I know there are some mummies out there who have their precious little ones starting school for the first time this week………..and for some of you it’s your eldest so there is so much ahead of you. Wow that first year was a crash course in being a school mum. Making sure library books and bag were packed, school reader was in there, canteen money or $1 if there was a special treat day and the notes. Oh the notes. I now reply to notes straight away and put them back in the bag or on my fridge.
All the books and advice say not to rush your child on their first day of school and to make it all very calm and civilised and give them plenty of time to get ready so they have an easy first day. Well Elodie was admitted to hosptial the night before keira’s first day of school. I told the dr she can’t be admitted because it’s my eldest’s first day of school. That didn’t go down well. So we were transferred to another hospital after midnight, retro daddy had to get her bag ready and make her lunch then bring all the kids up to the hospital so he could stay with elodie and I could get keira to school. And we did it all in peak hour traffic.
Keira took it all in her stride and had an amazing first day. Lots of other mums were all dressed up and we had to go up in front of the whole school and be introduced by name. I was missing retro daddy, worried about elodie who was just 3 months old and in hospital and I’d quickly thrown on a different t-shirt from the day before. Nice. Retro daddy picked her up at midday so we both got to experience her first day even though it wasn’t what we expected.
So my top tips for the school year:
- the night before is your best friend. When everyone is sleeping I am the busy bee making sure her bag is ready, lunch box is out with some of the food in it, water bottle in bag, undies, socks and shoes all ready to go and hanging with uniform.
- ask them what they would like in their lunchbox. don’t worry if they say chips or chocolate – 2 years on and keira still tries to get that one past me or tells me her friends had chips or something.
- do a midweek top up shop for fresh fruit and healthy snacks. I find my guys come home from preschool and school so hungry and eat what was meant for their lunchboxes
- morning tea here is grapes, a banana, rice crackers with cheese slices, homemade cookie, fruit bread, muesli bar, cheese sticks or yoghurt (be warned of giving yoghurt with winter uniforms – there is a high probability it will end up on the uniform)….. carrot sticks are always popular in keira’s lunchbox
- lunch is a ham sandwich or a wrap. Keira just loves a ham sandwich.
- use the canteen as a reward at the end of the week. Except for really hot days when an iceblock is in order, we only give out canteen money and do lunch orders on friday. It’s a great motivator for good behaviour during the week. And the canteen is a great way to learn about money full stop. Keira once lost $2 in the queue so didn’t get an iceblock that day but didn’t really look for it. It was a hard lesson to learn in kindergarten but she took care of her money after that. She has also used her money at morning tea instead of getting an iceblock then rocked up to the canteen with 10c wanting an iceblock. Again, another lesson learnt and she doesn’t do that anymore.
- when they get to school and have found a friend just hang back in the distance or leave. A couple of times I found myself hovering and keira would stay with me but you get to the point when you can go and they’ll be ok. It’s good for their confidence that you are not hovering around near them.
- volunteering is a great way to meet other mums – just don’t overcommit – she says after organising and then washing glasses all night at the school cocktail party she’d been on the committee for. My favourite job was doing canteen bookkeeping because it didn’t require me to be there. Just pick up and drop off a satchel with the office, write cheques and do the bank rec. A really easy job and didn’t require me to do too much.
- keep a close eye on friendships and always know who your little one is playing with and how things are going in the playground. We had some real bullying issues in kindergarten. Yes kindergarten with some mean girls and queen bees. It was a real shock to me, there were tears. Me, not Keira. Thankfully when they are little or always talking with you then you can monitor it and then take it to the teacher. I had to take this to the teacher and she didn’t realise what was going on but moved keira to another group of girls both in the classroom and in the playground which made things easier. Unfortunately in Year 1 another girl told her she was going to bring a gun to school and kill her. Nice. Year 1. Plus keira had to sit next to this girl. Again, it was important that keira told me what happened and knew she could trust me to take it to her teacher. I asked for her to be moved and this to be discussed and it was. It’s the biggest thing I can stress, keep talking and if they can’t solve it themselves then you need to get involved. Some of the playground stuff is easy to solve.
- don’t be afraid to talk to the teacher. If something little is bothering me or Keira then I’d often just write a little note and pop it in her satchel for the teacher. If it’s serious then I’d make an appointment to talk to the teacher. Just be on the ball, pay attention to what they’re saying and if you suspect something then just having a little chat to them.
- I won’t lie, Keira’s first year at school was a tough one in the playground as the youngest in her class BUT she finished the year with lovely friends and an award for excellence in all of her subjects.
- unfortunately there will be incidents and things that make you cranky, mad or upset. I am so happy that in 3 terms at our new school we haven’t had any. Fingers crossed we continue that way.
- Give your little ones strategies in case someone is being mean to them or they can’t find a friend. A great one is instead of telling them just to walk away from the mean kid, you tell them to go to the bubbler or the library. Give them something specific that they can do rather than walk away. Kids are still little so they kind of need a bit of a hint towards where to go and what to do. Our current school has lunch club twice a week. One day it’s inside and another it’s outside. You can go along and play with other kids, do an activity and make new friends. It really helped keira settle into her new school and lots of the kids love to go to it. I think it’s the best thing ever.
- if you’re a new mum at the school and you see another new mum standing there then you better go over and chat! She probably feels just like you do. I had to learn this when keira started school and sometimes it’s awkward but some of my sweetest friends at the moment are those friends I made when Keira started school. We still stay in touch and go to the same things and I just love them. Go to the social events even when you think you don’t want to, make playdates when you can, take your little ones to the parties and get to know the other mums and always have a mobile number or two in your phone for emergencies. It’s so nice that if you’re running late that someone can watch out for your little one in the playground or if you can’t remember the news topic for the week that you can ask.
- I’d like to think that I’m the queen of taking 50 million children to school drop off and pick up each day. It can be tough keeping them entertained. Also little ones have a tendency to fall asleep just as you want to leave the house or get them out of the car. I would always keep a little snack or drink bottle in the handbag, pop a sleeping little one in the pram (even if it was one of the bigger twins) to keep the peace and let them have their nap.
- if you have little babies and toddlers to do the school run with then get prepared for the wet weather. It will always rain at school pick up time – I know this. It’s just the way it goes. Sometimes people are kind enough to pick up keira and run her back to the car. Most times I put raincoats on everyone at home, put the babies in the pram and run in. The twins love the wet weather. My advice, get yourself a rain coat with a hood. Umbrellas just aren’t going to cut it when you have a pram and other little ones with you.
- on days when it is raining really heavily in the mornings and just crazy rain then we tend to get in earlier than usual but still when supervision is on as they go straight to the classroom OR we leave it a bit later and run everyone in when I can park right out the front and run everyone in quickly.
And just have fun! School is fun. Don’t get overwhelmed with homework and grades and packing the most exciting lunchbox in the world. Honestly, what I remember about the first few years of primary school are that my mum made my own uniforms, did the best cheese and vegemite sandwiches, the smell of brown banana in my school bag and having my mum on canteen, gross motor and being a catechist teacher. So who is a first time school mum this year???? Or what is your best advice for the other mums out there?