So, your baby’s off to school in September! There’s lots you can do to help them feel ready for the change – find some of our top tips on preparing your kids for starting school here. But what about you? If we’re honest, we both underestimated what an adjustment starting school would be, for us as well as for our little ones – and Leanne’s a teacher! So we thought it would be helpful to share some of the things that make the transition easier for us.
Or should we say school RUN RUN RUN? Somehow, we were never sure why people seem to dread the school run so much. Wasn’t it pretty much the same as delivering the kids to preschool or nursery? Uh… no. Factor in having to wear a uniform (allow time for meltdowns about sock seams and fiddling with buttons), packed lunches / teas / snacks, PE kit, remembering to retrieve the reading books from behind the sofa, the water bottle, which day is library book day and any number of other dress-up days / sponsored walk forms / bring-a-toy-for-the-Christmas-fair three-line-whips and you have an administrative nightmare. Completing this nightmare at the same time as ensuring nobody’s leaving the house with the cat in their bag / a Coco-Pops beard / no pants on is a daily battle. We have learnt to
- Prep the night before, and get uniforms out (they’ll welcome them radiator-warm during the winter), lunches packed and everything by the front door. (Until they decide to plunder the pile and spread it around the house, that is.) Find the shoes too, because who would leave these in a logical place? Not our kids, that’s for sure.
- Get up earlier than we thought we needed to. Because sometimes you have to factor in a lengthly child poo, or a full wipe to remove the toothpaste facepaint.
- Stick a post-it note on the front door with what’s needed every day – especially useful if you have afterschool clubs to factor in.
- Forgive ourselves for the inevitable shouting. Nobody sails out that door and skips to the schoolyard wreathed in smiles – and if they claim they do, they’re lying.
School admin is seemingly endless. Remember to check their bags for notes, so you don’t miss a crumpled missive about the day they have to wear something with polka dots on or take in a tin of chickpeas. If your child remembers to actually tell you any of these requirements – or, indeed, can answer more usefully than “I can’t remember” to anything you ask about school – you’re several steps ahead of us. Check the school website and/or communication app and it may seem grim, but join the Facebook or WhatsApp group and check that too.
You will need a network. In the same way that a Mum Tribe can keep you sane in the maternity leave/preschool days, the School Gate Tribe will be your saviours. Be friendly, even if it seems scary. Sure the second timers who have older kids at school might seem like they have their own cliques – oh god, is anyone else getting actual school flashbacks? – but there will be plenty of mums in exactly the same position as you: not knowing where to stand, and which of the office staff won’t bite your head off. Step up, smile, make friends. If you can, suggest the playground after school. Go to the drinks. Put in the effort.
It often seems like there are divisions between the working mums and the stay at home mums. Cross them. If you work, other mums will be lifesavers – keeping you abreast of school gate gossip and priceless information when you’re not at pick-up, like how early you have to sign up to get the best slot helping at the Summer Fair (it’s the last hour at the bar, by the way. You’re welcome.) If you’re at home, you can indulge in playdates to fill the surprisingly long hours after school and before bedtime. As the kids get older and more independent, you can genuinely slightly relax during these. It’s a revelation and, sometimes, it’s a revelation that might even include a G&T.
Starting school is a big deal, and it can be as big a deal for you as it is for them, but – we promise – there are loads of fun times ahead. May the force be with you!