This time last year, I was nervously labeling my daughter’s school uniform, and buying drinks bottles and hair ties and other items that would get lost or broken almost immediately. I was planning on looking up YouTube videos on how to make her hair look nice. I was telling her reassuring things that I wasn’t actually 100% certain about (‘it’s going to be so much fun!’ ‘you’ll be okay.’ ‘everyone will be nice’) whilst battling my own worries (‘what if she cries all day’ ‘what will I do without her’ ‘PLEASE LET PEOPLE BE NICE TO HER.’)
Now, we’re anticipating Year One. I have yet to label her clothes. I’ve forgotten, again, to research how to do her hair.
Here are my thoughts from the past year:
1. Smooth, peaceful mornings are a big, fat lie
Did you ever watch Outnumbered? I used to watch that, pre-children, and laugh. I also used to think smug thoughts like ‘well, my mornings won’t be that chaotic. I’ll just get everything ready the night before.’
Two thoughts that I have about this:
- You won’t get everything ready the night before. Oh come on. You just won’t. Do you seriously think after the post-school-run witching hour/teatime/bathtime/bedtime/tidying that you’ll actually have enough energy to stand up and sort out book bags and uniform? You won’t. You won’t.
- Okay. Let’s say you do. Something will go wrong. Something will, almost inevitably and consistently, go wrong. One of your kids will be poorly and cling onto you like a limpet as you struggle to get tights on the other kid. Or one of them will spill cornflakes everywhere. Or attempt to feed cornflakes to the guinea pigs without you realising. Or you’ll get them ready, and at the last minute realise you’ve completely forgotten to get yourself dressed. Someone will need to do a poo at an inconvenient time (and it may well be you). One or both of them will trip over on the way to school. Just — something will happen to make it go awry.
2. You will forget, or lose, something.
This year, I have done the following:
- Forgotten my daughter’s sunhat
- Forgotten my daughter’s raincoat
- Forgotten to practice her spellings
- Forgotten to pack her reading books back into the book bag
- Left my keys in her book bag (much to the amusement of the school receptionist)
- Left my keys at home, locking myself out, only thinking I’d left them in her book bag (much to the concern, and perhaps judgement, of the school receptionists)
- Lost a bottle of sun-cream (x2)
- Left her scooter at home when I promised I’d bring it when I picked her up (x way too many)
I do genuinely care about my daughter and her education. It’s just, sometimes my brain doesn’t function 100% correctly.
3. You can’t attend everything
This, coming from a woman who actually attended nearly everything. I did everything I could this year to get to school events, even when I worked for an employer and not just for myself. I still missed one or two things, though. Sometimes you have to work. Sometimes you get sick. Schools put on a lot of events knowing that some parents can’t make it. It sucks. The guilt eats you alive. But it is what it is.
4. Sometimes, your kids will break your heart
They’ll cry when you drop them off as though they’ll never see you again. They’ll come out with things that are so poignant and sad that you’ll have to fight back your own tears. Or, sometimes, they’ll break your heart just because they’ve made you proud, and they’ve done something so grown-up that it makes you want to weep for the passing of time. School plays are particularly bad for this. (I am the woman that always cries at nativities even if my children aren’t in them, so perhaps I’m not the most level-headed when it comes to these things.)
5. People are actually nice.
I’m not being naive here. I know they won’t always be. My daughter has come home in tears before because of friends, and she probably will again. These kids spend a huge amount of time together, so they’re bound to wind each other up sometimes. Plus, I was bullied as a kid. I had my fair share of not-so-great teachers. I know what might be ahead.
But most teachers? They care about the kids in their class. Most kids? Are just as nervous as your kid. Most parents? Also feel awkward standing around in the playground.
If you’re a new school parent and you’re wondering what’s ahead? Don’t worry. You’ll all be okay. I mean, not every moment will be okay. But a lot of them will. They’ll make you proud. And you’ll get through the tough times. Promise.
PS: the hours between 9 and 3? Yeah, they’re more like minutes. Don’t relax into thinking you’ve got all day. No matter what the time is right now, it’ll be time for the school run in a minute.