I’m writing this for parents of children who are starting school for the first time this September because it’s as big a milestone for you as it is for your child.
It’s a freaking EMOTIONAL time too (yes I’m shouting, it’s important) and if you feel anything like I did when Oliver started school 2 years ago, then I don’t want you to think you’re alone, even if all the other parents around you look like they’re dealing with this new chapter well (they’re no doubt crumbling inside too, painting on a smile and balling like you are, once back home).
So let me take you back. Oliver, now 6 and soon to start Year 2 in September, my first-born, began his academic life nearly 2 years ago to the day as one of the oldest in his class with a January birthday.
He was undoubtedly ready for this next chapter in his life, I, on the other hand, was NOT.
I cried every day for a week, holding back the tears at the school gates, breaking down once home. I’m not going to lie, I felt like my arm was missing and I was a little bit distraught.
Dramatic I know, but ‘that’s the truth, Ruth’.
As much as I was excited for my son’s formal education to start, I was rather heartbroken too and it’s important I share this and be honest about how tough it can be- because it’s hard for parents to let go. To accept that the babe you held in your arms in what feels like yesterday, is now off to start a new life without you (in school hours)! Weep!
And here’s the thing, this ‘I feel so sad I can’t stop crying’ shizz hit me UNAWARES, I never expected to feel like I did that week. I thought I’d be this positive happy sunbeam of a parent as Oliver embarked on school life.
You see, Oliver had been in nursery full time in pre-school so it wasn’t like he was with me 24/7 but it was a laid back set-up which worked around my flexible working hours, so I could drop him off at 10am and pick up at 6 or later if I needed. Oliver’s nursery was primarily about playtime too- and on my schedule. Selfish, maybe, but that’s how it tends to be for parents who work full-time or part-time around their kids and have younger children too, as I did.
Suddenly Oliver starting school meant my life and how manageable it had felt up to now, had changed. And nobody likes change right?! Even if it’s good for all involved.
Overnight, I had a tonne of emails, a school timetable bursting with dates and special days (assemblies, charity days and school trips) to remember, various kits and seasonal uniform to get right, packed lunches to make, costumes to create, homework and much, much more.
I felt I needed another PA to keep on top of Oliver’s new schedule.
I honestly felt massively overwhelmed and on top of all the emotional upheaval too (think PMS x2) #notgood.
Look, I hope I’m not scaring you, I simply want to prepare you all for how you MIGHT feel because I never got the memo.
No one told me how much my heart would hurt and my head would have to get around when my son started school.
But there’s good news (phew), while it will take you time to get to grips with everything (buy a massive calendar to plonk on your fridge and make lists, lists are your friend, people) life does get easier (I found by the time the second term had begun).
Seeing your kid happy, making new friends and growing in mind and spirit will melt your heart and for the tougher bits-
Don’t forget to share the load.
I asked that the school to email my husband as well as myself, the reminders they send out so we were both able to handle the new schedule- it also means forgetting a non-uniform day is less likely and take it from experience, rushing back to change is all kinds of stressful at 9am!
I also added my own parents to the pickup list and got details of the after-school club so I knew I had back-up if I needed it.
…To wrap up, you will feel sad amigos, it’s natural and particularly if your child cries and doesn’t settle straight away which can happen and you’ll also be dealing with a whole new diary and a sea of unknown faces at the school gates (other parents), most who will no doubt feel as lost as you do so be prepared for that.
In many respects, it will feel like you, the parent is starting school again (and that comes with all kind of emotional baggage) but soon enough you’ll find your tribe, your kid will love school and so will you.