Today Leo went back to school after a couple weeks off for Christmas. The build up to Leo actually starting school seemed to stretch out for almost a year. In November 2016 we applied for his place at his catchment school, then in April 2017 we received a letter confirming he would be starting in reception at our first choice school in the September. Leavers parties at play school, a long summer break, lots of trips to town to buy uniforms and school shoes followed before Leo finally had his first day of primary school on 11th September 2017. After all of the build up, Leo’s first term at school has flown by in a flash. That first day where I sent him off into the classroom with freshly cut hair, dressed in a baggy uniform and shiny new black shoes feels like last week but in reality Leo first entered the classroom over 3 months ago.
As with every stage of parenting, I feel like the last 3 months have been an absolutely massive learning curve for me. There have been challenges Leo and I have had to overcome together but there have also been some amazing moments too that have made me feel so immensely proud of my little boy. While Leo has been in the classroom every day trying to master phonics, spelling and the correct way to hold a pencil, I’ve been busy learning a thing or two about school life too.
Everything I have learnt from my child’s first term at school.
1. Don’t wait until the very end of the summer holidays to buy school uniform and school shoes. You are not being clever and avoiding the crowds, it turns out nearly all parents are just as disorganised as you and you will end up wasting so much life queuing up to get little feet measured.
2. You feel ALL the emotions dropping your little one off on their very first day. Happy, sad, nervous, proud, relieved and baffled that your baby is now suddenly old enough to go to school. You might cry and that’s totally OK, it’s sort of expected.
3. Settling in hours suck. If your child has been going to pre school or nursery, the settling in hours at school may make you feel like they are home more now than they were before. Leo had to do 9-12 for a week and then 9-1 the following week and it just sort of messed with the routine and my day as I couldn’t really go far and do much in those few hours.
4. Kids never again show up to school looking as well put together as on that first day of term. Before he started school I made sure Leo had his hair chopped smart, he had brand spanking new shiny shoes and a uniform ironed to within an inch of it’s life. Picking him up on his last day before the Christmas holidays he looked like a different child: hair resembling some kind of 80s mullet, scuffed shoes and trousers suddenly 2 inches longer than they were as all the magic web had broken along the bottom.
5. Mornings are stressful. So I am not really a morning person anyway but weekday mornings when you have to get out and do the school run are just hell on earth. My blood pressure is never quite as high as it is between the hours of 7 and 9 every Monday to Friday. Trying to get Leo to eat his breakfast, get dressed, teeth brushed and shoes on seems to take forever and the more I try and speed things along the slower my boy decides to move. When we do all eventually manage to pile out of the house and into the car I then have the added stress of trying to find a parking space, get Leo and the baby out the car and heard Leo up the road to school, all the while listening to him complain about how tired he is. It is no wonder that by 9.01 every day I am teetering on the edge of a nervous breakdown.
6. Some school run parents don’t smile. This is true in all walks of life, unfortunately, but it would seem that some people just don’t want to reciprocate a friendly smile or ‘hello’ in the playground in the mornings. I must admit I am not always the happiest mum in town (see point 5, this explains why) but if someone gives me a ‘hello’ or even just a nod, I like to return it.
7. You really need a clean uniform for every day. I was adamant I wasn’t spending money on 5 lots of shirts, trousers and jumpers but, as it turns out, all those parents I thought were mad for doing exactly that actually made a pretty good call. I am forever washing Leo’s uniforms and praying they dry in time for school the next day as I was a stupid person and only bought 3 of each. They may not be playing with paint and play doh all day long anymore but these kids still manage to find a way to get seriously grubby and covered in stains throughout the school day.
8. The house feels weird without them. Leo has been going to pre school since he was two and a half and I have a baby but since Leo started school the house feels oddly quiet, too quiet sometimes. When you are used to having someone constantly chatting in your ear, following you to the toilet and asking you to read books and play with them all day, 6 and half hours for 5 days a week where they are not around feels really strange. Even after 3 months, I still miss Leo every day and wish he could come on adventures with Alex and I, the 3 of us back together again like it used to be.
9. They don’t eat all day. Ok, this isn’t true but it is what you would think if you saw Leo at 3.15 every day, tears in his eyes asking if I remembered to bring him a snack. I don’t think I have ever heard the word ‘snack’ as many times as I have since September. Here’s a tip for you – NEVER forget the after school snack. Leo goes in to full on melt down if I don’t bring him something to munch on the second he meets me in the playground. He gets a big hot meal for his school dinner so I have no idea what he is doing all day to be so ravenous when I pick him up.
