Chocolate Milk and Mangoes


We are adjusting to a new routine in the DorkyHouse.

My time working at the Tasmanian Writers Centre has come to an end, and I’m enjoying being my own boss again, having a variety of challenging projects on the go, and structuring my time in a flexible way that suits our family really well. I’m working hard, but feeling happier and calmer than I have for months.

That said, I’m trying to take the lessons from a year in an office environment and apply them to freelance life. I’m being much firmer about setting boundaries around work time – different email addresses for work and home, different notebooks for specific projects, and no faffing around on social media.

One thing I’m being especially strict about is keeping a starting time of 10am. I do the chores of the day – groceries, laundry, household bills – first thing in the morning, and then it’s head down at my desk until 2pm. Anything that doesn’t get done in that hour has to wait until I’ve picked DorkySon up, or until the next day.

This morning I did a food shop straight after dropping DorkySon at school, but found I was missing a couple of things. Chocolate milk and mango. Both treats, in a way.

DorkySon doesn’t like the taste of plain milk, but I’ve found a flavoured one that has no added sugar, and I figure that’s better than no calcium at all.

Mangoes are not in season here at the moment – they’re almost entirely absent from the shops – but every so often I spot a box of Mexican imports and buy one or two to add to the apples and pears that are standard lunchbox fare for the next few months.

So they were not essentials, but it is Monday, and winter, and DorkySon is always worth the effort. It was 9.50 though. Ten minutes until I was supposed to be at my desk. Instead of driving into the middle of town, I decided to try the little store a few hundred yards from DorkySon’s school.

Suddenly, up ahead, there they all were. Lined up on the pavement outside the school. Eighty-six tiny people in blue uniforms and orange reflector vests,  being ushered along by firm, patient teachers. There was a chartered bus parked by the gate, lights flashing. They were off to an outdoor sculpture trail on this beautiful, unseasonably warm day.

An hour earlier, DorkySon had packed a little box of mints in the top pocket of his schoolbag, in case he felt sick on the bus. He had checked if he was allowed to share them out among friends. He’d crammed his Spiderman gumboots into the bag too, and worried out loud about how heavy they would be to carry.

I couldn’t pick him out from the crowd waiting to board the bus, but I knew he was there. Clutching a friend’s hand, wondering if he’d score a window seat, psyching himself up to greet the driver.

It made me catch my breath.

How fragile all this is.

What trust we place in the people who look after our children every day. What faith we have in the stretches of water around our island to keep us safe. How precious this warm, tight little community is.

For a moment, I wanted to keep driving straight past the shop, to pick my boy out of that crowd and bring him home for another day close to me; another day tucked up in our house, which in all honesty is the only place I can fully protect him.

But that is not our job as parents, or as people. We can’t let our fear stop us from visiting sculpture parks, or pop concerts, or tapas bars, and we can’t let it stop our children either.

I take just a few minutes in the store, and when I turn out of the car park I notice in my rear view mirror that the bus is pulling away from school. Then I drive home, one small, quiet tear making its way down my cheek.

When DorkySon comes home tonight there will be chocolate milk in the fridge, and one perfectly ripe mango in the fruit bowl.

I will be waiting to hear all about his day.

3 responses

  1. I loved your title 🙂
    And you’re right, of course. I’ve literally just come from scheduling a link to a Telegraph article shared last week that said exactly this. “To love is to fear…” You have no idea of that until you have children, and then the incredible love you feel is equally stained by the immense fear you have of their loss or pain.
    But you can’t let it influence the pursuit of a normal, happy life. You just have to find a way to weather it and keep it in check. xx

  2. I love the sound of your new routine – getting the chores done and then head down. I totally relate to DS – I can’t stand the taste of milk either, and is why I glug rice milk on my morning cereal. I so relate to the realisation that other people, others you don’t know, that you’ve placed automatic trust in, via the school, are looking after our kids!!!!!! XXX

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