So you’re little one is starting school in September? You are filled with excitement (especially if this means you may have more free time?!) and small knots in your stomach as you realise little [insert your child’s name here
(I will use Alice as an example, as we don’t know anyone called Alice so no risk of anyone actually thinking I am talking about their child!)] is all grown up trying on their school uniform for size. How will Alice cope with the long days, structure of school, discipline? Will little Alice make friends? Will Alice be happy? All relevant questions and yes you are right to be concerned, although I am sure all will be well. But. What you really need to know and if you are like me probably hadn’t thought about is…
- Uniform lists. They go on and on and on. Surely half the stuff on the list is optional, right? Yes. Some of it is. And some of it isn’t. So if you don’t want little Alice turning up on day 1 as the only child in a pink coat when everyone-else is in regulation school branded ones, do your homework! Speak to someone who already has kids at the school
(not in a stalker way, try and pick someone you know)in advance. Also find out which items you can get from the high street rather than the exorbitant monopoly of the uniform shop (where our school socks cost a tenner a pair). Also, unlike me, plan in advance so you are not in the shop every day for the first week of term picking up bits you had forgotten (why we have to have a branded swimming hat is anyone’s guess . It’s not like my 4 and 5 year old are in the Olympics). Don’t forget to name all uniform. I started off with iron on labels (I’m not sewing them in!) and ended up with a Sharpie (man’s best friend).
- Ohhhh the class lists. Offer up your name, email address and phone number to the class reps (see point 3 below) for coordination of coffee mornings, mums’ nights out, couples nights out etc. and prepare to be inundated. You will be added to whatsapp groups, email groups, facebook groups where twenty parents plus may discuss what snack / lunch to send in, whether anyone knows of a local handyman, cleaner, architect and/or promote their own businesses (not all of which is the purpose of the group). Fun times. Even more fun, when you receive facebook “friend” requests from parents you don’t recognise, have never spoken to.
- Class Rep. What a joy this role can be
, says me, who has not and will do her best to never undertake. Props to all those that do it. It’s basically thankless. You are an admin monkey organising coffee mornings, mums’ nights, couples nights, and teachers’ gifts via the class kitty (see point 4 below). If you step up, hats off to you. People tend to be vociferous (mostly behind said Reps’ back) about the lack of organisation, inconvenience of dates selected for socials, inappropriateness or insufficiency of gift for teacher but not enough to step up and actually volunteer to do it (ahem). On the upside you might get a gift voucher or a nice bar of soap as a thank you at the end of the year.
- Class Kitty. Going rates for this will vary from school to school and class to class. For us the donation requested is £25-30. Purpose of the kitty is primarily to buy Teacher and Teaching Assistant Christmas presents, birthday presents, end of year gift and “The Unforeseen”. What is The Unforeseen I hear you ask? Again it varies from class to class but is usually it is a gift for things like if a mum in the class has a baby. In previous years flowers have been offered up to mums’ going through a hard time (operations and divorces) although again, beware, there is bound to be inconsistency which does not go down well. Great, I thought, quids in I don’t need to choose gifts as the kitty has it covered. Wrong. I was the only Mofo up in there at Christmas dropping OneHalf off without a gift. As well as class kitty most parents will buy gifts for teachers at Christmas, Easter and end of year. This again varies from class to class but some have seen Jo Malone hampers being handled over, making the bottle of wine look a bit paltry. Don’t get into it. Do what you are comfortable with and don’t get sucked into “well X brought in a bottle of Crystal”
ok, I made the Crystal bit up, if that were true I may take up teaching… .And I have it on good authority it makes no difference to how your child is treated.
- The playdates. Playdates are a great way to get to know other mums and for the kids to spend time with friends (mine behave better around other people
discipline is very much “OneHalf, darling, that’s not kind, please don’t do that” in a very middle class mum voice). Some folks work their way through the class list on playdates. Sadly / fortunately I do not have the time or inclination, but will do playdates with those who my kids are friends with and/or the mums are cool. No mum wants to spend their free time on a playdate talking about the weather, school uniform etc. much better you can have a laugh. Trust me, TwoHalves come back from school / camp and suggest playdates with kids I have never heard of and it feels like mum blind date sending the text out. Then there is also the etiquette issue, what does one bring to a playdate? Popular choices are cupcakes, chocolate and biscuits (yum!). What to cook on a playdate? As one child told OneHalf my pasta was too squishy (no I didn’t take offence by the words of a 4 year old, much. Al dente my f*****g ar*e)I now try not to cook and stick to healthy options like chicken goujons, pizza and garlic bread.
