Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Dear Parent on the First Ever Day of School

I've been here before, where you are preparing to be. The first day of school. Ever.

It seemed to come out of nowhere. One minute you have a baby then a toddler and within so little time you have a child, ready to start school.

I went to the enrolment day and felt emotional. I went to the parent's meeting and felt emotional. We found out what class they would be in and which of their friends would be with them and I felt emotional. They said goodbye to their nursery and their wonderful teachers there and I felt emotional. I cried a little bit.

I bought the uniform and felt emotional. I held cardigans, trousers, shirts and pinafores against their little bodies and felt emotional. I bought the school bags and lunch boxes and felt emotional. I wrote their names on everything and labelled everything and felt emotional. We took them for their school shoes and I felt emotional...that may have been more to do with the price though. Shopping for school shoes for one - not too bad. Any more than one and well, it's not going to be pretty at the till.

The summer before they started school was one of the fastest summer holidays ever. 7 weeks, over in the blink of an eye. Days spent here, there and everywhere just trying to get as much done with them before they went off to school. Day trips, weekends away, shopping trips, treats, goodies...not a moment to be wasted. Time before school starts is precious, no matter what age they are but it is especially precious before that first ever day of school. You want to saviour every last second with them before you have to give them away for 6 hours a day, 5 days a week.

The night before the first day of school, I stood in Z's room and then, two years later, in Miss C's room and watched them as they slept. No longer nursery children but children about to embark on one of the biggest adventures of their little lives.

On the first day of school, the kids were excited. I felt emotional as I helped them get their uniform on. Everything was big on them. Sleeves came down to lie on their knuckles. Z needed to roll his trousers up at the waist and Miss C's pinafore came down way below her knees.

As we reached the school gates, my stomach was in knots. It wasn't any easier second time round. In fact, it probably gets harder the more times you do it because it's closer to the end of the toddler era. At least when Z started school, I still had Miss C for company.

Seeing all of the new children, wearing clothes that seemed to be drowning them and bags that were almost the same size as them was hard. Seeing other parents or family members, trying to hold back tears and lumps in throats was hard. We were all feeling the same way. Even those who were putting on the front of being glad that, finally, they were sending the last of their brood off to school. They were probably suffering the most inside.

The teachers coming out to collect the children and giving my child one last hug and kiss and sending them off on their new journey, a journey that I will only be part of a little bit, was hard. Thankfully, my two took it in their stride. They couldn't wait to start school and walked in to the building, eyes bright, smiles wide. Some children didn't cope so well and I hope that doesn't happen for you because it was breaking my heart to watch so I can only imagine how hard it was on the parents of that child.

I wondered to myself, would the teacher get to know my child, the way I know my child? The way Z goes quiet and hides his face if he's upset or frustrated? The way Miss C puts her fingers to her mouth when she's feeling shy or nervous? The way Z's eyes light up when you engage him in something he's passionate about? The way Miss C starts to talk all fast and high pitched when she's happy about something?

I worried about them making new friends and being able to get changed for gym. Would they manage to eat their packed lunch OK? Would they manage to carry their lunch tray with their school dinner on? Would they have time to eat their lunch? Would they fall over in the playground and hurt themselves? Would there be someone to comfort them if they did?

When I picked them up after their first day at school, they were beaming. They were happy. I felt relieved. I felt like I'd worried for no reason. They told me all about their classroom, their teacher and the other boys and girls sitting at their table. They brought home artwork which we displayed on our fridge. They exclaimed, "I love school!" That made me feel so much better.

On our first parent's evening, I knew then that their teacher had gotten to know them and their little personalities. They understood them. Miss C's teacher could tell me how much Miss C loves to draw and be creative and, "boy does she love horses!" Z's teacher told me how bright Z was and how much he loved to read, write and do Math. "He has a brilliant mind!" 

Starting school is such a huge milestone not just for a child but for us as parents. It's scary. It's unknown. It can be hard to let go. But it's exciting too. It's new. It's the start of something amazing. Your child will be OK. You will be OK. There may be some tears but it will all be OK. And before you know it, the summer holidays will be here and you will spend every moment of that time cherishing all the time you have with your child.

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