28 Sept 2015

Starting school

Hello, blog fan(s)! It's been a while. Dexter has started school and our lives have been dominated by a new routine: no bad thing as we were all starting to unravel after a lovely but long summer. And so I thought I would take a moment to reflect on this whole new phase in the boy's life - indeed, in family life as a whole.

10th September marked Big D's first day in the world of education. We joined the glut of smiling first-day photos clogging up social media and I took a VERY excited four year old to the place where he will spend much of his young life for the next seven years.

Well, what have I/we learned, almost three weeks in?...

I'm not a complete tin man and I do have a heart. I am a largely unsentimental parent. I'm kind of cool about the fact that children grow up and I tend to embrace - rather than deny - each new stage. I am notorious for not being attached to the material 'stuff' that acts as mementos of the baby years; I regularly try and flog outgrown clothes and toys. In fact, sometimes, I even will the next phase/age to start. However, I didn't realise just how much my heart would hurt seeing my baby in a proper school uniform and looking so tiny in his beautiful big classroom, especially as his small reception class is usually combined with Year 1 and 2 students. Is he really big enough to be going TO SCHOOL?!

My organisational skills have been tested to the max. As a teacher and self-confessed control freak myself, I pride myself in having a sound grip on my professional and personal life. I'm organised; I get stuff done; I write shit down; I don't lose things; I label everything (even my box of labels). Heck, I mark books in alphabetical order. Really. Nothing has prepared me for the whirlwind of admin - mum-min if you please - required in being the parent of a primary school child. Newsletters, homework, cake baking, school fete contributions, birthday parties, trips, PE kit, outdoor learning clobber, school lunch choices and harvest festivals have got me chasing my tail. I need a PA - and a good one at that. Plus, I get more texts from school than my actual friends. I'm not sure how we are going to manage this when I'm back at work doing a job that requires plate-spinning and juggling skills worthy of your finest circus.

The school gates are not the setting for 'Mean Girls 2: the reception years'. I am not shy. I pride myself on having good social skills and emotional intelligence. And with a face for radio, I've always worked that little bit harder at being engaging and hilarious, which I am, obvs. Modesty aside, even I had the mild fear about the potential unfriendliness of the school run mums - and dads. My fears have been proven to be well and truly unfounded. All of the other parents are lovely. It's a tiny village school which prides itself on having a family feel to it and it does. People smile, chat and marvel at the fact that I park a permanently snoozing baby outside the classroom every morning. In the first week or so, a number of parents commented on how their children had already told them a lot about Dexter; he's the 'funny' one apparently. Oh good. That aside, there are definitely a few mums I wouldn't mind having an evening in the pub with and that can only be a good thing.

Speaking of pubs, school night wine o'clock is a no-no. Words I never thought I would write. The hectic-ness of getting three of us fed, dressed and out of the house on time, without forgetting anything (see above) means I live in fear of being slightly foggy/sleeping through the alarm or just feeling any rougher than your average 6am start makes you feel. I am all about the peppermint tea of an evening. Until Friday...

Weekends are precious. For rest, recuperation, family time, extended periods of pyjama wearing and getting on top of that school admin. And wine. Friday really is Fri-yay!

The school day is really short. D's school is a 20 minute drive away: our choice, made for a number of reasons. It's actually very close to the school I work at, so there will be a whole different dynamic when I return to work after maternity leave. By the time I have got home, done some chores and kept Delphi in her feed, play, sleep routine, it's time to go back and collect a usually happy but EXHAUSTED school boy.

School is KNACKERING. 'WE KNOW!' yell a billion teachers. Of course, I already knew that, but I have never seen the boy so strung out with tiredness. We've slipped into a routine of him having a bath when he gets in and getting into pyjamas before 5pm. Bedtime routine starts at 6pm. I think this may be even earlier when the clocks change in a few weeks. He had been holding it together behaviour-wise at home, but note past tense. This weekend, Big D has been all kinds of challenging. I've been blaming the chuffing 'super moon' but I know it's because his eyes itch with tiredness as he gets used to a whole new set of rules and routines. I am already planning on us spending half term in a dressing gown watching 'Thomas the Tank' on repeat.

Despite having several life 'grown-up' boxes ticked, I have never felt my 37 years more since having a child at school. I read this post recently from the lovely Alice, on moments that make you feel like a mother, and nodded in agreement throughout. As most days, I feel like I have accidentally been given two smalls to rear and at some point, someone will pick up on this mistake, I have never felt more of a 'grown-up' than since D started school. Maybe it's the 'mum-min' or the constant pressure to have a set of uniform washed, dried, labelled and ready to wear, or possibly that I have already written my first absence note (pesky stomach bug), but despite 15 years teaching other people's (teenage) children, standing in that playground at pick-up, I feel like an actual adult.

Does any school have adequate parking/enough room for school traffic? In short, I am guessing no. Some afternoons, I leave an hour before for a twenty minute journey, just so I am not stressing about finding a safe place to park. Annoyingly, this eats into the day. On the plus side, I often take my Kindle: the reading time really mounts up and I feel less guilty about forgoing my evening read for a 9.30pm face plant onto the pillow.

Schools are bloody brilliant places. I know, I am biased because I work in one but the British education system is much-maligned, mauled by the press and all too often, simply used as a pawn in a political game. But the people who give their hearts and souls to the education and welfare of our children are absolute heroes. I always keep in my head a line from the deputy head in 'Educating Essex', the first in the 'Educating...' franchise. To paraphrase, he tells a particularly recalcitrant student that never ever in the rest of their life will they be shown the same amount of patience, kindness, support and understanding in the 'real world' as they are at school. Dexter is surrounded by kind, experienced and tolerant adults for the whole of his school day, and if that's our education system that he's just starting out in, then I want in.

Now, roll on half term...

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