldn’t do to the concrete if you just gave up and fell to the ground like a petulant toddler, that same look is on your face too. So show some compassion and be not afraid. Throw a smile or two, just not the long-uncomfortable-stare type of smile (you know the one I mean), for the sake of your sanity and that of everyone else. It’ll do us all a world of good.

I’m not saying you need to don a clown costume and chuckle your way through the week. Probably best that you don’t, actually. Unless irrevocably mentally scarring children, getting yourself a free beating and a jailhouse spa day are high on your list of priorities. Just try and share some love. Not clown love, mind you. Please God, not clown love. Just old-fashioned decency and maybe even some laughs.

Also, out there, somewhere, one sorriest soul may even be seen wandering, helplessly circling their own shadow. But if you see this abstract wretch then do not attempt to approach them. Their world is already confusing enough without the kindness or understanding of strangers muddling it any further. Just let them find their own bearings in their own time by giving them space. And by not making any sudden movements or loud noises. Because if startled they may become aggressive and pose a risk to themselves or others. And if you don’t see this person anywhere, then this person is you, and may the universe have mercy on your soul.

As tans quickly fade back to their original milky facades and as rain and short days encroach, and as the sad and twisted stretch of winter looms we must be ever vigilant against the temptations of excessive consumption of trashy TV, comfort foods, booze and self-pity. Yes, it is easier to lay on the sofa feeling sorry for ourselves. Yes, it’s fair to want to hibernate. Yes, we are even within our rights to crawl inside ourselves until the sun is still above the horizon past 3 o’clock of an afternoon. But these highly desirable practices are of no true worth. They are no what they seem, nor are they what they appear to be.

So whatever about those dashing and adorable little shits in uniforms (who are the source of all this trouble in the first place, let’s call a spade a shovel here), let us be kind to our fellow parents. They are easily identifiable by their bleary-eyed and bedraggled sluggishness and blatant expressions of well-rounded, yet evenly spread hatred of all things under four feet tall. You will see them suffering alongside you in traffic and on the street. Smile to them, if for no other reason than to creep them out just enough to temporarily distract them from the awful truth of the start of another school year.

Lastly, remember that Christmas is coming (yes, I said it). There is even the hope that spring and summer will eventually return from wherever it is they greedily go to wear tiny little swim suits and slurp down multi-coloured drinks that have tiny umbrellas and funny straws in them while the rest of us suffer from ever worsening vitamin D deficiencies. It’s rotten and it’s dirty and it’s no fun, bar that special day of indoor trees and snowy-bearded home invasions. But we need only be patient. For ourselves and for our others we must brace against the winter months. Autumn is the practice season, in which to prepare us for that seemingly endless shroud of frosted windshields, stinging fingers and damp socks. So knuckle down now and stock up. We’ll soon be complaining about it being too hot again in no time.

Stephen Fahey

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