However, when the twins broke up for the Easter holidays they bought something home with them that ignited a bit of the school gate competitive mum in me.
In the words of the preteen: Kill. Me. Now.
No, Elvis the class bear isn't here. Thank the Lord (I may have just done a little victory dance then as I typed that).
Instead they bought home something that delighted me and struck fear into my heart at the same time.
Little pots full of compost - the mystery held within, a planted sunflower seed.
Delightful because I think gardening is a lovely and educational activity for children to get involved in.
Fear because, despite quite liking my garden at this time of the year, I ain't no Percy Thrower (that's a gardening ref. for people old enough to remember, not some kind of euphemism). I even kill mint plants which, as my mother points out
every time, are impossible to kill.
But, there was worse to come.
The twins, full of the wrong kind of information as ever (why do kids only ever give you half the story, eh?), said "we need to water them so they grow". So, sloshing some water from the kitchen tap into the pots, I plonked them on the kitchen windowsill. "Too much!" they chastised, in a weird kind of unified chant (they've started to do this recently. It's really quite freaky actually).
How hard could this be? The sunflowers will probably shoot in a few days and then after growing a couple of inches, the kids will forget about them, they will dry up and I can throw them in the bin. A bit like the mustard and cress kit DS2 got once with a happy meal from the golden arches, which as I remember lasted less than a week before it started to stink his bedroom out (an even more horrific smell than the teen) *Vom*.
No. That wasn't to be in the plan at all.
Later that evening there came an email:
"Over the coming weeks as our seedlings start to develop we need to email photographs to the teacher showing how they are growing.
We need to submit regular updates and measurements to develop our Sunflower display in the classroom and allowing us to swap notes on ‘whose is the tallest’ to ‘where are you growing yours’.
The competition will run until a date in July (watch this space for the specific date to be revealed). The tallest sunflowers submitted by that date will then win prizes (first, second and third place)."
In the words of the preteen: Kill. Me. Now.
I have never yet successfully managed to grow a sunflower with any one of my children in nearly fifteen years of parenting. I am doomed.
But, a little part of me thought: Bring. It. On.
Oh yes. We can totally do this.
The teacher had helpfully provided
bait pictures from last year's competition. Rows of photographs of children proudly showing their sunflowers, some of them standing on chairs to show how tall their plants were. Outside in their massive gardens and inside in chic, tidy kitchens. I would be lying if I said that many minutes followed where I wasn't simply checking out other people's tastes in interior decor rather than the flowers themselves.
So now, not only did I have sunflower envy I also had garden and kitchen envy too. In property terms, we are clearly punching above our weight living around here.
I went back into the kitchen, drained some of the water from the pots and peered at them.
"Are you sure you've planted a seed in these?" I said.
"Yesssss!" came the response (in chilling unison).
And then we waited...
(It wasn't silent waiting. DS3 asked "have they grown yet?" at least 27 times a day for about a week.)
By this time the seeds had been planted for two whole weeks.
Where then were the effing green shoots? The expectation was worse than waiting for the school holidays to be over. More frustrating than potty training a toddler.
If this were a competition on who had the most moist lump of compost, we would win. If it were a competition for how many times a day I could check a pot of soil for signs of life I'd now be in the lead.
I told you all I was crap at this, didn't I?
We needed the bloody things to grow to at least be in with a chance of winning this. What the hell was I supposed to do?
And so, I did what any reasonable (and mildly competitive) parent would do. I planted some of my own.
Which promptly got knocked over on the patio a couple of hours later by a football wielding child.
This was never going to end (or even begin) well.
Time to face facts. There are some things that I'm just not good at as a parent and competitive sunflower growing is most definitely one of them.
The only way we'll win this is if we have a head start. I'm off to the garden centre tomorrow to see if I can find a couple of back up plants.
You may call this cheating, but I call it raising my game.
And, as I said before: Bring. It. On.