So how was it for you? First days at school are just as emotional for the parents as they are for the kids. You’re very aware of both how little they are and how grown up, simultaneously. If your child has just started school for the first time, you’re bound to have gone through this.
That was me a year ago. Compulsory photo taken outside our house, my husband and I walked my small boy to the village primary school and round to his classroom. We said a quick goodbye so we didn’t prolong it, and although Charlie was excited, I definitely saw a ‘brave face’ being put on as he went into the classroom with his fellow tiny learners. And we were excited and nervous for him all at the same time. And we too put on our brave faces (and maybe shed a little tear on the way to work if I’m honest).
But over the next few days and weeks, I was struck by an emotion I wasn’t expecting – I felt a bit left out. Because we both work full time, leaving our children in the care of others wasn’t unusual, but school represented something different. It was no longer our choice whether we took our child to nursery for the day, or if we took him to London or Paris or Timbuktu. And we could take him on holiday for a week, a month or travel the world (not that we did any of these things, but that’s not the point, we could have done).
No, the way it felt was that our oldest child now belonged to the ‘system’, not to us. I would see my child less per week than his class teacher, and other children would be influencing him more than we would. He would be involved in a whole world of things that I wouldn’t be part of. I was losing my little boy.
But I also felt left out at the school gates. I only dropped off or picked up Charlie a few times a week and whereas after only a short time, other parents seemed to be forming friendships, and seeing each other socially, I exchanged smiles and ‘hellos’ but that was about it. Many of them lingered for in-depth chats at the school gates while I rushed off trying to avoid the worst of the traffic or having to get back to the house to finish my work for the day.
So if you feel you don’t quite belong as your child starts school, it’s definitely not just you. But does it get better? Yes. Maybe. Mostly.
Although we sometimes struggle with a whole week of school, the holidays come round incredibly quickly with the whole new challenge of juggling annual leave from work, family help and childcare (a whole new level of maths) to fit the school year. Family time is even more precious now.
I’m lucky that our school is small and friendly, and I haven’t experienced the ‘mum cliques’ that I know others have. Plus with birthday parties and classroom friendships forming during the year, it’s easier to find times to get to know other parents. Even though I’m not in a close-knit mum group, we’ve had some meet ups during the holidays for days out and I feel relaxed enough to be friends on social media. It was nice to see them at the start of term again.
I’ve encouraged Charlie to look out for the new children and be friendly and help them this year. But I will be looking out for the new parents this year, and trying to smile and say hello. Because I know that starting school can be daunting for them too.
About Marianne Marshall
Marianne is a full time writer and PR professional and lives in rural Lincolnshire in a falling down cottage with her husband and children – Charlie (4) and Rosa (2).