Spinoff Parents editor Emily Writes on her son’s adventures at school and how she’s learning to adjust to having a school kid.
About six months ago my son started school. I cried all day. I was surprised by how much it hit me. My little baby boy was now a school kid. I wanted to drive by the school over and over again. I wanted to hide in a bush and watch him.
So what’s it like now?
Well, there have been things that have caught me off guard, things I didn’t expect. It’s been a learning experience for us all. Here are some of the questions I’ve been asked by parents who are about to send their child to school.
Do you miss him?
It’s possibly the thing that has surprised me most – I miss him when he’s at school. I really thought I’d be over that by now, but I miss having my little buddy around. Two kids at home all day is exhausting but it’s strange when you suddenly don’t have that. My husband and I (who are both at home part of the day at different times) don’t pine for him and we wouldn’t keep him home for the sake of it, but we do miss the time we spent with him during the day. His dad especially misses him. It’s strange to go from whole days with your child where you went swimming or went to the park, to them being away from you from 9am till 3pm, five days a week. But we’re getting used to it, and it makes the days we have with him all the more special.
How did he adjust?
It was a far easier adjustment for him than we thought it would be. But he has been exhausted and still is very tired by the end of school. He has also been sick a lot. It seems school is as much of a germ pit as kindy is and it’s been hard to make sure he keeps his shoes on and keeps warm – things his kindy teachers did for him. We’re working on it. But other than that he seems fine to be away from us and has coped remarkably well. He says he loves school and is always excited to go.
Is there homework?
Yes. And it sucks. I don’t think a child should have homework at age five. But since doing “homework”, our son has been picking up reading more. He was always into writing and we don’t ever make him sit down and do that – but we do make him read the book that he’s sent home with. I feel kind of split on this. I really think homework is bullshit especially for a child so young, but since he’s picked up reading from reading the boring school books, he’s starting to read more outside of school. So I don’t know, I guess for my kid it works. But I do hate that kids move up to different levels and have “100 days of reading” challenges – while also acknowledging that that is the way the system works so I just need to suck it up. My view is that reading him stories that are interesting will encourage a love of reading, but the boring school books do seem to be helping him a lot. So I’m doing both.
I swing wildly between who cares if he can read, he’s five to wow I am so proud that he can read that! I find it quite hard. Harder than he finds it because he doesn’t really care either way.
Are the teachers as nice as kindy teachers?
Yes. My son had the best kindy teachers and I had such a good relationship with them. I was so worried about what his primary school teachers would be like. They’re lovely. And I feel comfortable being that parent and asking lots of questions about what his day has been like. I also like his principal and again I’m that parent who wants to work with teachers and his principal. I want to be involved. I am sure this is annoying for teachers but I can’t just walk away now that he’s at school. He’s everything to me; I can’t switch that off.
Does he like school?
Yes, he loves it so much more than I thought he would. He happily races off every morning and I have to beg for a kiss goodbye like some desperate loser. He has heaps of friends. I was so worried about this, in fact it was probably my greatest fear that he would be bullied or struggle to make friends. He is still the kind and loving kid he was in kindy so he has managed to make lots of friends. That’s been lovely to see. And I love getting to know all of these new kids.
What’s the stuff you’re finding tough?
Making friends myself. I have kindy mum friends and I’m eagerly awaiting their children joining school. But I am an awkward person and the wait for kids outside their classrooms is awkward as fuck if you’re an awkward person. Sometimes if someone says hi to me I just kind of think in my head: “Say hi! Ask how they’re doing! Say something! Now’s your chance!” and then I kind of mumble or I shout really loud and scare them like some weirdo who doesn’t know how voices work and then I begin convincing myself that they hate me. I am the type of person who if I’m in a store and someone mistakes me for staff, I will work there for the rest of the day because I’m too embarrassed to say I’m not an employee. I wish we could have coded badges “I want to make friends but I suck at social interactions” or “I have enough friends don’t talk to me” or “Let’s stand in silence and smile at our kids and that can be our first friendship date” or “Ask me about my desire to have a third baby without actually being pregnant or having the baby bit and instead skipping to the aged two bit”.
Do you worry about him at lunchtime?
Yes. Always. To the point where I have said I will be a volunteer at lunch time to just watch the kids. I am trying to be less full-on but he’s my tiny brand new baby and what if someone pushes him over or he falls of the jungle gym or someone snatches him or there’s a tsunami or an earthquake or a wasp nest or a sink hole or a pair of scissors poking out of the ground on an angle with the sharp side up slightly hidden by grass?
I am trying to be a chill cool mum. Even though it’s not in my DNA. I don’t want to be baby-wearing him to his school ball. He’s a school kid now. I have to let go a little. He knows how much I love him. That’s all I can hope for. I have helped him to have confidence, hopefully to be kind; now I have to let my anxiety rest as much as I can so he can thrive.
I guess what I’m starting to realise now is that we’re all just muddling along, missing or not missing our babies who are now suddenly freakishly tall school kids. Hoping they’re being kind and that others are being kind to them. Hoping there are no freak accidents. Hoping and hoping that by 3pm they’ll come racing out and leap into a hug. Home again. Their little minds racing, their bones tired, their eyes alight with the wonders of the day. Maybe that never changes? Maybe it does.
From one village to another. Letting go. Holding on.
I guess in the meantime, ask me about my debilitating anxiety and how I can swallow it down and take a deep breath and say “goodbye little bird”. Parenting aye? What a lark.
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