It seemed just yesterday when Little Man started nursery and I penned this post on 10 things every nursery-going mum should know. Then he started school and I wrote a number of posts on getting kids ready for reception, managing tearful drop-offs and how our lives changed after my little boy started big boy school. And here we are, at half-term already! And while Little Man has been learning phonics and writing and counting, I've been getting practice in a whole new area of things – things every school-mum will learn on the job!
So, here goes…
1. After-school meltdowns are real (and are to be feared!)
I had heard about these from other mums, so I was mentally prepared to deal with the worst side of Little Man. Knowing that it would happen, and that he would erupt like a volcano if things didn't go his way or just be a cranky little s**t made it a little easier for me the first few weeks. I still had to bear the brunt of his meltdowns, but at least I didn't lose my cool – #winning! You see, there's a very logical reason for it, which is explained beautifully in this article. It's known as 'After-school restraint collapse' and it basically means that after having been obedient and good and following the rules all day, our kids now need to let off some steam. Unfortunately, on us…
2. Your kid will eat like a T-Rex once he comes home
I kid you not! They will eat double the number of fish fingers or twice the portion of pasta after having had a toast with butter and a couple of crackers with hummus. Not to mention the biscuits and fruits that were consumed on the walk home from school!
Tip: ALWAYS carry a snack to give them on the walk home from school. It hugely helps in dealing with point number 1.
3. Don't expect answers to any questions (until bedtime)
Did you have a nice day, darling?
What did you do?
Who did you play with?
I don't remember
Did you learn anything interesting today?
I don't know
What did you eat for lunch?
Aaaaaaaaaa I can't remember.
Fear not, your child is not suffering from short-term memory loss. It's just the way it is. Accept it.
Some kids, like my son who will do anything to resist bedtime, will then open up and tell me everything. Which is lovely, but please will you go to bed now?!
Tip: Make your questions more specific, like 'Who did you play with at lunch-time' or 'What was the funniest part of the day today'. These are more likely to get your little one to talk.
4. But expect loads of art/craft to come home…
Your fridge will not have an inch of free space left once your kid starts school. From innocuous scribbles (which, to your child, actually mean something semi-intellectual) in reception to more recognisable drawings in Year 1 to huge-ass life-size bloomin' rockets and spacecrafts in Year 2, your house will look like an arts n' craft warehouse. What is with schools and Autumn-themed art anyways?!
5. The school-run is the most stressful part of the day
Serious. You will be exhausted by the time you're home after drop-off – and it's only 9 am! That's because you've been up since 6 am (or earlier if you've got a newborn or an early riser) and have uttered the following at least 7,349 times since: "Finish your breakfast". "Change your clothes – no, not your Batman suit, your uniform". "PUT ON YOUR SHOES. SHOES. SHOES".
Double all the early morning drama if you've got two kids to be out the door before the school bell rings, or a newborn who decides to do a poonami the very second you are out the door.
The only upside – hearing these familiar school-run conversations!
6. Your email inbox will explode
This is one of those 'can't live with, can't live without' situations. Your inbox will be full of emails from the school regarding dress-up days, parent-teacher meetings, PTA committee selection, coffee mornings in aid of XYZ, school gate rules, school policies etc etc etc – and all these besides the weekly class report and school report. You will dread these sometimes (what? My kid has to go dressed as a superhero tomorrow?!) yet will secretly love them because at least you will know what the heck your child is learning in school! Because point 3 happens to the most talkative kids too!
7. Expect the nits email…
Nits! The bane of every school-mum's existence. We all know that email will come someday, yet, when it comes there is panic and a manic intensive screening of the head of your child (and siblings). You begin to see those b******s everywhere, even in your sleep!
Tip: Keep a nit kit at hand with a lice repellent defence spray and a nit comb because trust me, you will need it at some point for sure!
8. You will be roped into doing stuff you don't want to do…
Be it helping out at the school fair, reading to your child's class, baking a cake for the bake sale, making decorations for the different festivals that come and go – you will be cajoled into saying yes even though you want to run as fast away from school as possible.
9. School photos… read on!
So, somehow your child who always sticks his tongue out in photos, will produce an endearing smile while standing upright with hands in pocket. A photo you just must buy for 10 freakin pounds, even though your phone has 9 million photos of your kid! Every. Bloody. Year.
