I had my first child when I was 30. He started school when I was 34. You think you know it all at 30, but of course, this isn’t true. Nor at 40, and probably not 50, 60, 70 or 80 either. I suppose life would be boring if we knew it all. Sort of.
But. There are things that I do know now, things that had I known then would have made my life a damn sight easier. Or maybe just my conscience clearer.
Those hideous first few days when your child is about to start school. Feeling as though they’re abandoning you. This little person who has been my right-hand man for 4 or 5 years is now off to school. Wearing his new shoes and uniform and looking all grown up.
It’s Tuesday! We always go to our big food shop together on Tuesday and then for a fluffy afterwards…Yes, I know I swore I’d never take you back there again after you kicked over the chair and broke one of the spindles, but it’s our place. Our routine.
The First day of school. Trying your hardest to be cheerful. Upbeat. ‘It’s going to be soo exciting.’ And then the dreaded question. “Will you stay with me, Mummy?”
Up the path to the classroom. All the while chattering on incessantly about how “those gates are a nice colour blue, aren’t they?” and “I wonder if that tree always has those pretty flowers?”
His hand starting to grip a little bit tighter now.
Why couldn’t I have been more like that new entrant Mother? You know the one I mean? Always there, smiling, confident, breezing in as though she’s done it a million times before. Her child biting at the bit to get into the classroom, to show the new teacher a picture that he’d drawn in the summer holidays.
But no. There’s You. Still trying to figure out where your child is supposed to hang his coat up. “Oh look! Your peg is next to Laura’s. That’s a nice name. I bet she’s a lovely little girl” blabbering nervously away.
Please let her be a lovely little girl. You want to go to the teacher, take her to one side and say “can I just let you know…he’s a really sensitive little boy” but she’s already swarmed with all of the other pushys and you don’t want to be one of those.
I wish I’d known this.
That your baby will always be yours. No matter how many hours a day they’re away from you at school, they will still be your number one and you theirs. You’ve done the groundwork. They’ll love you and miss you immensely. It’s just their new adventure.
Homework. Those first few years of school. My son was so little. I look back at the photos and literally, he was a baby.
Why then, when he’d been at school for 6 hours already and was thoroughly exhausted, did I make him sit in a car park- waiting for his swimming lessons to start and force that tired little boy to read the assigned book that had been given to him for homework?
There was an alternative woman who had a child in the same class as my son.
You can read more about her here.
She had quite an effect on me. I watched her float into school one morning with a letter for the headmaster stating that under no circumstances was her child to be given homework. He wouldn’t be doing it she said. Not ever.
At the time, I was too busy trying to keep in with the in-crowd and so outwardly scoffed at her hippy ideas. Deep down though, I knew that she was right. I wish I’d said the same thing. Wish I’d been brave enough to stand out from the crowd like her.
But I wasn’t. Not then.
All of those wasted hours spent doing extra work with a tiny child who was already exhausted were the most unproductive, unnecessary and needless to say the most stressful waste of hours of mine and his life.
Being told he was slow in maths.
How many nights did I spend crying and worrying myself sick after being told that my 6-year-old was not up to standard with his numeracy?
His teacher advised me that on our summer holiday to France, I should spend an hour a day with my ‘slow’ child asking him to add up the numbers on the car number plates.
And you know what? This silly cow did it.
There were tears every day on that holiday. Both from him and from me, but mostly from me. The poor boy dreaded it if a car drove past.
Yet regardless of my efforts, every time those annoying little stat test papers came back, they would bring with them that familiar ache of dread in the pit of my stomach. There it was glaring out at me. Numeracy. Still shit. Below average. Not good enough.
I wish I’d known that this would happen.
That at 15 years old, my son (who has been homeschooled since the age of ten – you see, I told you that I grew up and found my voice) would pass his maths exam that he took a year early.
He wanted to get it out of the way as he hated maths. He passed his algebra exam and now has the required maths achievements should he want to go to university. (You can read about my thoughts on that though, here.) All of that worrying. All of those tears. What a waste.
If you are told that your child is ‘slow’ in anything, get the teacher to put it in writing then rip the piece of paper up and flush it down the toilet. When your child is ready, they will learn. I promise.
It’s every parent dread, isn’t it? Here’s your baby going happily along, believing that everyone in the world resembles the characters from children’s TV, and then it hits them. They come to learn that there are mean kids out there. Of course, there are. There are also mean adults out there too. Mean parents. But we are bigger and stronger, and we have cars that we can go and sit in and hide. Mascara that we can slap on to cover up the tears.
My son started to be bullied after about a year at school. And this was supposedly a ‘nice’ school. They had the buddy system with the older kids. Plastered all over the walls were the posters about being kind and respectful, all of those things that bullies don’t give a shit about.
Back then, stupidly, I dealt with it the PC way. The way that every school asks you to deal with it. The way that won’t bring attention to the precious school and maybe affect their stats.
I went to the headmaster who said he would speak sternly to the boy in question. My boy continued to be bullied. I went back.
This time the same man insisted he would have the child in question write a letter to my son, apologising for scratching his back. My boy continued to be bullied. All the while, while I’m faffing around backwards and forwards with a teacher who is more concerned with his school’s stats, my son is becoming increasingly terrified of going to school.
Unfortunately, if your child is in the least bit different, stands out from the crowd, doesn’t fit neatly into the box, there’s a fair chance that some bullying will come their way during the school years.I’m sorry but its highly likely. My son is an actor, he sings at any given opportunity. He doesn’t like rugby. He used to wear coloured contacts so people would think he was a vampire (I know, don’t.)
I wish I’d known back then just to kick up the most almighty fuss imaginable. Fight for him. I know that people say that by doing this you make it worse for the child but believe me, that’s crap. His life at school was hell anyway. It couldn’t have been any worse. I wish I’d fought his corner so hard so that he knew that no matter what, his mum would never stop fighting for him.
Friends.Yours, not theirs.
Standing outside the school gates and making gossipy chit chat with a load of women whom you normally wouldn’t ask the time of day from. They were the times that when I think of them now, send shivers down my spine.
You try so hard. You want to be accepted. Be part of the mummy club. But what is it with these parents? Why the hell is it, that all they want to do is mouth off about how their child can recite her nine times tables while playing the flute, or brag about how their little Johnny is going to skip an academic year next year because he is soo intelligent.
You. Wanting the playground to open up and swallow you. Even considering going over to the caretaker and asking him if he needs some help sweeping up the leaves. Anything to get away from this bunch of seagulls.
What you long for is a friend. A real friend. You want to talk about how much wine you needed to get through last week or how your jeans are too tight as a result of it. But unless you are really, really lucky you won’t find that friend hovering at the school gate. You have to look in the car park. She’s there look! Sitting in her car pretending to read something important on her phone. Secretly waiting for 10 seconds before the bell rings so that she can rush over, grab her child and make her getaway.
I wish I’d looked for her straight away. I found her eventually, but it took me 4 years. She too, rushed into the classroom late, flustered. I knew then that I’d found my partner in crime (Hi Anjie). 4 Years. 4 Years wasted on dead end acquaintances. Pushy parents whose goal in life is to make other parents feel inadequate.
There are many more ‘wish I’d known then what I know now’s’ but I think this post is long enough. Anyway, it’s 10 am, and the grass needs cutting. It’s forecast to rain at midday.
Maybe, when I’m 70 I’ll say “I wish I’d known to get a ride on mower.”
I’d love to hear of your wish I’d knowns. Jot some down in the comment box below. Let me know your wisdom. Right. To the grass.