WE’RE meant to be shopping for school uniform. I’m leafing through the endless racks of black trousers in BHS when I realise I’m talking to myself.
Two of the boys are across the shop wrestling over a tape measure while another and his sister have managed to climb on top of a Thomas the Tank Engine toddler ride in which they’ve already lost 50p.
Their coats and bags are strewn across the floor which other shoppers are having to step over. I shout. It’s all rather embarrassing.
One of the boys is ordered into the changing room laden with eight pairs of trousers in differing sizes, some of which are unhelpfully security tagged together in pairs, so when he emerges to show if a pair fits, he’s dragging its twin along like a bedraggled, dusty tail. None of them fit properly.
The shop assistant stares, unhelpfully, as I try to fold them back onto their hangers.
While another son grumpily enters the changing room, daughter decides she’s going to take every adult shoe off the rack and try them on. When this game is stopped she starts the wailing and flopping routine, refusing to walk or be carried.
Son emerges having decided the first pair of trousers he’s tried are fine and throws them into the basket. I look at the label: £16 for one pair. I send him back in with a £7 pair, knowing I’ll be spending most of the year sewing up hems and gussets wrecked by breaktime football. They fit. We buy two pairs. Then two more, cheaper, in M&S.
Here we go again then, one week to go before they’re back at school and the hell of uniform shopping is firmly upon us.
With three offspring in school, two of whom seem to grow every time they leave a room, it’s an expensive time of year – especially if you’ve just reduced your working hours for the holidays. I think this September’s uniform will have cost me over £300. And I’m a make-do-and-hand-me-down-bargain kinda mum.
It’s not just the cost, it’s the stress. I know you’ll tell me it would be a trillion times worse if I had three girls, but let me assure you, traipsing around the shops with bored and grumpy boys isn’t fun either.
I’d hoped that Dougie’s compulsory school uniform would last more than a year. It hasn’t. His blazer has a weird bleach mark across it, his tie is mutilated, his PE kit is either lost or too small. Along with Jed’s new kit, the official stuff is going to cost the best part of £200 when the shop opens this week.
Shirts are easier. Multipacks for boys are between £7-10 and Bill’s yellow polos cost a fiver for three. Job done.
But then there’s the annual trouser hell. Girls seem to have lots of styles and stretchy fabrics. Boys are stuck with flat front or pleated in stiff Teflon coated fabric. Two sizes – skinny or enormous.
Shoe shopping for our boys seems to have a basic formula.
The conversation usually goes:
Them: “I like these.”
Me: “They look like trainers. You aren’t allowed shoes that look like trainers.”
*repeat several times and get home empty-handed.
There have been some successes. A speculative TKMaxx run stocked us with rucksacks, coats and shoes for Jed. Dougie is still shoeless and Billy’s, bought at Easter, may have to last a little longer.
If you witness me having a nervous breakdown in a shoe shop later this week, keep walking, there’s nothing to see. . .