the final year of primary school

This year I send Che, my firstborn, into his final year of Primary School. I’m in total dismay that all those years have passed by.

I vividly remember the lead up to his first day; I would get teary every time we drove past the school gate. I was comforted by the fact that he was ready – eager to learn and make new friends – but my mother grief was strong.

The first week was a whirlwind of tears (mine, not his), school notes, exhaustion and new faces. The anticipation had subsided and was promptly replaced with the stark reality of the school routine; an unrelenting and tiring one that would take me months to get used to.

In retrospect I was grieving the loss of those languid, spontaneous pre-school days and simultaneously attempting to accept that this was our new normal; for me and for every sibling after him.

I felt like his first five years went fast but the years that have followed have been a wild, speedy ride. How on earth we’re here, on the other end of Primary School, baffles me. But we’ve both learnt a lot and as a parent I have much more faith in the public school system than I did back then. A few things I’ve gleaned along the way:

  • Building a rapport with your child’s teacher is one of the most important things you can do as a parent. Keeping the line of communication open builds a respectful relationship and fostering it throughout the year ensures that any issues that arise can be dealt with quickly and, hopefully, effectively. That said, there will be some teachers that you, or your child, may not get along with and in these instances I’ve always reminded myself that this is real life; we’re not all going to get along but we can be kind.
  • Do what’s sustainable for your whole family. Kindergarten, especially, requires a lot of parents – physically and emotionally. We want to ease our children into each new stage of school hence we feel like we need to volunteer and be present at every single event. Truth is, you don’t. And in most cases, you can’t. Because if you’re working and/or juggling younger children, it’s incredibly difficult to volunteer amidst the baby’s nap, work calls and day-to-day errands. Do what you can and only what’s best for the whole family.
    • Class/grade Facebook groups are a fabulous resource for parents to keep up to date with school reminders and events. They’re also a giant comfort for those of us that think we’re the only ones forgetting important information, because you can guarantee that at least once a week someone is asking: “Is it sports uniform tomorrow?” “Did anyone get the note about the fundraiser?” “What constitutes ‘crazy’ hair?” and my personal favourite: “So what exactly IS the homework this week?”

Most importantly I’d tell you to scrap the homework for an afternoon at the beach, recognise the value and importance of mental health days, make use of the second-hand uniform stall, have the occasional (or regular!) no-plan weekends so you really can unwind from the school week, celebrate the convenience of the school canteen (praise be!) and be kind to every mother in the playground…because the full time working mums, the woman with a toddler pulling her skirt and a baby on the hip, the pregnant lady breathing heavily, the mum rushing from high school pick-up to primary school pick-up, the grandma lending a hand and the friend who is stepping in to help…they’re all juggling. We’re all juggling. That old story about school creating so many new hours in your day? It’s a nasty fabrication formed to soften the emotional blow of sending your baby off to school. Your days just got much shorter and your weeks much busier.

My advice: do it your way.

The school term may be long but the years…they’re very short.

Over the years I’ve written an entire series on my experience as a school mum. You can read it here…