Disclaimer* (well more of an unapologetic warning to be honest): There is the odd swear word in this. I’m sorry Mum. I realise it’s not big, or clever; but to convey the accurate nature of this experience, I think it’s in context.
One month before:
The children return home from school, very excited that they have been tasked with the opportunity of making some money for the school PTA. Now, I’m a pretty rubbish primary school mum. I forget stuff all the time. It’s either, book bag or water bottle, lunch box or coat. I read with my kids every day… but I always forget to write in the journal. As a teacher, this is pretty bad form. With that in mind we started to think of ways they could make money.
Rejected ideas: selling their sister (she would be sent back), selling broken toys (even they don’t want to play with them), washing cars (I hate doing that), sponsored keepy-uppy competition (I mean…) selling artwork (Banksy can rest easy), going digging for treasure on the beach… it went on.
Realistically, I knew it was going to be me that did the lion share of whatever we organised. My school age children are 7 and 5. Whatever they get up to, their 3 year old sister will want to help with. Forthright and confident she may be, coordinated and patient she is not. Therefore, we concluded; we would bake.
I can bake adequately, I usually enjoy it and have a small, but reliable repertoire of recipes that I trot out intermittently. The children love to help and the results are usually OK. We agreed we would keep it small, low key and uncomplicated, with a few items that would be easy enough to manage. The form was duly returned, we had committed ourselves, we would do it!
Two Weeks Before:
In the throes of exam marking. Ignoring the children. Ignoring the washing. Ignoring everyone to ensure I made the deadlines I needed to make in order to complete my allocation.
‘Can I have a-‘
Terrible mum. Bake sale, what bake sale?
One Week Before:
Inner thoughts: I am a terrible mum. I have marked continuously for a whole week and I am awful. They forage for socks in the dryer, they have a Birds Eye tea for the third time in a week. They comply with my request to keep their school jumper on to ensure the creased t-shirt remains hidden. The fact that Grandma and Grandad visited at the weekend is the only reason they have a clean t-shirt. Guilt is eating me alive. I haven’t played Paw Patrol for 10 days. Before I know it, I’ve let them make invitations, I let them ask our friend to print them out, I promise I won’t just make banana cake… It will be fine. I will be so excited that I’ve not got marking to do, a day of baking will be a treat.
Three Days Before:
I’m actually quite tired. Working late at night has taken its toll.I should probably start making lists some time soon.
Son invites everyone within a 12 mile radius to attend using shiny invitations copied by our friend. I feel surprised that everyone seems alarmed at what I’m undertaking. What?? It’s a cup of tea and a 50p cupcake at our house. It’ll be fine (it will be fine, won’t it?).
Two Days Before:
The best way to categorise my state of mine at this point is definitely ‘Breezy As Shit With No Reason To Actually Be Breezy As Shit’. Recall conversation with my Mum the previous week asking whether I could freeze cake in advance. Solemnly promising I would freeze cake in advance… and not doing it. The marking is finished. Stressed and Harassed Mum turns into Relaxed, Cool and Easygoing Mum. Another chapter of Harry Potter? Why. The. Hell. Not. I’m loving reconnecting with the kids, hearing about their week, catching up on news and realising my husband is great fun to spend an evening with. Glass of wine? Yes!
The Day Before:
Woken at 2am by Daughter 1 who has had a dream about Daddy discovering a shark tank in the garden, leading to a race against time to escape the biting sharks chasing us through our Victorian terraced home. Cue a 3am calculation of rough numbers our son has invited to the bake sale. Silently Jesus Christ and start wondering how the hell I’m going to feed all these friends and neighbours.
By 5:55am we were up again and I was told she has a blocked left nostril and ‘would really like some Coco Pops now’; the day began. We head out for Daughter 1’s swimming lesson, a friend drops our son to football training while my husband has his eyes tested. I suggest the littlest one heads to town with Daddy to watch the ‘cool’ eye test followed by a potential hot chocolate, but to my dismay Daddy has got in there first told her it will be boring and she will be required to sit still and not touch anything. 1 – 0 Husband, well played.
After tropical hour at swimming (no cocktails or limbo competitions disappointingly) we emerge, me with my entire left side soaked to the skin after Daughter 1 assured me she couldn’t push the shower button without my help, sadly for me, the little know-it-all in the next shower could manage just fine thank you very much and did so, just as I tried to help my child. After assuring his Grandma it was fine, totally fine and laughing some weird high pitched awkward laugh that made my 3 year old whisper ‘Are you OK?’ we embarked on 20 minutes of passive aggressive conversation through a locked door:
Me: Are you finished yet?
Daughter 1: No. The door is still locked Mummy, I’m getting dressed still, you know that!
