Ten things I've learned as a primary school mum
By the time my youngest finishes primary school I will have put in 18 years at the school gate, I think this qualifies me to dispense advice.
My eldest son has just started at secondary school, my middle one is in primary five and my youngest is still in nappies, so by the time I end my relationship with our local primary, I will have outlasted most of the staff.
I’m clearly in it for the long haul, so here are my top ten bits of advice for surviving the marathon of primary education.
Never join a committee
It will wear you out and have you doing all sorts of things you don’t want to do. Really, just because some people might think manning a bran tub in a noisy and hot hall all morning is entertaining, it doesn’t mean we all do. By all means, make yourself available to the ladies (for it will be ladies) of the committee, they’ll be grateful. Just be selective about what you’re able to do and don’t be too keen. Don’t feel bad about this. Stand firm, there are many other parents who aren’t on committees either. By all means, write a cheque if it makes you feel better.
Set your end of year present policy early
If you start out all gung-ho and generously give your kid’s primary one teacher something tasteful from Crabtree and Evelyn or a large well-chosen bottle, be prepared to continue in the same vein. You can’t give one teacher a lovely pressie then not bother for the next one, she will bear a grudge and you’re going to be seeing her for a long time.
Learn to wear an imaginary protective force field at the school gate
Maybe it’s just me but I suspect not. School gate misery is a nasty condition caused by having to hang out with women with whom you have nothing in common but a post code and giving birth in the same year. The symptoms are shyness, the inability to say anything interesting and the feeling that they’re all talking about you because you’re rubbish. My solution is to fashion yourself a pretend protective force field or shield of steel that you put on as you saunter up to the school. That way nothing they say or do affects you and you can happily stand there until your child bursts out of the door. You will observe that dads have been doing this for years, only their force field emanates from the phone that they’re importantly talking into.
The school secretary is your friend
Oh yes she is, no matter what you think of her, make it so. She is the gate-keeper and font of all wisdom. If she knows who you are and likes you, life will be much, much easier.
If the school shop suddenly marks down some of the uniform on sale, ask why
Hopefully you’ll find out that they are going to change the dress code before you buy loads of what you think are bargains. (Just sayin’)
Take something to read at parents’ night
In seven years, I have never had one run to schedule, so it’s worth being prepared.
Birthday party rules
In the early years don’t feel obliged to invite every child who invited your child to their party. Certainly it isn’t necessary to have the whole class come, unless you want to. In fact, you don’t have to have a party at all, if you don’t want to. Children of this age do not work on the same social rules as adults. If you offend a parent by not inviting little Jemima to Brutus’ Rastamouse themed party, who cares?
Help! It’s homework
The teacher really isn’t interested in what you know about the socio economic situation in Europe or how well you can draw a picture of the owl and the pussy cat. You might think you’re helping your child by doing it for them, you’re not really. The biggest help for your child is creating time and space for them to sit down and work in.
Don’t spend very much money on anything
Your child will lose it, break it or make holes in it. Just resign yourself to this.
Don’t fret if your child doesn’t seem to eat much lunch. Many of them don’t, just give them a good breakfast and something to eat the minute they get home. Mine survived remarkably well doing this for a long time.
If getting everyone out in the morning with everything they need is turning into a bit of an ordeal, make a checklist and follow it. Give your child a list too so they know what’s expected of them. It might sound a bit bossy, but it means you only have to remember everything once when you write the list.
Don’t believe everything you hear
Especially when it concerns what they are and aren’t allowed to do. Equally if they say “but Simon’s mum says he can”, you can bet your bottom dollar that Simon’s mum is hearing something very similar. Until proved otherwise (and even then), children don’t think you will ever know what happens at school. I find it worth reminding them on a regular basis that this isn’t the case.
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