- Pick up and drop off. Parking is a nightmare but do not, I repeat, do not F bomb at other parents in the car park. Just. Not. Cool. And no, I didn’t do this! Also, depending on where you have to wait cue awkward queue. When little Alice starts school and you are new to the school, you may not be prepared for the mum cliques. As I stood awkwardly waiting to collect OneHalf, sometimes the mums in front and/or behind would be fully engaged in conversation / sometimes talk over me (piggy in the f*cking middle). Totes #awks. I would half smile like an idiot
as if I don’t I suffer from full on RBF (resting b*tch face) and look like I am about to kill someone. I noticed a natural split in one of our groups. The blonds vs the brunettes. So I dyed my hair blond to transition (kidding, I did dye my hair but not for that!). Think Mean Girls but with lots of friendly mums thrown in, you just have to figure which are which.
- The Mums. There are lots of different mums with lots of different parenting styles. There is Tiger Mum (also known as Helicopter Mum) who will sneak a look into your kids’ book bag on a playdate to see what reading they are doing / ask them lots of questions about “learning” your kids do at home
(errr none in our case, other than set homework!)and then your kid will come and tell you. Busted. They may challenge the teacher to increase the kid’s reading, maths levels or move them into higher sets. They will have their kids doing every single extra curricular activity under the sun, gym, tennis, football, playball, rugby, swimming, acting, dancing, piano, cello, violin, and probably chess too. What they don’t realise is the poor kid is so tired, they are struggling during the day at school. Am I just saying this because I am too lazy to taxi my kids to a million activities? Probably.There is Chaos Mum. Chaos Mum has the best intentions but is totally disorganised. Forgetting that it is mufty day and sending the kid in in school uniform, sending whatsapps at 11.30pm as she can’t remember whether the games kit needs to go in the next day, triple booking playdates and doing the reading homework in the car before drop off. Traits of Chaos Mum is she often has wet hair or hair tied in a bun / plait and is always late / rushing. Chaos Mum would love to be a little bit more like Tiger Mum but just doesn’t have the time (I know which one I am… and those who see me at drop off will also know!).
- The Shows. There will be Harvest Festivals, Christmas Plays, Easter Shows, Summer Shows, Grandparents’ Shows. All sorts of show tings agwan. The letter may state only two adults per child may attend the show
(we followed this rule when OneHalf was Mary in the Nativity). Bollocks!People bring grandparents, nannies, aunts, uncles. So. When Little Alice is Mary, you do your thing! You may also be told not to take photos / video. Bollocks!The number of DSLRs up in there is crazy (I may or may not have been concealing one in a large handbag)as long as you are only getting photos of your own kid (your friends’ kids with your friend’s permission) you should be safe. Doors open at 12.45. Great, I will go home, have breakfast and lunch and come back “early” at 12.30 to get a good seat. Bollocks!People start queueing at 9.30. To be honest, TwoHalves and/or Little Alice (like every other child) will only have a line or two so entirely your choice whether the queue is worth it.
- Sports Day. Another opportunity to come and watch Little Alice thrive. Unlike some parents we did not pre-train OneHalf who decided to walk most of his races while looking over and laughing at us. No he did not win gold, silver or bronze but he was very happy, and so were we. His Sister, every so slightly more competitive (no idea where she gets that from) stormed her obstacle race and despite “medalling” the teacher did not see her finish and awarded the second place to another child (I had seen this but said nothing, she then raised it with me). She had won another race but despite that wanted me to go and talk to the teacher to explain she should have got second place in the other race. Did I go? No I bloody didn’t. It’s Sports Day for kids people, get a grip!
- The Kids. Little Alice will be an endless source of amusement. She will come home and tell you which child pooed in the swimming pool, which child dropped an F bomb in class and so and so forth. Enjoy! But just remember, they are all kids. So listen to Little Alice but try not to repeat it to other folks. As if that’s what she’s telling you.. what’s Little Jonny saying to his mum about Little Alice!?
Some of the above may have been embellished for your amusement but is somewhat based on factsish.