My top tips for parents with kids starting school.
You’ve done all the practical stuff and your little one is ready their first day at school. But this is just the beginning, and YOU need to be prepared for what comes next.
Here are a few things I wasn’t expecting:
1. Uniform and shoe destruction
Treasure those cheesy photos of your kid’s first day at school (mandatory that they are standing by a door – why is that?). Soon you’ll look back and realise that was the last time your kid looked remotely smart.
School uniforms seem to soak up everything. By the first half term those clothes will be stained, stretched, washed-out colours and may have the odd hole. And if you have a boy who keeps the same shoes for more than a term you have my respect. Fuck knows what they do in the playground but it destroys leather.
2. Kids can’t remember ANYTHING
You’ll be desperate to hear about their day but don’t be surprised if after a few days, your kid (who you usually can’t shut up), decides that their only response to all questions is “I can’t remember”, even when they are still within the fucking school gates.
They may remember what they had for lunch.
That’s all you get.
3. You need to remember EVERYTHING
You’d better have a good memory or a good note-taking system because on the rare occasions your kids do tell you about their day they expect you to remember every detail.
There’s an army of people now at the centre of their universe that you have never met. As well as their Teacher and around 30 kids you could hear stories about the Head, Deputy, Teaching Assistants, lunch time supervisors, people who come in to do sports activities, people who come in to hear readers and all sorts more. You will not have a frigging clue who is who. Just smile and nod.
Then throw in remembering when they need a PE kit, a costume, a prize for the raffle, money for Children in Need, blah blah blah, and your brain may start to spin.
You won’t be alone. The playground is full of parents working out how they can make an acceptable Easer Bonnet from things they can find in their kitchen drawer, before the parade happens at 11 o’clock. We’re all in this together. It’s fine.
4. Your new weekend schedule
Parents struggle to establish a clear etiquette for who to invite to their kid’s birthday party, and many resort to inviting the whole class. Yes, it’s not only teachers who have to cope with 30 little angels, you do too. And at parties they add sugar!
There are so many of these parties you may start to say that classic cliche of “My kids have a better social life than I do!” and then cry into your Chuckle Chimps Play Centre coffee cup when you realise that it’s not just a saying, it’s the fucking truth.
5. Biff and Chip
These are characters in a very common reading scheme. You must NOT giggle at the innuendo of character names when your child is earnestly concentrating on phonetic domination.
Whilst you can revel in the magic of your kid learning to read (and it is magic, because English words just don’t follow the rules), it’s OK to acknowledge the mind numbing boredom you may feel when you child brings home 29 books in a row where the most exciting thing to happen is ‘Pat ran’ and ‘Sam sat’.
6. Labelling EVERYTHING
Once you’ve labelled everything they wear you can be nice an smug. No way suckers! There’s always more.
Taking in ‘show and tell’ stuff, a costume for the Christmas play, a cake tin filled with ‘home baked’ goods for the Summer fair, etc etc. If you want it to come back you have to label it.
Get some sticky labels and a permanent marker and learn to write on very small things in very small writing. If you’ve given your kids long names, this is where you’ll start shortening them.
7. A house full of ‘Art’
If you thought baby toys had ruined your beautiful adult house, get ready for this shit storm of craft-based crap. They glue, write, draw and model most days, and the best if it gets stapled to a classroom display, while the rest is brought home to you, full of pride and a desire to turn every wall and surface of your home into a gallery of their masterpieces.
They also get school projects that you, yes you, have to help them with. And school encourage you to ‘be as creative as you like’. Brilliant if you are a crafty type. Sheer, glue-filled hell if you are not.
My advice. Get a big box, call it a ‘special school memories box’ and dump all that shit straight in there. Perhaps in a couple of years you can look back at it with teary emotions, or just laugh at the memory of how a stick with a piece of string cellotaped to it’s middle was supposed to represent their favourite character from a book. If only either of you could remember which book. Very unlikely it was Biff or Chip anyway.