This post is also featured on The Motherish.
My five year old started kindergarten this year.
In a lot of ways it felt like I was the one starting school again: getting lost on the way to the office, wondering what the heck a COLA is, having no idea who any of the teachers were, being ordered out-of-bounds by someone who was clearly a stickler for the rules. It was all rather bewildering.
We’re half-way through the year now, so I’ve been reflecting on the transition. As a novice school-mum there’s a whole bunch of things I wasn’t expecting.
1. The school wants your money. All the time.
Public education is meant to be free, right? Wrong. The school will have a hand in your back pocket and firmly on your wallet for most of the year.
The school calendar is peppered with events that require your cold-hard cash: excursions, incursions, charitable donations, sports carnivals, school photos and Mother’s Day stalls are just the tip of the iceberg. Throw in the purchase of hats, uniforms and everything your kid loses (see point 7), and it’s gonna cost you.
2. They also want your time. A lot.
I feel for schools. They are under-funded and under-resourced and need to rely on the goodwill of a small pool of available parents to volunteer their time.
There are working bees, P&C committees, Mother’s Day stalls, reading support, athletics carnivals and more. You will be invited to cross country events, market days, costume parades and special assemblies where Little Johnny gets his first merit award. As a working parent it can be tough to fit in.
3. You will need an executive PA to manage your calendar.
The number of events you need to remember when your kid starts school is crazy, and it’s impossible to keep track of everything without outsourcing large chunks of your brain to calendars, daily planners and digital reminders.
There is always something happening, and I am absolutely convinced that school was never this complicated when I was a kid. I certainly don’t remember my mother needing half a Kikki K store at home to keep it all straight.
4. Your world shrinks to a six-hour window between 9am and 3pm.
OMG! This is GREAT! My kid is going to be at school EVERY DAY!
THIS is what FREEDOM looks like! HALLELUJAH!
Midway through your giddy celebrations you’ll realise that half the day has already disappeared and you need to get back before they ship your kid off to OOSH. As you dash through the school gates just before the bell rings you’ll deeply lament the loss of long daycare.
5. It always storms at school pick-up.
You can set your watch by it.
6. Your kid will have tantrums. Lots of them.
Even the most energetic kids get totally wiped in that first year of school. The demands placed on their little brains and bodies are enough to completely obliterate them, and the fallout invariably involves a regular series of volcanic outbursts. Mostly over nothing. It’s like having an over-sized two year old.
7. Your kid loses something. Every day.
If “Losing Things” was part of the curriculum my son would be averaging an A+. Every day he loses school bags, library books, lunch boxes, hats, jumpers, money, wallets, school readers, sandwiches, drink bottles and even himself.
Yes. He has managed to lose himself. Twice.
It feels awful when your child fails to appear at the designated pick-up point with his classmates at the end of the day. It is even more awful to wait helplessly in the office while a search party of teachers is dispatched to find him.
Your kid will lose everything. And you will lose your mind.
8. Important notes never make it home.
School notes always end up in a variety of inconvenient places:
1) Scrunched at the bottom of their school bag, sopping wet from an open drink bottle and covered in mashed banana.
2) Scrunched at the bottom of some other kid’s school bag.
3) Stashed in one of the 15 unused school bag pockets you empty maybe once a year.
4) Swallowed by the “school-note abyss”, a cosmic wormhole that devours school notes like they were dead stars.
The details aren’t important. Just know that you will never get them.
9. You excitedly count down to the start of school holidays. HURRAH! Your kids start fighting within the first five minutes. BOO! You wearily start counting down to the END of school holidays.
10. You burst with pride as your kid walks through the gates.
It’s the end of Term 2 and I still love watching my son walk through the gates. I’m the least sentimental person in the entire world, but the sight of my little guy striding into school never fails to inspire the soppy, heart-swelling pride I never thought myself capable of. For all the perils and pitfalls, we’ve both loved every second of it.