Either that, or however clean their jumper looked when you waved them goodbye in the morning, or however neat their hair was then – they look like a ragamuffin in the class photo. But… you must still purchase it. Memories and all.
10. You will do more laundry than ever before…
Or, like me, just stock up on extra sets of uniforms. Sometimes, you will have to change them daily. From paint marks to mud stains to god knows what else, your kids' uniform will come home unrecognisable. Sometimes, a wet-wipe can do the trick, but most times it will need to be chucked in the wash!
Tip: Label label label everything! From jumpers to fleeces to PE kit to shoes to water bottles and book bags. This doesn't assure you that your child won't come home wearing another child's pants, but at least it will be easier to find his things.
11. Your phone contacts list will read XYZ's mum
Face it, it's impossible to remember a 100 names of kids and their mums, at least in the first few weeks. So to make your life a little bit easier, you will start saving numbers as 'Molly's mum' and 'Henry's mum' (whose real name you will only learn after a couple of weeks or probably even months. Or probably not till the year ends, but by then you're too embarrassed to ask!).
12. You WILL need a calendar to keep on top of things
Again, remember the point about the emails? And the other point about the various activities you will be
invited forced to participate in? Not to forget all those dress-up days and World Book Day and library book day and PE… what would I do without my calendar?!
13. There will be endless amount of birthday parties to attend…
And attend them you must. Because the kids talk in class, and you can't just say "Because I'm fed up" or "Because I'm exhausted" when your child asks why he didn't go to George's birthday party! Be prepared to see the same faces every other weekend. Get used to your child being on a sugar-high on the weekends. And enjoy the cake (since there will be no alcohol!).
Tip: Stock up on birthday gifts when deals come around during the sales. Trust me, you will need them ALL even before December rolls over!
14. … And endless playdates to host and go to
Your child is thrown in the midst of 30 new children (just in his classroom) and another 60 or more in the school playground. Making friends is essential to their settling in, and making good friends does wonders for their self-confidence (and excitement to go to school each morning). So as the new school-mum, we must take it upon ourselves to organise playdates (and go to the ones we're invited to as well) – it really helps them settle in better!
15. There will be lots of 'He's my best friend/ he's not my friend anymore' statements
On that note, friendships at the start of school are fragile. Our littles are still discovering themselves, let alone others, so this is a time for experimenting and learning. Friendships will be based on similar likes and dislikes, and who likes to play Lego in class, for instance. Your child's "best friend" today could be just another boy in his class tomorrow, when he's moved on to someone else. There will be quarrels and probably tears; but there will also be beautiful innocent lifelong friendships being formed. Step in if you need to, but otherwise let them deal with it themselves – it's a great life lesson.
16. Amazon Prime will become your most trusted friend
Because when you need a superhero outfit for the day-after tomorrow, or a cheetah (or whatever bloody animal your child wants to dress up as) costume by Friday, one click will do the trick and it's on your doorstep. (Remember what I said about your email inbox exploding? Half the emails will be about dress-up days).
17. Your child will be exhausted beyond measure – let them rest as much as possible in the first month
Starting school is a BIG change – physically and mentally – for your child. The full six-and-a-half hours as opposed to part-time nursery, five days a week is a lot for them to take in at the start. Add to that the early mornings, the concentration required to learn phonics and reading and math, the PE and then their extra-curricular activities outside of school – no wonder they're exhausted and grumpy! Give them the rest they need in the first half-term – don't bombard them with after-school clubs just yet.
18. The first Nativity play will bring tears to your eyes
It just will. You don't know why but seeing your kid all dressed up and on stage, performing as a shepherd or wise man or even standing as a tree, will make your heart burst with pride and love.
19. You will be the proudest mum ever when you hear your child read
C-a-t cat, d-o-g dog. Who would've thought these simple three-letter words coming out from your child's mouth would make your heart soar?! Nothing beats the pride (and relief) you feel when you hear your child read an entire book!
20. Everything will be ok – don't stress the small stuff
Something I need to keep reminding myself, but having experienced it first-hand, I know it's true. We mums tend to be more stressed about our littles starting school – will they make friends, will they ever learn to read and write, will they be able to manage lunchtime alone, be able to go to the toilet unaided, dress and undress themselves for PE, will they be ok? There will probably be tears and fears and the settling-in might even take more than a week, but yes, dear mum, your child will be OK and will love school. So just relax and enjoy your child-free time!
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