Reflections on the first year as a school Mum

school Mum

 

So that’s it. The 2017 school year is done.

 

I’d love to tell you that I embraced the school year with open arms – that I was organised and involved and took it all in my stride.

 

But that would be a flat out lie.

 

Let’s recap on how it really looked.

 

January. I was 100% in denial that my first baby was even going to school and didn’t look into books or uniforms until the very last minute. BIG mistake. First lesson learnt as a school Mum – buy the online book pack the year before like they advise. It’s an absolute nightmare trying to fill the list locally in the week before school starts (especially when you’re also highly emotional about the fact that your baby is starting school but you’re trying hard to hold it together because you’re trying to sell the idea to your son that school is a great place to go).

 

I 100% thought we’d have a struggle on our hands getting Eamon to go. Even up until the last term at kindy we often had tears at drop off. But to our surprise he marched off to school and embraced being the big brave school boy that we told him he was.

 

February and March are mostly a blur. In February I was highly anxious that I’d lose the baby and then in March I did. I barely had anything to give myself at this point, let alone the kids. Andrew really took over here. He did most of the school drops and pick ups and was both Mum and Dad for a while there. Looking back I feel sad for what I missed, but it is what it is and I believe in the end it all turns out how it is meant to.

 

In April we all collapsed into the sweet reprieve of the school holidays. A week away as a family of four was the perfect antidote and I felt like I’d woken up again.

 

By May we had fifth birthday party invitations almost every other weekend. I feel like this is one of the biggest changes when you go from a pre-school family to school life. Life becomes 1000 times busier.

 

It might sound silly but I’ve mentally struggled with the restriction of the school times on our days this year.  By June I started unravelling the fact that what I’ve been feeling for most of my life is actually anxiety, and in many ways recognising it in Eamon was the key understanding myself better. (Funny how kids do that hey?!)

 

I’ve had to make a big effort to not rush him of a morning, and to watch my own actions if I’m feeling stressed about something because I started noticing that he would immediately take on my mood. Being late would send him into a tailspin, so we’ve had to make rules around getting dressed and ready of a morning before he plays anything so there is no massive ‘quick we have to go now’ rush to get out of the door. He just can’t cope with that stress and it only makes the morning worse if it happens.

 

In August I went back to high school teaching for a four-days-a-week 6 week contract. It’s the most I’ve worked in Education since having Eamon and I definitely underestimated how much this would affect him.  He went from loving school to refusing to go. He would cling to me and cry until the teacher came over and pried his little hands off my body. This is what I was expecting in term 1, not in term 3?!  It was so bad, that I even started googling things like ‘alternative schooling’ and ‘home-schooling’.  I was 100% ready to quit my contract and pull him out of school and not have to face that dreaded drop off.

 

Admittedly, he was completely fine for the rest of the day. It was only when we dropped him off that he was upset and when we picked him up he always told us he’d had a good day. Though it was worrying that he would start getting anxious about the next day by about dinner time the night before and he started getting really particular about asking what day it was tomorrow to work out whether he had to go to school or not.

 

We pulled out our usual tricks to try and help him feel braver at drop off.  (Can you tell which are mine and which are Andrews? ha! )

 

+ A crystal (filled with all my love) to have in his pocket and hold whenever he missed me during the day.

+ We chatted about how I sometimes feel like that too when I left him and we practiced belly breathing so we wouldn’t get upset.

+ A special bracelet to wear.

+ A fun treat (of his choice) at the end of the school day to look forward to.

+ We even pulled out the very ‘grown up’ matter of fact convo about how sometimes you just have to do what you don’t want to do.

 

I can’t tell you what worked.  After a couple of weeks he got better and better and now the tears are all a distant memory.

 

In the September holidays I decided enough was enough. I decided I finally needed to get myself a system to deal with the thousands of pieces of paper that come home from school, the notes, the bills and all the things we need to remember every day. This is legit a full time job in itself and I 100% owe every parent of every child I’ve ever taught a mental apology for my judgement over not getting notes back in time. Some days it’s a mission just to get out of the door with everyone dressed and a full lunch box, let alone remember that I also need to provide cardboard boxes and countless other miscellaneous items.

 

Anyway so in the holidays I set up a little ‘control centre’ (freaking hate that term by the way). It has our blackboard with a little weekly calendar to remind me what days we need to take what, a monthly calendar for events, clipboards for all the pieces of paper and a basket to hide the school bags between 3.30pm and 8.30am.

 

Funnily enough term four felt a lot smoother than the rest of the year. If only I’d got myself organised sooner! Anyway, it doesn’t seem to have affected Eamon. In November he got the top academic award for Prep and we couldn’t be prouder.  I didn’t realise how emotional I would be about all of this. I teared up when he got his award and literally every ‘first’ has made me well-up. First swimming carnival, first parade performance, even listening to him read now makes me emotional.

 

Does this fade as the years go on or is it always so bittersweet as you watch them grow?

 

My top tips for your first year as a School Mum

  1. Be organised. Seriously, even if you don’t really want to admit it’s happening, get on top of all the things early. Running behind all the time does not help you like the process any more.
  2. Remember how little they actually are.  I’ve found that because Eamon is my oldest I seem to treat him older than he really is, and can sometimes forget that five is still very little. Everyone needs a little ‘baby-ing’ from time to time.
  3. Show them how to not stress the small stuff. We get to set the tone for how they react to school so watch your words (and more importantly – your actions).
  4. Buy the expensive lunchbox. At the start of the year I did make one great decision. And that was to fork out $40 per lunchbox for a yum box.It’s possible I would have gone insane if I’d had to search through the Tupperware drawer for matching lids every morning, without them.

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