Guest post by Danni Blackburn from parenting and lifestyle blog, Monkey and Pal.
In April 2015 I became a Mum for the first time. It feels like yesterday in many ways, and yet here we are a month into her starting ‘big school’. It’s certainly been a month of change but for the most part, it’s been great.
As a secondary teacher, I really thought I’d be well set up for my kids starting school. I really wanted to be that Mum who was prepared in every way and who’s kid was prepared too. Turns out as with all things parenting that there’s not really a manual for this stage. Yes the school gave us lots of tips, and she was already at preschool but honestly, primary school feels like a different ball game, or perhaps, and probably more likely, there is no perfectly prepared child! On a positive note, it seems everyone is in the same boat and the best thing is just to learn as you go. So what exactly have I learned in this first month of having a child at school?
The first thing to realise is that yes, your child will start school in the September after their fourth birthday, but this may be in various guises of ‘settling in’ sessions. I had no idea this is what happened! But to begin with children are given either morning or afternoon sessions, or a mixture of both and will just attend school for a few hours a day to help them settle in to school life. We were quite lucky in some ways and only had 7 days of shorter morning sessions before the full days started in the middle of September. Given that my daughter had already been in preschool 3 days a week, it suddenly felt quite strange that she was only going for 2 or 3 hours! Even she found it odd that I picked her up just two hours after dropping her off. Some friends are still not on full days even as I write this at the start of October, so its definitely something worth asking about depending on your work flexibility as a lot of friends have had to use a year’s worth of annual leave to ensure they could be around for drop-offs and pick-ups. Planning ahead for this is a must!
Secondly, and I hate myself for writing this, but playground clichés really do exist. Some parents are obviously friends beyond the school gate, some are the ones always happy to help with the latest PTFA sale or school trip, and then there are those that just do the school run and that’s all. I’m not quite sure where I fit yet! I’d like to think I could be a mixture of all three simultaneously baking cakes and organising socials but the reality is that’s unlikely! We didn’t really know anyone at our school before starting but thankfully everyone seems to be very friendly so far! Perhaps they can sense that we’re new to this but they were certainly very helpful the first few days whilst I was learning exactly which bit of the playground I needed to be stood in to retrieve my child! And guess what, there are already a couple of parents who’s names I’ve learned, and we even say hi and ask how each other’s weekends were…perhaps the next step is a Whatsapp group!?
I really was excited for my eldest to start school despite my nerves. School is somewhere I have such fond memories of and I can already tell she loves all that school has to offer, even if we do have tears some mornings. But I do also feel like I have lost my baby girl just a tiny bit. She didn’t look back and wave one morning last week, and whilst I was immensely proud of her going in so easily, I also felt a little bit sad that she doesn’t need me quite so much. I guess that’s normal. Ultimately what I’ve learned is that she is growing up, quicker than I could ever have imagined, and so whilst she drives me absolutely mad sometimes, I am going to try and treasure every moment because before I know it, we will be starting actual ‘big school’ and then I may lose her just a little bit more.
Have you gone through the school stages? Or are you anticipating the open day letters as we speak? I’d love to hear from you!
Danni Blackburn is a Gloucestershire Mum of two. She left her secondary teaching job earlier this year in the search of a more flexible role. She now spends her days singing to babies and pre-schoolers as a Babel Babies teacher, and helps to edit The Window Magazine, of which Edition 2 is out now.