My oldest boy towers over me. His shoulders are so wide that I can’t see past him. His enormous shoes and school bags take up my entire hall. But in his face I still see the little boy who skipped into reception class eight years ago.
Being a mum is a one ‘letting go’ after another. Each is bittersweet. My memories of my son starting school are still so clear and happily more sweet than bitter.
The admissions gods didn’t dish out the school place we were expecting. I was happy to go with it but worried that we didn’t really know any other families going there too.
The school ran three welcome meetings for parents including sessions on numeracy and literacy. I went along like the girlie swot that I am. The first statement that floored me from my son’s future teacher was “I am here to support you in the education of your child” – I’d never really considered this before but I took it to heart.
The welcome meetings were invaluable – I met some friendly, old hands from the PTA and plucked up the courage to chat to other newbie parents. We were on nodding terms with other families by the time the kids went on their taster sessions in the July. Some pre-school play dates were attempted. Funnily enough the kids didn’t really gel at these attempts by their parents of friendship engineering but now as Y8s, these boys are now firm friends despite going to different secondary schools. Basically, parents rule!
One very awkward event is when the reception teacher visits your home. They tell you not to make a special effort but I seemed to translate this as clean EVERYTHING. When I think back, I cringe. I was desperate to ‘pass’ their examination.
My own experience of starting school was miserable. Happily this baggage had no bearing on how I was feeling about my son going through the same experience. I was completely reassured by the care the nursery and school took to guide him through the transition. He was prepared, content and the proud owner of some very shiny new shoes.
I knew I would be moved to tears at some point. My trigger that first morning was seeing him in his school uniform and realising he wasn’t a baby anymore. Ouch. Photos done we joined the comforting gaggle of the walking school bus and snaked noisily into the school.
Standing in the playground waiting for the kids to go in and out is a brilliant way to bond with other new reception parents. We have stayed close as our kids have gone up through school, forming a ‘killer’ PTA quiz team and have continued helping each other out with school/club/party runs.
At first I was thrilled by disgorging my son’s school bag of its paper work every evening (this wore off quickly) and starting the ‘Biff and Chip’ books. Supporting your child with their reading is an important rite of passage for every parent of a 5 year old. You may have heard that it takes saint-like patience (it does) but miraculously they do seems to ‘get it’ by the end of their first school year. I must admit my inner Tiger Mother came to the fore as I as noted what his peers were reading and kept asking for my son to be ‘put up to the next level’. I did learn very quickly that comparing your child to another can be a chastening experience and it’s better to let them go at their own pace.
I’m pleased to say my son settled in well and thoroughly enjoyed all the great resources and activities in reception. I did feel a bit sad when he moved on to Year 1 and into a classroom that looked …well, like a classroom. No more dressing up. No more sand and water play. No more bikes and scooters at play time. That’s not to say there weren’t challenges in that first year: taking weeks until they can stay all day; the odd ‘accident’ and kiddie disagreements; lots of grazed knees. And as for multiple birthday parties every weekend...
In the blink of an eye the little boy who was a Wise Man in the Reception Nativity is now contemplating GCSEs. My advice to any mums and dads is to be as ‘school ready’ as your child. As well as being brilliant for our kids, embracing school life and education can be very enjoyable and life-affirming for you too. Embrace it and savour every moment. Good luck!
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