As the new school year begins in earnest and the flood of facebook pictures of smiling children in pristine, slightly large uniforms begins to ease, those of you who are facing the prospect of your first term as parents of school children may not yet have realised the enormity of the task ahead of you.
I’d like to pass on the benefits of my experience of being a naïve, newbie in the world of primary school parenting:
1) Keeping on top of uniform requirements:
Now I am aware that many (OK, most) people are considerably more organised than I am, so this issue may not ever feature on your list of potential slip ups, but I found that keeping on top of the endless requirements for clean school uniform was surprisingly difficult. The task was particularly challenging with a 5 year old girl prone (like her mother) to spillages and clothing disasters. Many a Friday morning I found myself opening Ana’s uniform draw only to find that she had managed to get through a t-shirt a day and the cupboard was bare, prompting a desperate search through the laundry basket to find the ‘least dirty’ culprit from the preceding 4 days!
2) Learning to read:
You may mistakenly assume that, being a teacher, I have limitless patience and am well placed to assist my children on their own journey through education, but nothing prepared me for the frustration of those early months of reading with my novice reader. Take my advice: prepare your best smiling, supportive face and keep it firmly fixed in place even when your child fails to recognise the word that they mastered only a page earlier after 5 full minutes of calm, gentle coaxing. Failing that, try a tag team approach and hand over to someone else when find yourself stifling the urge to yell “He!” “It says he!” “Exactly like it did when you read it perfectly 40 seconds ago!”.
3) Keeping on top of the admin:
So you may have had letters home from nursery or preschool and you may think that school will be no different, but you’d be wrong. There is so much going on at school: trips, visits, charity events and the rest, that the cascade of letters tumbling out of the book bag each day starts to feel like the scene in Harry Potter where the Dursleys’ house is inundated with Harry’s invitation to Hogwarts!
Do as I say and not as I do and develop a fail-safe system for storing and replying to these letters. Take it from me: random piles around the kitchen do not work.
4) Start to ready yourself now for the Christmas madness:
I foolishly anticipated that the hectic pace of the school term would tail off towards the holidays and we would all slide gently into the Christmas break, but again, I was mistaken. In fact, nothing prepared me for the manic few weeks in December that left me a broken, gibbering wreck on the day the children broke up from school. The end of term was filled with pre-Christmas events (not only challenging to keep up with, but also potentially traumatic as a working parent trying desperately to get to at least one of their child’s important moments.) Add to that the dilemma of what your child should buy/make for their teacher, child-minder, Rainbow leader and all associated helpers that will show your sincere appreciation for their efforts, but won’t leave you bankrupt! All in all, it’s an exhausting assault course akin to the popular Iron Man trials currently so in vogue. If you want my final piece of advice, I say ditch all those plans to run a marathon or complete a triathlon and get in training now for being the parent of a school child for the next 7 years (at least) because it’s gonna be a whirlwind.
All together now: and breathe….