We are a week and a half into the summer term and already I am struggling to keep up. The expectation is that everything gets easier once your children start school and at some point this will probably be true, but for now I find school completely exhausting and I’m not even the one who goes.
This time last year, I was totally focused on how my boy – an August birthday so destined always to be a little one – would settle into school. In fact, this should have been the thing that worried me the least – he has blossomed at school, so much so that I’m grateful he arrived 4 weeks early and managed to sneak into the school year above the one I thought he’d be in.
It turned out that I should have been preparing myself for all the other school-related challenges I’d be facing. I didn’t give any consideration to how my 2 year olds would cope with this sudden change to their routine for example – where was I taking them every day and how did they know I wasn’t just going to leave them there? Now we have the opposite problem and I struggle to drag them away from school, but either way drop offs and pick ups remain pretty high up on my most-difficult-part-of-the-day list. Along with bedtimes. And mealtimes.
They do some lovely things at my son’s school – here is one of them: I can take him into his classroom in the morning and spend 10 minutes getting him settled down and doing his first activity with him. Isn’t that nice? It should be, but strangely I find it difficult to focus as am trying to keep track of two 2 year olds who can usually be found doing one of the following:
- dismantling a display
- diving head first into a bucket of cars
- laying down in the middle of the floor forcing parents and other children to a) step over them or b) trample on them.
Sometimes I think the teachers are having a bit of fun with us parents who have younger children in tow by making everything the toddlers shouldn’t touch as enticing as possible. The ‘small world’ table in my son’s classroom gets more elaborate at every drop off – one week my boys are diving towards a recreation of the sea complete with water and a giant pirate ship, the next they’re racing towards the texture table featuring rice, lentils and so many other lovely grains and pulses for them to gather up and fling on the floor; this week they are attempting to climb on the miniature garden complete with real soil, gardening tools and giant bugs. Not to mention the outside areas where there are tables set up with play food and menus, a mini-supermarket just waiting to be staffed. It is all beautifully laid out and ready for toddlers to destroy before we’ve even entered the classroom.
However the real nightmare scenario if you have small children with you is this: the playground set out as a mini-town complete with traffic lights and Cozy Coupes, making a couple of circuits sprinting round the playground trying to extract two boys from cars an extra and unappreciated feature of school drop off.
But added to the challenge of getting your child/children to school every morning is keeping up with the school admin. Every school drop off I seem to see reply slips being handed over to teachers – I am permanently asking myself what I might have forgotten. This week alone features a school trip, a Maths Evening and a fundraiser requiring us to fill a giant bag with old clothes and take it to school for collection. I have filled my bag to capacity and now just need to work out how to transport it along with the three boys I already have to take.
Since last September, we have had 999 day, World Book Day, Come as you like day, cake bakes galore, bring chocolate day, bring a bottle day (school tombola, in case you’re wondering), pyjama day, stay and plays, stay and shares and more events that my brain just doesn’t have the capacity to remember. It is a non-stop round of letters and emails home, of struggling to remember whether your son should be in his pyjamas or his fireman’s outfit.
And if you happen to be a parent with a talent or an interesting job, you will be even more in demand. Can you display your talents or talk about your job to the children during assembly? If you are without either, you just have to deal with your child repeatedly asking why you haven’t yet delivered an assembly. ‘Because being a Careers Adviser really isn’t that interesting for 4 and 5 year olds, and mummy has no talents’ is tricky for a small person to comprehend.
I cannot praise my son’s school highly enough – he has wonderful teachers and I think he is very lucky. I know that parental involvement is encouraged at all schools and understand that parents are a hugely valuable resource to tap into. That doesn’t make it easy to keep up with it all, and I have huge respect for parents who work full-time when just co-ordinating your child’s school life can feel like a full-time job in itself.
So if you have just received news of a primary school place for September and are wondering how best to prepare your child, I would suggest changing your strategy: your child will, most likely, be absolutely fine but there might be some preparations you’d like to make. I would recommend the following:
- Buy a giant pin-board
- Stock up on fancy dress
- Develop a new skill now so that you can confidently deliver an assembly
And, most importantly, just keep baking.