School Run, Sweets And Swears.

School Run, Sweets And Swears.

A Family Portrait. School Run, Sweets and Swears.

Laddie was livid this morning because I wouldn’t let him have sweets for breakfast. He punched a pillow and angrily muttered words that weren’t swearing because he knows that’d be overstepping the mark. He didn’t even use the D-word.

Last week he asked if he could tell us the swear words he knows, so far. Laddie is very very interested in swearing, including all the hand gestures. Go on then, we said. He took a deep breath. ‘ I know the C-word, the F-word, the D-word and the B-word’. The D-word happily deflected from the horrifying unholy trinity of the others. ‘What’s the D-word, love?’ I asked. ‘Dick’, he said.

Yesterday, recovering from the D bombshell, Paul says we should ask him what the C-word is, in case it’s a b-list c-word like cock or clot-head and we can all breath out again.

The other day, while we sorted through his baby books, Laddie asked if he could whisper a newly found word to me, ’to see if it’s a swear’. I agreed, and immediately forgetting how to whisper, he leaned in close and he shouted ‘bastard’ into my earhole. Acknowledging that this was indeed a new weapon in the arsenal that he was presumably saving up for a diatribe on his 16th birthday, he continued contentedly looking at pictures of fluffy owls.

He certainly looked like he was thinking all the something-words after I’d forbidden breakfast sweets.

Apparently David sometimes has a whole tube of Polos in his bag at school, for no reason.

I looked at Laddie’s angry red face and relented. He could have a single Mint Imperial in his cool bag. Laddie counter-offered and asked for two. I conceded to the dear innocent fool. It’s only a matter of time before he discovers he can raise it to ten and I’ll meet him in the middle at five. He stopped punching the pillow and began twirling about on his haunches, like a tiny cossack in a school jumper. Suddenly I noticed the time. I’d already checked it quarter of an hour earlier, but not thoroughly enough. I’d looked up from my book.

‘What’s the time love?’

He stopped balancing on one crouched foot on the end of the sofa arm and jumped down to squint at the digital clock on the mantlepiece. Which by the way, had been aggressively positioned in front of my ticking one. For someone who is constantly exploring the same amplified riff for eight days at a time with only a momentary key change for relief, and all the while watching the cricket, on loud, my husband Paul is very sensitive to tiny 1960’s deceased-persons-retirement-present mechanical tappy sounds.

‘What’s the time?’

A long pause.

‘It’s… 9.28’.


‘I mean 7.51’.


‘No, 7.51’.

‘Oh, ok. That’s very different from 9.28’.

‘I got it wrong’.

‘You got it very wrong. 9.28 and 7.51? None of those digits are even the same’.

Just fourteen minutes later, it’s 8.13.

‘Love. I think it must have said 7.59’. Get your shoes and coat on, I’ll get both mints and I’ll meet you by the front door’.

Our house is very small. It’s quite hard not to be by the front door at all times, but I was injecting the thrill of jeopardy. No one wants to be even a minute late for school. The spotlight that shines down, as you walk all on your own through the quiet corridors and enter the classroom with an off-putting sense of being both a distraction and a nuisance, while brazenly breaking some law, must be powerful indeed.

A tiny stainless steel food tin has appeared next to Laddie’s lunch bag. Preparation for the Ideal Transportation of Sweet Treat Station is underway. Once outside, the mint vehicle shows its design flaws. It’s rattling about with every step like an amplified maraca.

The rhythm lulls us into a trance and our minds wander away and back again.

‘Mum, you know when a scooter is behind you?’


‘Well, when me and dad were ????’ (something so mind-bendingly specific and odd, that I was startled out of listening. Something like ‘when we were in full camo-gear on the Cuckoo Trail on September 7th 2020, heading back to the car to see if I’d left my penguin toy there before going on an expedition’)…’he had two keyring attached to his rucksack and they were making a noise, and I kept thinking there was a scooter behind me’. I realised he was musing about the minty commotion. ‘Ah, did you think your two mints were a motorbike?’ ‘I said scooter, not motorbike’. My family usually like exaggerating for comic effect, but this one’s a pedant.

It felt a bit bad, putting two sweets in his packed lunch. Time to make amends with a swift warning chat. ‘Have you brushed your teeth this morning?’ ‘Um, no’. I then make a speech so thorough and terrifying about the importance of having a full set of your own teeth and how mine was smashed out by the root when I was 9, that he slows down and looks visibly shaken. For a moment we both consider walking back home and brushing his teeth and then setting off again, but we can’t risk the Walk of Lateness. It would be a right P-word.

I call him Laddie here by the way, to protect his identity in case it was unclear. He can decide for himself if he wants to the world to know about his life when he’s older. For now, he can be my dependable fictional creation. He came up to me after school as I sat here typing this, and leant his head on my shoulder. ‘Mum? Do you know that only Americans burn in hell?’ ‘WHAT do you mean?!’ What new indoctrinating playground bants is this? ‘It’s what Jarett Kobek said’. He was reading the title of my breakfast book, which is now lying beside me.


Jo Neary is currently appearing in Lord God, a few dates are coming up in December in Brighton and the surrounding areas including Eastbourne in 2022. You can see her latest solo comedy show, Joanna Neary – Wife On Earth in Aldershot on 16th December in a double bill with excellent performer Ben Moor. Aldershot tickets available HERE.