As a newly qualified school Mum, allow me to share my wide spread expertise on the first year of Primary School… Not for the child; there’s enough booklets, pointless information evenings and transition visits for that, This is for you… the totally unprepared Parent.
Firstly, let’s start with preparations you can make in the summer. I seriously underestimated the amount of uniform that one child would need. People always moan about the sheer volume of washing when you have a baby, but I never really got that, so was shocked and appalled at how kids can go through a jumper a day… that’s what happens when they have baked bloody beans for lunch every day. Also, socks. You’ll never have enough socks.
The school playground is the best place for one of my favourite activities- People Watching. Mainly because most of the other parents are arseholes. This will become apparent early on and your hatred will only deepen as the year goes on. They really are unbearable… but my God, they are fun to watch. At our school, we have ‘Bumbag Mum’, ‘Mrs Thinks-She’s Poppins’ and ‘Self-Obsessed Gym Mum’. OK, the last two are a bit wordy but to be fair I don’t care enough to find out their real names so I have to make them up. You will find yourself going all Katie Hopkins and making horrendous assumptions about the children (and secretly hoping your little darling will not want to mix with the offspring of your blissfully unaware enemy).
One of the most difficult aspects to school is that 4 years old is not too young for love it seems. When my son told me he loved Lilly (this ended up being 4 separate girls in total by the end of the school year) and had kissed her, I was slightly upset that I wasn’t the only woman in his life anymore. But Christ, that slight knowing-it’s-not-quite-real disappointment turned out to be nothing compared to when he got dumped. I swear to Pinot Grigio, I was hell bent on hunting down that little trollop and giving her what for. I’ve since been told, that’s not really the done thing. I still pushed in front of her at the Fair though… well and truly showed her.
Next, there’s Parents Evenings. Shockingly, it turns out that not everyone understands just how intelligent, well behaved, and generally perfect your child is. In fact, it feels like you’ve been punched in the face every time their teacher offers the tiniest bit of ‘constructive feedback’. When I was told that my son is so eager to please that he often puts up his hand despite having nothing to say, I found it difficult to hold back what was brewing inside… “OH I’M SO SORRY THAT HE ADORES YOU SO MUCH HE WANTS TO HAVE YOUR ATTENTION AND CAUSE YOU A MILD IRRITATION”.
Possibly the biggest frustration of all is that kids remember NOTHING. When they first trot off to school, you feel a bit lonely, and a bit like your arm is missing while they’re at school. You find yourself constantly wondering how they are, if they’ve made friends, does the teacher like them… but don’t worry, that passes by week two. The most irritating thing is that by the time 3pm comes and you’re desperately awaiting news of all of the above plus a full breakdown of lunch including portion sizes, it’s incredibly frustrating to repeatedly hear, “I can’t remember”. The truth is; kids are far more resilient than us and we’re far more bothered by the whole experience than they are.
When it was all over on the last day of his first school year, this became all the more apparent. I basically cried at everything. I cried at a beautiful note from his teacher, cried at how proud I was of how well he adapted to school life, cried that he made so many friends, cried that he learned to read and write, and cried that he did it all with a huge smile on his face. He had no idea what the big deal was.