Hurray! It’s September and it’s new pencil cases for everyone. I would love to say that I’ve spent the summer having epic adventures of enlightenment and discovery but in reality, I’ve sat in a variety of adventure playgrounds with a rum & raisin cornet. A few castles, the odd zoo, but mainly picnic blanket.
The new term has been a momentous one. Son 1 has made the small and yet giant leap from infants to juniors, and Son 2 has entered the world of Reception.
As I stood in the other bit of the playground today I was taken by an overwhelming sense that I’ve done all this before. I can’t quite believe that the revolving door is still spinning and I’m back in the foyer.
The journey through infant school was filled with joy, terror & uncertainty in equal measure (and that was just me). Maybe this time will be different.
His clothes are a little bit too big, his shirts are ironed (it won’t last) and he is showing a disappointing lack of clinginess.
To quote Peter Cook , “I believe I’ve learned from my mistakes and I’m sure I can repeat them exactly”. So for my benefit, as much as anyone else’s, here are my Notes To Self.
1. It will be just like when you were at school
For you I mean, not your children. The school playground essentially gives you the ideal ground to repeat your high school years, with all the neuroses and insecurities just that little bit more embedded. Cast your eye around the concrete and it will all come flooding back. There are the cool ones, the glamorous ones, the melodramatic ones, the shy ones, the bitchy ones and the downright odd. It is more than likely you will belong to the exact same group you did before, so stop kidding yourself. The best strategy however, is to smile benignly at everyone, because they might be very nice. The nicest ones might not even make it to the playground very often – so keep your eyes peeled. Remember those first few weeks at University when everyone asked what A-levels you did? Do that (although I would recommend ‘which one is yours’ as an opening gambit’). There will be at least one occasion where you are convinced someone is giving you evil icy stares because they hate you, or your child, but actually they are probably just having a really rubbish day, or are hung over.
2. Your children will probably be nothing like you when you were at school.
I was a swotty sort, always eager to please, first with my hand up, very much the model student. Your 4 year old child might not be like this. There is the slightest chance that they might not actually be arsed with school at all. They might not be able to sit still, concentrate, behave, read, write or seem to be able to do very much that is expected of them. This is fine. They will not necessarily fail their exams in 12 years time. Leave them be, read them a story and keep repeating to yourself ‘children in Europe don’t start school until they are 7’
3. You know nothing of what you were like at school
In an effort to inspire and energise my Year 2 child, who was not really applying himself, was easily distracted/distracting and struggling to finish his work, I decided to dig out my primary school reports to show him how wonderful I really was. Having no parents around, there was no one to stop me. And I quote (aged 8) …… ‘satisfactory but rather slow to complete’, ‘she can write well but doesn’t always push herself to do so’, ‘often talks too much’. They went back in the cupboard. That’ll learn me.
4. Someone will steal your child
And replace them with another. By the beginning of week 2, the gentle apple of your eye that you have nurtured and moulded will have morphed into a hideously stroppy, irrational monster. This is also fine and you can rest easy that they will be nothing like this at school. They have tried really hard to control themselves for 6 hours, listen, concentrate, be kind and play nicely and they just can’t manage it for a moment longer. It seems unfair, especially as your time with them may now be much shorter, that you get the worst of them but there you have it. It’s called parenthood – suck it up. They will come back eventually.
5. Choose your battles
There will be times when someone upsets your child. They will be mean either physically or emotionally and you will want to rip their scrawny little arms from their sockets. This is frowned up. On the whole, they are just learning too and a gentle discussion about friendship strategies is always wise; a quiet word with the teacher if you are concerned. Do not tell your child to hit them back or begin a monumental turf war with the other child’s parent in the playground, culminating in a rumble in front of the cake sale.
N.B. There may also be a time when your child says that no one will play with them, which will make you want to cry. However, it is more than likely that what your child means is that nobody wanted to play the very specific game he wanted to play as they were already playing something else, so he went off in a huff.
6. Be prepared (and get yourself a craft box)
The words World Book Day might have passed by unnoticed in your life up until now but it will now take on a whole new sinister tone (as will Children in Need and Easter Parade). All children will at some point be required to come to school dressed as their favourite character from a book. A BOOK! And just for the record, I am judging you. Darth Vader is not acceptable (you know who you are).
And that’s it. Before you know it you’ll be considering Biff, Chip and Kipper to be legitimate name choices and wondering muttering to yourself that ‘they didn’t have number bonds in my day’