It’s been four weeks since my precious first born started school. Four very, very, very long weeks that have involved at least twenty tantrums, three birthday parties, two viruses, and one incident with a skipping rope. It has been a unique learning experience, with me doing most of that learning. Here is what I have learnt so far.
1. My Son Has a Worryingly Poor Memory
Every day I ask the question, “What did you do today?” Every day the response is the same: “I can’t remember.” I try to change tact with probing questions, such as “What was your favourite part?” “I can’t remember.” I try building on what I already know: “Did you like the spaghetti you had at lunch?” “I can’t remember.” I’m starting to wonder if early on-set dementia can strike at age 5.
2. Schools Have an Endless Supply of Eggboxes
They also have cardboard boxes in every size, vegetable punnets, plastic cups, paper plates, and kitchen towel tubes in abundance. I know this because my son comes home with a unique creation every day, held together with half a roll of parcel tape. I know there’s probably an educational value behind it, such as creativity, motor skills etc., etc. but I can’t help thinking that it would be preferable for my limited storage space if he could spend more time learning to read instead.
3. Always Check the Bookbag and Always Read the Newsletter
Gone are the days when I could have a chat with the nursery worker or childminder, or receive a daily learning and activity journal all about what my child did that day, including what he ate and how many times he pooped. These days communication is limited to what is included in the newsletter, and envelopes buried under masses of scrap paper in the book bag. If I fail to check the bag or read the newsletter, then there is a good chance that my child will be the only one to turn up without a vegetable to put on the harvest festival display.
4. The Playground is Quite Scary for Newbies
Not for my son, I hasten to add, as he’s too busy running around in a circle pretending to be a rocket to notice all the people around him. No, it’s quite scary for me. So many parents at drop off time, many of whom I will have to talk to at some point as my son goes to parties and play dates. Will they like me? Will they judge me for my wet hair and creased hoodie with my toddler’s yogurt smeared up one sleeve?
5. School Dinners Have Improved Somewhat
Gone are the chicken nuggets and chips. We get a menu with choices that include spaghetti bolognaise, roast chicken dinner, and wraps with various fillings. It sounds lovely, but as it’s not pizza, my son won’t eat it. Oh, and any hope that seeing other children eat various foods might encourage him to be a bit more adventurous has quickly vanquished.
6. I Should Have Bought Six of Every Item of Uniform
One for each day of the week, and a spare for the inevitable moment when he loses something. Apparently, aprons are provided for painting activities, so I’m not sure why my son ends up with paint all over his jumper, trousers, hands, ears, and even his back that should have been covered in clothes, but he does. He also seems to prefer to draw on his jumper with felt tip pens, rather than on paper. Oh, and it turns out that the word “washable” when applied to packaging on felt tip pens is complete bollocks.
7. Headteachers Are Still Terrifying Even When You Are 36 Years Old
Our headteacher stands at the gate and greets everyone with a hearty “Good Morning.” I’m sure it’s meant well, but I feel like I’m being inspected every time and get an overwhelming urge to stand up straight and take my hands out of my pockets.
8. I Need At Least Two Hours in The Morning to Make Sure We Leave the House on Time
And yet we still end up running part of the way most mornings. At least I’m getting fit.
9. There Is Nothing More Humiliating Than Hearing The Phrase “Can I Have A Quick Word” At Pick Up Time
Then you have to do the “walk of shame” from your place in the queue to the teacher’s door. All the parents gaze at you as you do so. Some look on with sympathy (they’ve already had “a quick word”), whilst others clutch their children a bit tighter, clearly worried that your child is turning into the class thug and needs to be kept away from their own. Then you hear the words “Your son tied another boy up with a skipping rope in the playground today. They were playing a game, but it did cause the other boy some distress.” You want the ground to swallow you whole.
10. My Precious First Born Baby Is Just One in a Sea of Precious Babies
For me, the hardest part of my child starting school is realising that he will no longer have someone constantly there to remind him to go to the toilet, have a drink, or eat his dinner. He needs to become independent in order to thrive, as he no longer has the same level of one to one attention that he enjoyed at home, or at nursery, or with his childminder. I find myself worrying that he will be lonely and have no one to play with during the lunch breaks. I worry that older children might hurt him, or that (following the skipping rope incident) he might hurt others. I have learnt a lot in these long four weeks, but the toughest lesson of all has been to simply let go.