Ok, so you might already be used to the early nursery/preschool runs; hauling your kids in the car with a piece of toast between your teeth, running back to grab your laptop and work pass you left in the kitchen. You may have already gotten used to the feeling of leaving your beloved little one/s to have a great day playing with sand and glitter whilst you have meetings about meetings. This might even be the first time in your life that you’ve left your child with anyone other than yourself or your family and close friends. The thought of packing off your mini-me for the next 12 or so years makes you want to cry a river. That, or you can’t wait to wave them off.
Before I entered the phase of having a primary school child, one of my friends used to laugh “you don’t know what you are about to get yourself into … it’s so much harder!” I didn’t really understand what she meant, and thought she was being dramatic. (Hello if you’re reading this, Tracy.)
Over the past few terms, I have just about adjusted to the upheaval of having a school-aged child, so I thought I would give you a heads-up on some of the changes that you might well experience too.
1. Your life will revolve around school runs
Hmmmm, 5 days of school a week. Let’s add up all the trips to and from school. 10! 10 school runs! I salute anyone that works their entire schedule around an 8.50am drop off and a 3.15pm pick up – it’s not easy, especially when you work. It feels like as soon as you’ve arrived at work, you have to shut your laptop and leave to get the kid/s. Even if you are used to the nursery runs, it doesn’t matter if you’re a little late dropping off to nursery, or want to pick up your little darling early one day, that can basically never happen anymore. You are confined to these regimental times for years now.
2. You will have to look at the same faces every day for years
Are you a social butterfly that loves to meet new people? Does the thought of mixing with 30 other parents you have nothing in common but a catchment area with give you pre-emptive hives? Or are you somewhere in between? Well, whatever you are, and however you hope to socialise with your fellow reception child parents, there are sure to be some parents that will:
- Not make eye contact with you at all costs
- Give you a slight smile, but look away fast
- Smile warmly at you, but never speak to you
- Make idle chit-chat with you
- Talk to you one day, blank you the next
- Make a beeline for you and start talking your hind legs off
It’s not like you can wave your kids off from the comfort of your car (yet), so unfortunately some human contact is necessary!
3. You’re screwed if you’re not good at diary keeping
Sponsored Where’s Wally Hunts, Christmas Fayres, Bake Sales, PTA Meetings, Parent Evenings, Trips, Non-Uniform Days… these events added to play dates, extra-curricular activities, your (ever-dwindling) social life, your other childcare arrangements, and a work life all make for one hell of a busy schedule! I suggest a shared phone calendar, and all the alerts and reminders you can handle!
4. Your child may get heavy on you
Your not-so-little-one-anymore may come home chatting and asking about some heavy subjects. Death, and what happens when people die is one high up on my son’s personal curriculum at the moment. Specifically “when are you and Dad going to die?”
5. Your child may become an obnoxious little twerp
Over the last few of months (well, since he started school), my 4 year old has adopted the attitude of a 14 year old, and he thinks it’s ok. I think it’s something to do with the fact that when a little bell rings (I assume they have a bell?!), the crazy caged animals get let out of their enclosure to go mental in the playground where teachers are few and far between. With no one ‘on them’ all the time, it must feel very liberating! I’ve basically been trying to reverse all the bad behaviour that he has developed over the last 6 months to make him less of an a-hole.
6. You have no control over who your child becomes friends with
Luckily, I love my son’s school friends, they have a whale of a time with each other, and they are so funny. They are like a pack of tiny drunk hyenas when they are together, and I salute their teachers who manage to control them every day.
7. You will need lots of petty cash
Every week you’ll need money for something. A sponsored activity, a trip, a charity collection, a non-uniform day, a fundraiser… Do yourself a favour and start saving all your small change and get yourself some little brown envelopes for when you need to send money in your child’s book bag. The requested amounts are always very small and very random. I swear I paid £2.91 for something the other day. I like to pay bills in all 5 pence pieces.
