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…

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  • Kirstin
    Reply

    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.

    Oh this is gold!

    I respect the way you listened to your beautiful boy when he said he wasn’t comfortable being in your posts. It makes me love stopping by your site for a read. But, strangely, perhaps because I found your blog in my own crazy days as a new mother of a boy a few years younger than he – and I always wish that perhaps your son would let us gleam a few little stories, a couple hints about what might be around the corner. But instead, I just really hope he’s happy, hope that he is surrounded by boys and girls who see their differences not as gender bound but more a reflection of disposition – and that having noted those differences they still run headlong into the wind without caring either way. I hope all our little folk know the awesome-ness of kindred spirits and forgiving & curious souls.

    • Jodi
      Reply

      Beautiful sentiment, Kirstin. His life on the road is a little different to school but his mind is ever-expanding and, I’m not ashamed to say, far more imaginative than my own. There’s lot of kids around, always, and rarely do they segregate into boy/girl teams. There’s travelling kids and holidaying kids and kids from a plethora of cultural backgrounds x

  • Jane @ The Shady Baker
    Reply

    This is so true Jodi, thank you. My eldest is just about to start high school, made doubly emotional because she is going to boarding school. This is due to our geographical location and lack of access to high schools. I thought I was ready for this enormous leap but I have shed many silent tears just today, as I think about how the years have disappeared before my eyes. Be kind to every mother in the playground, my goodness that is wise advice. x