Tag Archives: starting school

Stretching the maternal elastic

Child standing on beach

“When your youngest starts school you’ll get really broody.” That’s what people told me and I expected them to be right. Just when you think you’ve passed on your last babygro, there comes a niggle inside that makes you want to snatch it back. As the weeks ticked down to my son starting school, I was anticipating a hollowness that I’d need to fill. It turns out that the reality was quite different. I wasn’t losing my baby boy after all – I was learning to share him.

My eldest started school shortly before her 5th birthday – the oldest in her academic year and, without doubt, ready to be there. Her brother, however, seemed far from prepared to start his journey. Still chubby-cheeked and throwing monumental tantrums, he was my baby and doomed (sorry, son) to be preserved as such. It wasn’t about their difference in age though. Let’s be honest, it was all about my apron strings and how ready I was to cut my son loose (or at least to accept he would only be hanging on with one hand whilst the other hand busied itself with growing up).

I’ve mummied and (s)mothered him. I’m not ashamed to admit that. He’s an unabashed mummy’s boy (although show me a boy who isn’t) and could never, ever cope in the big, wide world without his mamma at his side. Or so I told myself.

Then came his first day at school. I didn’t need to be dragged from the classroom door. I wasn’t beating my chest or producing reams of tissues from my pockets. The world didn’t end. When my son stepped through the classroom door, he clutched his bag and his water bottle like a little man, not a baby. It was then I knew that letting him go was for his own good. For four years I had kept him to myself, not wanting to believe he could function without me. It’s hard to accept that you need to share those you love to help them grow, even if that might mean them growing away from you.

We’ve reached the end of the first half term and my son is well on his way. We’ve each had tears. For me, it was when I dressed him in his uniform for the first time. For him, it was the day when his new best friend didn’t arrive at school. Seeing your child locked into the education system is daunting when they are only 4 years old, can barely get themselves out of a jumper and are borderline self-sufficient bottom-wipers.

Have his new adventures stopped him being a mummy’s boy? Of course not. I’ll be defending my right to keep the maternal elastic taut for many years to come. (One day I’ll have to share him with his future partner – a thought that already makes me bristle.) He still comes into our bed every night. I’m still his first port of call for cuddles, back rubs and – more frequently than I’d like – bottom-wiping.

Sharing him with the world has made it even more precious when he comes back to me. He exists and thrives without me. However hard it is to see him do that with the help of others and without me, he is learning to be his own man.

Book review and giveaway: My Stinky New School

starting school

It’s that time of year again. The time when, amidst overturned boxes of toys and washed out camping holidays, parents’ thoughts start turning to September. If you’re a parent who is getting ready to send a little darling to school for the first time then you are probably oscillating between dread and joy. Perhaps you’ve passed through denial and are looking for ways to ease the transition. For me, as with solving so many things in life, that means turning to books.

We’ve read about Topsy and Tim’s and Maisie’s first days at school countless times now, so it was a delight to be asked to review something new. My Stinky New School by Rebecca Elliott introduces your child to the prospect of something potentially scary with humour and beautiful illustrations.

The book tells the story of Toby as he starts school and tackles worries about making new friends. According to Toby, his new school “stinks of pigeon poop, ogre armpits, and sadness”, yet he makes it through his first day thanks to a string of characters: spacemen, aliens, pirates, mermaids and dinosaurs. Throw in “astro poop” and bad smells and you have everything a 4-year-old loves.

At the end of the day, Toby claims not to have made any friends. Really? When my kids have done any activities without me, I ask “And did you talk to anyone?” and the answer is always “No”. Yet without fail, it eventually emerges that they did indeed make friends without realising. The same is true for Toby who, through sharing his wild imagination with other children, leaves on his first day with a wave to his troop of new pals. This bit does need some explaining to 4-year-olds (who tend to take things literally) but with a couple of reads they soon grasp the idea.

My Stinky New School is a lovely book to add to your arsenal of preparing-for-school-tools. Just make sure your child isn’t expecting there to be any real pirates at school. They’ll either be racing into their uniform several weeks too early or refusing to go without a cutlass.

My Stinky New School by Rebecca Elliott, Lion Children’s Books, hardback, £9.99. For more information visit the publisher’s website.

WIN!

I’m giving away a copy of My Stinky New School. To enter please scroll down and leave a comment telling me who you’d most like to meet – dead or alive, famous or infamous – who would it be?

The closing date for entries is noon on August 18th, 2015. Entries from the UK only. Only one entry per person. The winner will be chosen completely at random.

Disclosure: A big thanks to the publishers for giving me the opportunity to review the book and give away a copy.

Sad (or School Allocation Day)

School run

The last few days have been anxious ones for parents as they waited for news of where their little darlings will start their formative years in education. Primary school allocation day. Nerves have not been so frayed since this year’s mamas and papas twisted their hair and scuffed their Doc Martens waiting for exam results. The anxiety isn’t helped by what is seen to be a complicated (and seemingly random) allocation system. It’s another challenge on the rocky, emotional road that is parenting.

The wait between the application deadline and allocation date is a long one – three months. Quite what is happening during this period is uncertain. One can only imagine that FBI checks are being run, dustbins rifled through and shopping habits scrutinised. We were delighted to get our first choice (thanks to our close proximity to the school) but we still had three long months of not daring to count our chickens. Of course, none of the available schools are ‘bad’ but they do each have a different ‘feel’ that you need to be happy with. (Obviously, my choice was not at all swayed by the Convenience (C) equation: C = X + Y, where X equals eXtra time in bed and Y equals Years of life spent on same stretch of pavement making sure kids don’t run into the road or step in dog poop.)

I wasn’t prepared for how emotional today would be. Once the initial excitement of getting the school we wanted had passed, the significance of the moment started to set in. My little girl would be going to school. Really, truly. I even shed a tear or two, something I had not expected to do until she actually starts school. Four months of blubbing beckons for me as the build-up to September starts: buying her uniform, the school visits before the summer holidays, choosing a pencil case … Another chapter in my life as a parent is well and truly opening.

Am I ready for it? Excuse the selfishness but I think the girl will be fine – after all, her excitement today was focused around the colour of the uniform. The prospect of structure, PE and making new friends hardly factors. So back to me. Life is going to change. What are my concerns?

  • Can I accept that my daughter is growing up? Will I start dressing my 2-year-old son as a baby again and push him around in a pram in a desperate attempt to keep at least one of my kids needing me. (Buying a cat is also an option here.)
  • Will my precarious self-esteem survive life at the school gates? Will it be a bed of roses or the snake pit I’m led to believe it is?
  • How the jiggins will I cope with having to feed her tea every day of the week? I currently struggle with being imaginative twice a week. Does tinned mackerel constitute a balanced diet? (The aforementioned cat would be in for a treat at least.)
  • Will I be required to only leave the house in full make-up, possibly purchase Ugg boots, and, worst of all, join the ranks of the Ballet Mums skilled in the dark art of making other mothers feel uncomfortable?

My worries for my daughter are another blog post entirely. For the moment, I’m wallowing in my own regret at the speed with which time passes. Sometimes it’s difficult to focus on the parental joys you have already experienced and those that are yet to come. Every stage of being a parent involves some form of letting go and accepting that life is changing and changing rapidly. The pride that can bring is often tinged with sadness. As I watch my daughter head off for her first day at primary school I’m sure I’ll be grateful that it’s just her new found independence I’m worrying about and not the length of her skirt or the boy waiting for her at the school gate. That is all still to come. God help me.