You can never have too much uniform.
Having started out extravagantly last September with an outfit for each school day, we’ve limped to the end of term with just two t-shirts, a skirt, a single jumper, and one very short, very crumpled summer dress with a chewed collar and a few perma-art stains.
Fortunately, every third day of school appears to be a non-uniform day. (Note to self: pick up more small envelopes in which to place endless pound coins for various/random activities/theme days).
Literacy is slow but amazing.
There’s no denying that we’ve found the reading and writing thing a rather difficult process. The Big Small started out enthusiastic, but wanted to be able to do it instantly and soon got bored when it turned out to be quite hard, and involve actual concentration and rules.
When it comes to practice at home, she doesn’t want to do it, is surly and inexplicably upside down when forced into it, and refuses to be instructed by mere parents: “That’s not how we write it in school mummy”.
Internal monologue: “It’s the letter fucking ‘s’! I’ve been writing the letter ‘s’ since I was 5. I write for a living. I’m pretty sure I know which way round it’s supposed to fucking point!!!!”
External monologue: “Let’s try it again darling!”
“Look how it’s written in this book!”
“Start with the pencil here…”
“No, don’t throw a tantrum, you’ve nearly got it!”
“Darling, look, you’ve got to go down the snake.”
“No, no, it’s this way.”
“It IS how you do in it school, daring.”
“It’s the letter EFFING ‘s’! I’ve been writing the letter ‘s’ since I was 5. I write for a living. I’m pretty sure I know which way round it’s supposed to EFFING POINT!!!!”
Anyhoo, rather to my surprise, we’ve got to the end of the year and the Big Small is reading not only words but even books, and some of them aren’t mind bogglingly boring, and don’t star Nan, Biff or Chip.
I’ve even caught her reading beautifully to her toys and the Small Small, and I have received some lovely notes telling me I am a booful mumy.
The social stuff is hard, fast.
Friendships are hard. Someone is always not someone else’s best friend, not coming to my party, being told on, or not playing nicely. Social power is learned quickly, and wielded ruthlessly.
When your kid comes home and tells you they had no one to play with at lunch time, it’s like a dagger through your heart.
And when they come home and tell you they told so-and-so they couldn’t play because they weren’t part of the ‘club’, it’s just as bad – if not worse.
We’ve had many discussions about thinking how it would feel to be in someone else’s shoes, being kind, looking for kindness in others, and walking away when people are being mean.
I’ve had to face the fact that this is the first of many life lessons where despite my best efforts, the Big Small will have to figure it out for herself – and make some mistakes along the way. You can’t socially engineer or influence for them in the classroom or playground – these are hierarchies and nuances they will face and skills and strategies they will need for the rest of their lives.
And that really rather SUCKS.
As someone who is still too often trying to figure out how to fit in and be liked, watching this process begin so early has been surprisingly painful. It’s taken me right back to my own childhood in a series of rather uncomfortable 80s montage flashbacks. (It turns out very little has changed really, apart from the hair and the socks).
Play dates have changed.
What has changed, is play dates. Pre-school, play dates meant meeting up with your Mummy mates and drinking tea while holding a disjointed conversation around phrases like “Share!”, “Maybe later, darling”, “We don’t hit, do we?”, “Take you hand out of your pants, please!”, “Do you need a wee?” and “Don’t eat that if it’s been on the floor.”
At school, the play date is an important part of your child’s social development, and the one way you CAN try and subtly shape your child’s friendships.
It is held after school, when everyone is at their giddiest, hungriest and tiredest. Yay.
Your child will never want to bring home a kid you know who’s parents you know, leaving you in sole charge of a completely strange child who doesn’t have to do what you say because you are powerless to take away their stuff.
Your child will inevitably be a little shit, refuse to share anything, and go off in a sulk.
So now all you have to do is to make sure your kid doesn’t sabotage their social standing/friendship, make sure the other kid has a good time, eats some food, and reports back on your wonderful parenting. Oh, and then make sure the house is presentable and you aren’t too weird and intense when the strange parent turns up to pick up the strange kid.
NO PRESSURE THEN.
(Btw, this will all be complicated by the Small Small wanting to do everything the Big ones are doing).
The good news is that invariably your little arse-wipe of a child actually behaves impeccably at other people’s houses – and it turns out everyone’s kid is a pain in the neck at their own play date. Phew.
My advice is to try and host as little as possible, and invite multiple kids if you can manage it to dilute each others company.
The school run gets easier.
When you started the year, the idea of getting all children up, cleaned, fed and out for double drop off WEARING THEIR SHOES, was rather daunting.
I won’t say I’ve got it down to a fine art, but we’re now almost never late. Almost. It’s really just about starting the process early enough (my kids appear to need a solid 40 minutes of faffy time before they can be persuaded to leave the house) and then just shouting “EAT!” and “SHOES!” every 2-3 minutes.
School comms don’t get easier.
I’m a woman on the edge (as the name of this blog would suggest) who is oppressed by her existing text messages and emails, from people she genuinely likes, about stuff she’s genuinely interested in.
The massive barrage of random, fluctuating, and often spurious school information delivered across multiple channels several times a day has very nearly tipped me over that edge.
As the year has worn on, I’ve learned to care less (curiously the solution to many of my problems) and only open the stuff that looks really important (nothing from the PTA). I do also check the book bag once a week, though usually in a mad panic on the way out the door first thing on a Monday (between screaming “SHOES!” and “EAT!” obvs).
If it’s vital I’ve found that either child and network of school gate mums will let me know about it (having got to know me and how crap I am).
They’re still babies.
Yes, my Big Small can read now (sort of – see 2). Yes, she has a whole life away from me that I never hear anything about (apart from snippets of friend drama – see 3). Yes, she’s learned some new and interesting words (and not all of them from me! See 2 again). And yes, she’s now wiping her own bum and brushing her own teeth (both still requiring some supervision).
But at the end of the day she still drinks warm milk, and she still wants a bedtime story, a cuddle and a song.
She’s still my baby. And as she continues to grow into her own person, I know she always will be.