School is nearly over for the year. The summer holidays are almost upon us (more on that another time). And yet, for many parents school is at the forefront of their minds. Children everywhere are visiting schools for the first time this month as they prepare for their induction into the world of formal education. For some it is a time of great excitement; for others, tears and trepidation. Like it or not, your children are growing up, and this brings a whole host of issues you may not have yet considered. So for those of you facing the onset of the decade that will see your child morph into a whole new person, here’s a taste of what’s in store.
Getting ready for school involves uniform. And school shoes. And it will be an emotional moment the first time you see your baby, brand new book-bag in hand, small smile ready to take on the big world. Don’t worry, those pangs will quickly become a thing of the past, replaced by furious bag-packing and last-minute zip-yanking as you share the 8.30 rush to get out of the house with thousands of parents across the country. There will be days when items are forgotten, PE kits are unwashed, and even the occasional risk that something important gets left behind!
School is where your child will really start to explore who she is. What she gets up to in school is a mystery to you, but she is becoming a whole new person. She could have flown over the rainbow during phonics, but she will never tell you that. You must content yourself with a grunt, and possibly the words “nothing much.” So how do you know what she’s eaten? How do you decide what to give her for tea? The packed lunch always seems like a cognisant choice: [what you put in - what returns home = what she's eaten]. Except, lunchbox etiquette is becoming such an exercise in precarious diplomacy that it hardly seems worth the effort!
Then there’s the conveyor-belt effect. For those yet to embark on the school years, be advised that you will from now on mark every day by the school-run, every week by the weekends, every season by the half-term holidays, and yes, every year by the progress up to the next level. The result being that you will feel like you are racing through your child’s life at an unimaginable pace, and that soon they will be completing their GCSE’s and flying the nest.
One thing many parents will worry about, but most will never have to face is bullying, and I would like you to take a couple of minutes to sympathise with Emily and her family, who are dealing with the worst kind of effects of this despicable behaviour. Bullying takes many different forms these days, with children dishing out threats on Twitter as well as in the playground. Angela is looking for support with bullying and advice over on the forum just now so if you have any experiences that may help please do go and join the conversation.
But even those who are not subjected to the worst kind of bullying will have to learn to deal with things which, as parents, we would like to protect them from. The truth is, we cannot; all we can do is give them love, support, and tools to find their own solutions. My own daughter has recently been teased about hairy arms and legs – she is 7; all I can do is tell her she is beautiful, and watch her find her way.
So what kind of parent will you be? Will you pack them off with a guilt-free wave and rush off to your adult life? Or will you be on all the school trips, cutting and sticking in the corner, and playing the piano during assemblies? Will you work more hours? And if you do, what on earth will you do for childcare in the holidays? You no sooner get used to your own space, than they invade it again, often bringing friends with them! And as for days off sick, will they see you happily sharing cuddles and Horrible Histories on the sofa, or praying to the god of Calpol that they will be well enough to go in?
However you cope with school, however stressful it gets, it is a magical time of discovery, which seems to pass me by like a Ferrari to my Reliant Robin. I resolve to slow-mo the school days next year, to properly share them with my children, to be less of an 8.30am screech-freak, and more of a Yes-Mummy. Good luck as you face this new chapter.
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