The School Years

What they don’t tell you when your firstborn starts school…

Like many parents at this time of year we have just navigated the stormy seas of the FIRST WEEKS OF SCHOOL … The obligatory FB & Insta posts went up of him in his immaculate uniform on his first day (… albeit he was only there for 2 hours!). The last minute uniform naming panic was completed and tears were shed secretly in the car after drop off as the lump in my throat bubbled to the surface as I dashed out before he saw me welling up. It is true however that there are rumours, Mum-chat, things you hear on the grapevine … but which are true and which are not?!

As I reflect on the last 3 weeks here’s what I don’t think anyone can really tell you unless you have been there …

1. You DON’T get a quick update on what his day has entailed

… nor daily updates with smiling pictures to reassure you your little cherub has been nurtured and happy all day conveniently delivered to your inbox. In fact, finding out what he ACTUALLY did for 6.5 hours of the day will forever be lost in the annals of time. There is SO much advice about not over loading – don’t ask questions at pick up – allow them to tell you in their own time – 50 ways to find out what your child did without asking a question … that you actually feel guilty … but as soon as you have hugged your little bundle as they hurry through the door and into your open arms before you even realise it – it’s out there – out of your disloyal, disobedient mouth before your poor Mum-drained, sleep deprived, filled with a million and one things on a to do list brain has a chance to stop it … “What did you do today?…”

and THAT’S IT …

once that question has been asked and you have received the first brush off … (inevitably “nothing” btw) … you are SCUPPERED! Any attempt to circumvent that First Fatal Error will now be rendered utterly futile and just be seen as the feeble excuse to extract information that it is. Accept it … school day antics are set to be a mystery … maybe the first parents evening will enlighten? … maybe not!!

2. Whining can reach a Whole New Level …

If you thought the Terrible Two’s were bad or were hit by the Threenager Years … buckle up ‘cos this sh*t just got REAL!

Now it’s not ALL doom and gloom – let’s not forget the saving grace is that they are out of the house for most of the day … that’s after you have wrestled them into their uniform, dealt with the meltdown that they have to go to school AGAIN – even though they went yesterday [suck it up sunshine it’s a downhill slope from here – you mutter under your breath], circumnavigated the tactical request for more breakfast as they are still “starving”, located the missing shoe that had found its way into the doll’s house loft / inside the ride on train / behind the loo in the bathroom upstairs (I kid you not) and then rushed them through the obligatory last minute poo to frantically scurry along the pavement and through the school gates trying not to look like you are about to seriously lose the plot!

Now people will say when you relay this nightmarish reality that “the good news is they are behaving well at school” … & I get that … I am delighted that T is so tired from behaving impeccably for 6.5 hours, for following instructions perfectly, using his manners and delighting even the most hardened of Teaching Assistant’s into believing he is indeed the Saint Child … but why does he have to turn into the DEVIL INCARNATE we soon as we step outside the gates?!

school son

3. Homework starts NOW … and it’s not just for the kids!

There’s none of this no homework until you’re 12 malarkey these days … hell no … homework starts as soon as school starts… & this isn’t just a little bit of reading – that I WAS expecting – heck no … this is a full on 6 part challenge. SIX Part Challenges issued on a Friday that in order to complete assume you had no prior weekend plans and can drop all to accommodate “optional home-learning” … I am clinging onto the “optional” with every part of my being (!).

Don’t get me wrong, in & of themselves they are not too hard it’s just that to actually get them done I am finding & here’s my …

TOP TIP #1: DON’T TELL your child you are doing homework … if the challenges can be incorporated into other family activities the chances of them being unwittingly and sometimes even enthusiastically completed, increase 100 fold! Plus there’s the added bonus look of surprise when you deign to mention home learning to your over tired, hating school, used to be a joy 4 year old and then they realise they happen to have done something already that weekend that actually fits the bill perfectly (who knew?!). Disclaimer: we are only a few weeks in – T may cotton on – I’ll keep you posted!

TOP TIP #2: MODIFY the work so it incorporates into your existing plans … our first challenge was Autumn / Harvest related and we were (luckily) off to the farm so whilst there we collected feathers and leaves and I surreptitiously acquired a couple of handfuls of hay and straw so when back home we could add these to our expanding craft box … read “random stuff collected that may be useful for later projects box” to ensure we could complete at least part 1 of 6 … to make a scarecrow collage.

4. There is ALWAYS that one parent …

… now I had assumed this was urban myth – one created by parents as a secret code to ensure no-one actually BECOMES this parent … but alas week 2 and we are there already. The over-competitive / keen to impress / super keen / must wear her pants outside her trousers under that perfectly tailored raincoat Mum. Now don’t get me wrong I am sure she is as shattered and as at her wits end underneath that immaculately coiffered and made up exterior as the rest of us BUT why then add pressure and get up at 5 am to secretly finish the rest of the challenges and to put the finishing touches – not to the scarecrow collage – nope … to the full size, pipe smoking, school polo shirt & perfectly tailored jeans wearing scarecrow that makes the rest of us feel totally inadequate when offering up our glue covered, hay dropping, wonky A4 sheet resembling Worzel Gummidge – if viewed at a 45 degree angle with a squint …

5. The realisation that this is a full 5 day a week, every week deal hits them HARD!

Now if your school are lovely like T’s he was very proud of his first certificate … the “I have completed week 1 in Reception” certificate that now has pride of place on our fridge door. Sadly this also had the converse effect of ensuring T assumed upon receipt of the certificate he had indeed done the necessary and completed his schooling and was now officially a Grown Up.

Now we are facing the inevitable meltdown of not wanting to go each & every day … now I got the memo that Police are good & not to be used as a threat … but by week 3 the temptation to explain Mummy will go to jail if you don’t go to school is quite frankly – overwhelming!

6. Start dates are NOT the start date for Reception!

Double, triple check this one!!

We were diligent ensuring our last family holiday before school ended in time for us to drop him off for his first day – 3rd September – which has been on ALL school communications since T’s place was confirmed. Not wanting T to miss out on those vital friendship forming days we paid an additional £400 to fly back within school holiday timings … BIG MISTAKE!

What you inevitably find out – once you are fully booked in and non-refundable seats on said plane confirmed … is that this week is in fact a week dedicated to Home Visits … a 20 minute slot for teachers to come and meet you & your child in your own home & of course according to the Law of Sod – our visit was scheduled for Friday PM! … so we paid £400 to come back early … & then had to pay additional childcare for 4 days and get an additional day off work in week 1 of being back from holiday … & then the following week pay for childcare for half days … aaargh!

Once we had navigated the drop-off / pick-up arrangements phasing in DID work and was successful – just ensure you learn from our mistakes and plan accordingly!

7. You WILL be a Sobbing Mess at the first Service

Sorry – no matter how much you prepare and steel yourself for it you will cry as soon as the first service begins … Harvest Festival has never been so emotional! Ours largely consisted of me enthusiastically giving a thumbs up and clapping like a sealion on speed with the most ridiculous Cheshire Cat Grin plastered on my face as the tears streamed down desperately trying not to sniff so loudly that it’s picked up on every parent’s phone video within a 20ft radius!

So there are My Musings about the beginning of the next stage in our family life … The School Years … it seems like only yesterday we were announcing we were expecting – it really does FLY! So enjoy your time with the littlies while they’re little and embrace this new chapter as the exciting new beginning it is …

Anyone with me? Any tips to add or observations to throw into the mix – I’d love to hear others experiences!

Love Ali x

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