Me: Do you need any help??
Daughter 1: OBVIOUSLY NO, I WOULD HAVE ASKED.
Me: I can see your feet are still bare, so I know you’re being slow, please stop being slow I have loads to do!
Daughter 1: *Indistinguishable muttering*
Daughter 2: [on my side of the door with her ear pressed against it] *Gasps* She just called you stupid!
The next 30 minutes were a blur; basically me flying round Lidl clutching a list and ranting at my daughters. This was only punctuated by one brief moment in the sweetie aisle, when they begged for a Kinder Egg ‘for a treat’. I glanced in my trolley at the two kilos of sugar, flour, the two dozen eggs, icing sugar, marshmallows, sweets for cake toppers and exploded:
‘A treat?? Are you kidding me?? A TREAT? What’s all this? Look in the trolley. LOOK. After today I shouldn’t think you will need to eat anything sweet for the rest of your lives!’
A woman, a teenager and a roughly 12 year old boy walked past us and gave each other an eye-roll ‘what a BITCH’ look. I stopped, stared at all three of them. 33 years old and completely soaked on the left side of my body and gave them the worst look I could muster. Realising they’d been caught judging (or maybe just genuinely terrified about what this complete monster was going to do next) they sped off with their polite chit-chat and non-threatening question/answer session about who liked which crisps. I did an extra up-and-down the next aisle just in order to give them another glare (in case they didn’t realise the first time how irrationally incandescent with rage I was about their judge-y eye-rolling).
If I thought the judge-y eye-rolling was offensive, I was totally unprepared for the ‘Husband Working In The Kitchen But Not Available To Help: Shush Now, No Fun Here, If You Please’ once I’d started the actual preparation. Early on during the baking marathon I had all three children lined up at the counter, cracking eggs singing songs from The Sound of Music. I’m not sure that’s the closest he’s ever come to walking out on the four of us, but his expression as he worked suggested that might be the case.
In between batches I deployed the children to go and tidy up the playroom and living room. What followed was an impressive (albeit irritating) display of ingenuity on my son’s part. Rather than put any of the items away that were chucked about, they arranged them into order, creating some kind weird museum showcasing the crap in our house (obviously I told them it looked wonderful and rage-tidied when they were in bed).
The eleven hour baking session was paused by a visit from lovely friends and their two children. They had seen me at the traffic lights on the way back from Lidl and wondered why I was looking so harassed. I re-lived Glare-gate with possible elaboration and exaggeration. What should have been a quiet visit while we admired the new baby boy and chatted about life with a new baby in quiet, calm tones, debating who he looked more like; was actually me mixing Rice Krispies into a million melted marshmallows and screaming ‘OH GOD SOMEONE HELP ME’ when I tried to transfer the coagulated mess of sugar to a container to cool. My friend soothed me while she wrestled the monstrosity of stretchy stringy horror into a tray, and made it look presentable… all in time for my youngest daughter to hurtle down the stairs at break-neck speed, throw herself at the closed kitchen door in TERROR and dramatically announce there was a tarantula in the bathroom. Husband deployed, hysterical children calmed, our friends left (probably wondering what on earth they had just witnessed) while I had a word with myself and reminded myself that throwing myself on the floor and crying was not an option.
Fast forward two hours, I’m sat on the kitchen floor quietly crying about the state of my house, the mess in the kitchen and a grainy batch of buttercream.
By my bedtime, there were over 100 cakes/items to sell and only another 12 hours of stressing before it would all be over…
The Day of The Great British Bake Sale
Aside from a number of artistic strops from the children (OK, fine – and me: two friends came early to help set up and witnessed much awkward high pitched laughter through gritted teeth and promptly made me and themselves a cup of tea, in my own home) the day was actually really pleasant. Lots of friends came, ate cake, drank tea, chatted, laughed and the children genuinely loved every minute of being the party hosts. They raised £60 which was more than they had hoped. That may seem a paltry amount for such a lot of effort but they were totally and utterly delighted.
The Day After
‘Relaxed Mum’ returns, does a hamper for Husband’s office, strolls to school with a smile, reflects on a successful (relatively) disaster-free weekend and I genuinely thought it was a pretty rewarding experience. Waiting at the school door, my youngest flew out in genuine delight. Wow, this really has been a wonderful bonding experience…she’s absolutely delighted to see me!
‘Mummy I have a letter!’ OK… I scan through…
‘Dear Parent… opportunity to boost your child’s funds to support the school…set up a stall… sell your products for all the school to enjoy… hope you can join us…’
‘I’VE ALREADY SAID YES!’
No….no no no no no NO!!!!!
Part two: likely to appear after the Easter holidays.