Surefire sign that new term is near

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There are times when I wish I’d met Bloke before my ovaries had stormed past by their sell-by date.

I think we’d have made a good kid.

One of those times was on Saturday, while visiting a friend and former journo who gave it all up for motherhood; her toddler is the last word in cute.

Thank you God for ensuring one of those times that makes my post-menopausal body sigh with sheer relief came along just the day after.

Not having ‘a single thing’ to wear on holiday in a fortnight’s time, I was tripping round a department store, amassing an armful of end of season bargains. But before I could head to the changing rooms I had to navigate childrenswear. Pre new school term, it was an obstacle course. Two little lads were running round and round the display of polo shirts like a pair of giddy kippers, refusing to be caught and made to try on by their dad. I veered to the left, then almost stood on a kid lying prostrate on the floor, drumming her fists.

This mini-Sarah Bernhardt was desperately, passionately upset. All because her mother was insisting the navy school skirt she had selected from the rails was indeed the right length - ie. to the knee, not just below the knicker line.

The girl looked about six. She alternated shrieks about the frumpiness of the skirt with a demand for school shoes with ‘proper’ heels. The mother looked like she, too, wanted to lie on the floor and flail and howl. Children first have a tantrum about what clothes to wear at the age of three-and-a-half, say Debenhams. No wonder the pair of them looked exhausted.

Every cloud and all that. I no longer HAVE to buy my son clothes. It’s an indulgent occasional pleasure now he’s grown, not a duty. The chore of having to drag him off for new school uniform the week before the new school term? Long buried.

You never forget the first time, though. It’s a momentous milestone you’ve longed for but dreaded, just like it was when you lost your virginity.

In your naivety and keenness to do it right, you buy every single item on the list school has given you. You go for top quality and ensure everything is two sizes too big, just like your uniform was on your first day of school. You tell yourself it’s all about value for money, but it’s probably about long-harboured revenge.

You dutifully splash out on name tags and sit night after night, hand-sewing them into every single item, even his dinky little grey socks.

I remember my sweet, terrified little boy, stumbling across the playground on his first ever school day, looking like Benjamin Button in decline.

He was trying not to trip over his trousers and was listing to one side to make up for the weight of the satchel almost the same size as him on the opposite shoulder. His grey woollen overcoat was almost to his ankles and its shoulders kept juddering up and down; he was fighting back sobs of fear.

It nearly broke my heart. Not for the first time, not for the last. But at least the overcoat saw him through to the age of nine.