So we’re a few weeks in to our first term of Prep now, and it honestly feels like a new reality is dawning for our family, or, more explicitly, for me. Naively I thought life would get simpler with my oldest child in school! Yeah, right. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
1. Schools communicate with parents A LOT. When I was at school, the only communication that happened between my teachers and my parents was the annual parents evening. Other than that, we went to school, came home, and repeated this for a year with my parents showing limited interested in what we actually did all day. Within the first month of Prep, I’ve received a weekly school newsletter; a weekly Prep newsletter; login details for the Prep Weebly site; downloaded a School app with regular school alerts; attended a Prep information evening and received a letter from the P&F committee asking me to sign up for at least one activity of the seemingly 100s of activities parents are expected to help out with. I’ve also been asked to make playdough, attended a ‘Welcome to School BBQ’ and am being badgered by our ‘Parent Rep’ to go out for a ‘Prep parent dinner’ this Friday. Seriously? I have 12 more years of this ahead of me?
2. School requires a whole new level of organisation. There I was thinking I was doing well to manage a part time job plus two under 5s and run a household. Hell no. Now I have to remember library day every Friday; tuckshop on Wednesday which, inexplicably, needs to be ordered online by 8am Tuesday; letters that need to be signed and returned within 24 hours; uniforms that need to be washed and ironed in the evening (who remembers to put on a load of washing when they get home from work?!) This is only the start of our school journey, and my brain already feels like it’s about to explode.
3. You have to be on time. No more lazy day care drop offs and pickups where ten minutes either way won’t make a difference. Last week was my first experience of being stuck at work trying to meet a deadline and having to bolt from the office to make school pick up on time. It was waaay more stressful than I anticipated!
4. No more pyjama mornings on days off during the week either. Now we all have to be dressed and out the door, even the toddler, who usually does a poo just as we’re setting off for good measure. I’m definitely the unpredictable mum at drop off – on working days I look polished an professional, and on my two days off I look like I’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards, make up free, unwashed hair and creased clothes I’ve thrown on at the last minute.
5. The pressure of school lunch boxes. I mentioned this to my mum, and she actually groaned in agony recollecting her 15 years of making packed lunches for us. I am starting to understand that pain. I’m already running out of ideas. I baked for the first week – ridiculous, seeing as I hate baking – so now it’s vegemite all the way. And, of course I don’t put treats in. Don’t want to be that mum – I let my son have treats when he gets home instead…
6. You’re caught between two worlds. If you have more than one child, when your first starts Prep, it feels like you’re going a bit backwards at home with the younger children. Up until school started, my older boy dictated what we did every day; where we went; what we watched on TV; the topic of conversation. Now I’m back to Peppa Pig, playgroups, pram walks and attempted toilet training with a very wilful two year old. Haven’t I done all this before? It feels like 2012 all over again…
7. I see the school mums more than I see my husband. Thankfully they all seem very nice, but I can see why lifelong friendships start at the school gates.
8. The activities start. Am I signing my son up for after school soccer? Swimming squad? Cross country training? No! He’s FIVE. He can do all that crap when he’s older. Life for now is school, Lego, playing in the backyard and watching cartoons on the tv. I will avoid being a taxi service for as long as possible, because I know that once it starts it will never, ever stop.
Of course, any parent with school-aged children will already know all of this, but please spare a thought for us school newbies. It’s a daunting 12 years ahead, especially when experienced mums just nod their heads in resignation when I express surprise at all of this madness. Just be gentle with us, we’ll all get there in the end, but in the meantime, mums of older school children – I salute you!