Once you’ve got past that first day, there’s the first term to survive. Here’s a few pointers from someone who made a hash of it first time around and is determined to, erm, be better this time. This post was written in partnership with Andrex®.
Identify the ‘on it’ parents and buddy up. The first term is ALL about wondering what on earth you’re supposed to be doing. And filtering through all the many, many emails. There are emails about phonics. School trips. There are even emails about the emails. If you’re anything short of an Admin Major, this is where you’ll need help. Buddy up with a capable parent and never leave their side. They’re easy to spot. Because they’re always on time. Their kids are always dressed in the right attire (with no smuggled forbidden articles like wristbands or tattoos) and they always reply to ALL the emails, whilst you’re still wondering where the original email is, that they’re even talking about.
Get in, get out. This is one of the best pieces of advice I was ever given by an experienced school parent. ‘Don’t hang around the playground too much. Get in. And get out.‘ If you’re heading off to work, this likely isn’t an issue. You’ll literally be throwing your child through the gates whilst you carry on driving. I like to call this the ‘drive-thru.’ Just without the glory of an Egg McMuffin at the other end. But in time? This strategy will save you from a lot of politics that you just don’t need to know.
Don’t sweat the phonics. The language of phonics is insane when you first come across it. ‘Why on earth can’t kids learn the actual letters?‘ I used to rant to myself whilst cursing those stupid (but as it turns out really helpful) phonics cards. ‘Why do I have to read books about Tom’s mop. I couldn’t care less about Tom’s blooming mop. I don’t even have a mop.‘ ‘Why are we learning a completely new language when we’ve only just about mastered the first one?‘ Four years on? I’m completely indoctrinated in this ‘new’ language. And when I’m asked to spell anything BY ACTUAL GROWN ADULTS OVER THE PHONE, I do it phonetically. Like a complete and utter weirdo. In fact, I totally struggle to do it normally, in a way that other, non-parents can understand me. In other words? You’ll get it, eventually. It will become less insane. Or maybe we just become more so. Either way…
This school thing is NOT about you. If your child is happy, then you’re all doing ok. Every year there are first time parents who say they feel ostracised by other parents. They sense the clique that has somehow already formed. And they feel left out. Like they’re the ones back at school. And it’s true that being back in that playground can bring back some odd (maybe even painful) memories (I mean, will you just look at the haircut I had to endure?). I felt it much more when I was a traditional working mum and I had to get to work, which basically meant I never saw any other parents. Ever. I imagined they were all drinking coffee, having a marvellous time and talking about how much they loved phonics. Since becoming freelance and being able to be at the school gates EVERY SINGLE DAY (which is painful enough in itself), I can assure you that nothing exciting happens. No one is partying like it’s 1999. No one is BFFs with anyone else. We’re all just doing the best we can and getting in and getting out. You’ve got your friends outside of school. If you make new ones, brilliant! But don’t put pressure on yourself to do so. Your child’s going to rock school regardless of whether you make Prom Mum or Prom Dad. (That last bit’s a joke. There is no Prom Mum or Prom Dad.)
Take it all with a pinch of salt. You’re going to forget stuff. You’re going to feel overwhelmed. You’re going to cry when you feel like you’ve failed your child because they’re the only one without a packed lunch or a dressing up outfit. Maybe your child’s had an accident at school and you’re wishing you’d started this whole toilet ready thing earlier. So what? Look on the bright side. Maybe it didn’t go perfectly today. But tomorrow? You’ll be flying and it will be some other poor parent’s turn to cry. (Unless you’re ‘on it’ parent, of course. They never cry. Because they’re always on it.)
Good luck, fellow parents. Although you don’t need it. Emotions will run high. But you’ll get through it. And four years on, you can look forward to being as jaded as me. Now isn’t that something to aim for? One thing you don’t have to have to worry about is your child’s toilet hygiene, so if you’re in any doubt check out Andrex’s Clean Routine and also their starting school calendar for other helpful tips. There’s more of me over on Facebook and Instagram.