Fordyce Maxwell: I can keep pace with most of the mothers, even racing ahead if they have buggies

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I’VE been seeing a lot of young women over the past 18 months or so, early mornings and mid-afternoons usually, and I must say that I find their company invigorating – as long as my strength holds out; it’s only two days a week.

I’ve also learned a lot about children’s TV viewing habits, “in” toys, the best supermarkets, to walk with care in a school yard where the heads of racing scooter-riders are waist-high, and to take an interest in house points, Children in Need outfits and buggy maintenance.

It’s all part of being on the school run again or, in our case, the school walk, for which I always allow an 
extra five minutes for Ebba’s minute inspection of unusual leaves, twigs or a new crack in the pavement. Spray-can marks by water board engineers for a new pipe were good for five minutes on their own.

As for our regular discussion about the u-shaped chunk missing from the top of a garden wall, Ebba’s theory of a giant’s bite remains unshaken.

What the grandparent in charge has to be alert for is a four-year-old’s change of pace. In going from squatting full-stop study of a dead bug to flat-out pursuit of a classmate spotted 50 yards ahead, Ebba could leave Usain Bolt for dead.

If I wasn’t so fit and streamlined, such bursts could be devastating. As it is when catching up I can keep pace with most of the young mothers having the same problem, sometimes racing ahead if they happen to be pushing a buggy or have another child in tow.

It’s all part of life’s rich tapestry, as is the school yard where most of us arrive early and mingle as we wait for the classroom door to open. We discuss children’s behaviour that morning, the night before, at the weekend, admire new babies on the block, inspect with some frankness the contours ofany expectant mother, who likes swimming andwho doesn’t, how quickly shoes wear out and has Barbara got her new curtains up yet?

The afternoon-collection chat follows much the same lines. But we don’t bore easily. Books and films crop up occasionally, or the latest show at the local theatre and paintings and children’s book illustrations because there are artists as well as artisans among us.

Now there’s even more to talk about as we look forward to parties, carol services and the Nativity play, when for the common good I put my personal views about religion on hold – it’s not just goodwill to all men, but to all these young mothers who treat me as an equal. «

Twitter: @FordyceMaxwell