8. Your child may develop a busier social life than you
My son is receiving party invites from children I didn’t even know existed. When you have a school-aged child and you look in your calendar at what you’ve got on at the weekend, it will most definitely be a birthday party. Might as well start bulk buying 5/6 year old cards and gifts. I heard poundland is good for that 😉
9. Your child may want to join every club going
In the children’s book bags, letters about joining clubs do the rounds every so often. My son wants to join a rock band, do karate and play foosty… that’s as well as the 6 hours of gymnastics training a week that he already does. It’s blowing my tiny mind, draining my ever-decreasing bank account and erasing any scrap of spare time I once had. I feel like I spend a lot of time in the car, and having to remember where the bloody hell he needs to be and at what time.
10. You’ll need to build another room to contain all the letters home
Your child’s book bag will be the link between your teachers and you, and will contain all sorts of communications. You’ll have sponsorship forms, school trip permission slips, class photo application forms, bake sale requests, reading records, library books, newsletters with important dates… Basically if you don’t look in your child’s bag every day after school for a brightly coloured letter, you’re screwed if you know what the f is going on from one day to the next.
11. You will need shares in Vanish to keep up with the stains
I have no idea what the heck my son has been doing all day, I really don’t. Perhaps, by the look of his uniform, it’s rolling down muddy hills head first, running around the playground on his tip toes – scuffing the shit out of his expensive Clarks, and doing everything as fast as he possibly can as to ensure he comes home sticky, sweaty and in need of an hour long soak in the bath every night.
12. You will become the embarrassing parent, even if you think you’re cool
The first few weeks will inevitably be a rollercoaster of emotions as you wave your child off to spend time with new people at big school. Your child will probably take a few days to adjust too, and will probably kiss you goodbye as usual and wave goodbye. As you’re getting used to not having a daily update of what your child has done, eaten and pooed, also prepare yourself for the day that your child doesn’t even say goodbye, or even look back. Literally, blink and you’ll miss them going in.
13. You’ll be eaten out of house and home come 3.15pm, but they’ll only want snacks
Got any snacks? What snacks can I have? Please may I have a SNAAAAACK? Can I have a snacky tea? They are simply starving (they probably won’t eat their lunch because the lure of the playground is too great to sit and eat for more than 43 seconds), so be prepared to up your yoghurt game, create a snack cupboard (or indeed lock the snack cupboard), or learn how to deconstruct a spag bol so it looks like a “snacky tea”.
14. If you work, you’ll be made to feel like a shit parent
I don’t know how valid this point is, but I feel this point most days. I know other working parents who do as well. The amount of things I have had to miss, like homework presentations, reading mornings, fayres…even my son’s last parent’s evening, all because I’m working. The fact that we’re already busting a gut to get our kids to school on time and pick them up on time as well as get a shift in, it’s a lot to juggle.
15. They come home absolutely knackered, but hyper AF
When they start school, their brains are getting the workout of their lives. Even if they’ve been going to preschool, and are somewhat prepared, I have found there’s something about school that turns them into overstimulated savages, who fly out of school, dump their bags, coats, and other shit in your hands and run off. It’s like trying to round up a school of slippery fish, all whilst trying not to lose your shit in front of other parents and their teachers.
16. Then there’s the homework
There is a lot of homework if your child has any kind of extracurricular activities going on. I find it hard to remember to do it (cos let’s face it, the last thing the kids want to do when they get home from school is more school work – mine doesn’t anyway), but that’s probably because my child has only one afternoon at home a week. Our school encourages reading every night, and does a big project every half term. I literally have to tie my child to a chair whilst I have probably overindulged a little too much wine (I can’t believe I am admitting that, I hope his teachers are not reading this) of a Sunday afternoon, and we babble our way through a baffling book that talks about Sid’s nits.
So, there you have it. There is a lot of adjustment – I feel I’m not even exagerating for once. It has taken me some months to sort my shit out and be able to handle the extra organisation that having a school-aged child has brought our family life. I always used to wonder what those calendars with all the spaces were for – now I know. But actually, once you get the hang of it, like reserving Sunday afternoons (wine-fueled or sober – your choice) for uniform washing, school bag organising, last minute homework sessions and a bit of forward planning, you’ll have it nailed.