10. They do nothing all day. Again, not actual fact but getting Leo to open up about what he has been doing in school requires serious interrogation skills. Every day I ask Leo what did he do at school and everyday he responds with either ‘nothing’ or ‘I don’t remember’. I have varied the questions and tried more subtle tactics to sneak into our conversations my enquiries about his day but I think, if Leo had his way I would remain completely clueless as to what he gets up to every day in school.
11. Four year olds get homework. I know, crazy right? I was expecting there to be reading to practice at home but I was not prepared for Leo to bring home a special ‘school and home book’ in his book bag on his first day. I have to confess, I don’t like the homework book and while I do sit and do most of the tasks in it with Leo, I do feel that he is still so young and after a long day at school all he wants to do is play with his toys or crash out on the sofa in front of the TV, so (probably more often than I should) I let him.
12. They will be reading before you know it. Before starting school Leo could only read his name, now he can read whole entire books. He is obviously not reciting Shakespeare just yet but he can tell a pretty good story about Biff, Chip and Kipper and seems to have a big chunk of the phonics mastered. The first time Leo read a whole book to me I nearly cried, I don’t think I have been so proud of anyone ever, seriously could have burst. Be warned though, the stories about Biff, Chip and Kipper are mind-numbingly boring and will feel ever more so as your child will read them in a slooow, robotic fashion.
13. It hurts when your child says they don’t have any friends. Leo has friends, I know he does because he talks about them and I have asked his teacher about it. Also, lots of little kids say hello to him and Leo then proceeds to tell me the child’s name and that they are his friend. However, on days where he is feeling a bit emotional and sensitive, Leo will tell me no one likes him, he plays on his own and has no friends – Heart. Is. Broken. It is so hard because apart from hiding out in the playground and observing him with his peers, I don’t know how I am supposed to know if this is the truth or not. His teachers say otherwise, apparently he’s friends with everyone, but hearing a sad little voice tell you that no one likes them really does feel like a punch in the chest.
14. The weeks after half term are all about the Christmas play. I never knew so much practice went in to the school nativity! Leo spent the whole of November and most of December talking about and practising his songs and one line for the play and seeing him sat dressed as a donkey with all his little classmates singing about a clumsy angel was, again, one of the proudest moments of my life. Here’s another top tip for you, do not leave buying the nativity costume until the last minute. Sometimes even Amazon prime won’t be able to deliver to you in time and you will end up haphazardly sewing some tights together to create a donkey costume. The stress is not worth it, just order your child’s costume the day they come home proudly telling you the role they have been cast.
15. You might be the parent of the naughty kid. Yup, that was me for the first month or so and it wasn’t fun. I think having a teacher tell you your little one has been misbehaving feels so much worse than how I remember feeling whenever I was told off myself in school. Luckily, Leo just had a few issues settling in and now all the quiet words with the teacher in the playground and telling offs on the car journey home are a thing of the past (hopefully!).
16. School life is exhausting. By Friday every week, Leo and I are both completely shattered, when you have gotten used to an almost routine and care free life with a pre-schooler, having to be out the house by 8.30 every day can come as a bit of a shock to the system. There have been multiple times Leo has fallen asleep in the car on the ten minute drive home from school and some days he just cries for ages with no other explanation than the simple fact he is totally exhausted from a long day at school. I have a new found appreciation for lazy weekends now though. I don’t feel guilty in the slightest about letting Leo do a bit of Paw Patrol binge watching on the weekend on account for all the learning, socialising and playing he is now doing at school.
17. You will wish for the holidays and half way through you will be wishing they were over. I love having Leo home and really do miss him when he is gone but the Christmas holidays were some what manic having him around again 24/7. He has gone back today and I am left with his tip of a bedroom to deal with and you currently can’t walk anywhere in my house without having to navigate your path through piles of clothes waiting to be washed and new Christmas toys scattered over the floor. I am also secretly relieved he’s back in school as it means for 6 hours of the day I don’t have to act as a sibling referee and when Alex is napping I can have some much valued time to myself.
See, every day is a school day even for us parents! Do you feel like you have learnt a lot since your child started school, can you relate to any of the things I have mentioned? If you have any more points to add to the list I would love for you to share them in the comments.
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