A few weeks ago, my youngest Lena (4.5 years old) started primary school. Having already gone through this with my eldest I wasn’t as anxious about it this time around as I was for him (you can read about that here). But because I have already been through this previously, I also knew what to expect. I knew it was going to be the end of an era, the end of the baby days in our house.
During the summer I wrote about how I was feeling about my youngest starting school; sad that I wouldn’t have my baby home with me every day but excited about us both gaining some independence. I’m so looking forward to getting the endless blog jobs off my to-do list and put into practice now that I’ll have some more time. For 5.5 hours, 3 days a week I will be my own master! The sheer freedom of it.
How did the first week go?
Well, firstly I made a monumental cock-up in that I got her start date wrong. Up until the Monday night at about 7pm we thought Lena started school on the Wednesday. We were both scheduled to be working 7.30am-6pm on the Tuesday with Lena going to nursery all day and Arlo wrap around care with her nursery and school.
Then we got a text from the school on Monday night saying all kids returned to school on Tuesday. Papa Ginge joked that the school didn’t even know that their own reception class didn’t start on the Tuesday. I thought, hmmmmm, could I have got this wrong and texted another mam. She said they started Tuesday so I checked the forms and low and behold the Wednesday I had seen on the form actually related to her settling visit previously. Crap.
So we quickly had to contact our managers to try and rearrange everything for work the next day. My manager very kindly allowed me to shift my workday from Tuesday to Friday at short notice. I then had to text colleagues who I had meetings with the next day to rearrange those. Once that was sorted Papa Ginge had to arrange going into work late on the Tuesday so he could see her in on her first day and then arrange working from home on the Friday to allow me to work then. Gosh, two parent working families is a challenge when it comes to childcare. I’m so grateful I can work part-time, I do not take that for granted one bit!
So we practically got everything sorted but emotionally I wasn’t ready. I thought I had another day to go. My week felt all to pot and I felt flummoxed. I told Lena that actually, she wouldn’t be going to nursery the next day but instead, she would be going to school. Fortunately, she was thrilled, she began jumping up and down on the floor, yelling excitedly. She couldn’t wait.
The first day
The first day we got to school very early. It was Arlo’s first day in juniors so he was in a new classroom and we wanted to make sure we had plenty of time to get him in and then get Lena back across the school to reception class. As we were walking from Arlo’s class to Lena’s and she reached her little hand up and took hold of mine I felt my eyes well up and willed myself to hold it together so I didn’t upset her.
We joined her group’s line behind a cone and were waiting for their group teacher to take them in. When Lena saw her teacher she said ‘oh look, mammy, it’s my teacher, can I go over?’. I said yes and she ran over to her. The teacher remembered who she was and said ‘oh good morning Lena’ as Lena bounced around excitedly.
Our school is a big school and every year has two classes of 30. In reception class its one class of 60 which is a lot of kids and quite overwhelming for a 4-year-old. Of course on day one there were lots of both parents their so it felt quite intense and as Lena shuffled into the class I could see she was feeling a bit surrounded and unsure of what was happening.
She was getting a little overwhelmed so I went over to her and encouraged her to hold a little boy she knew from nursery’s hand who was also nervous. They shuffled on in together and I swallowed my heart back down into my chest as I watched.
Most the parents were trying to sneak a peek into the class as they left the yard and I saw Lena and gave her a little wave but then immediately regretted this as I could see it made her wobble. Then, of course, that was the last image I had of her which haunted me throughout the day. I chatted to some other emotional parents as I left and then stuck some Sleater-Kinney on and ran the mile or so back home, hard. It did just the trick. Once I got home I did a quick mixed martial arts HIIT workout and by the time I was in the shower, I had pounded my emotions back into check.
Upon pick up Lena’s teacher told me her first day had gone well and she had taken to it like a ‘duck to water’. Apparently, she was showing everyone how to say good morning and was so confident she was ‘special helper’ on her first day. I was so relieved and very proud. Lena was mostly excited by the school food and she was thrilled to have a school water bottle just like her big brother. She kept showing everyone we saw her school jumper and telling them ‘I’m a school children now’, as my heart melted.
The rest of her first week
For her first week Lena had early finishes at 2pm. This annoyed me greatly as Arlo finishes at 3.15 and we live too far from the school to make it worth going back home. The school isn’t really near anything so it meant trying to entertain her near the school for an hour and 15 minutes a day. Fair enough if she had a lunchtime finish but they may as well have just finished them at 3pm at that time. I whinged to the teacher and she said ‘have some lovely quality time together’. Aye grand but it’s pissing it down out here petal, great quality time drowning together.
Anyway, 2 of the days we managed to hit up a local park and make the most of some nice weather. Then one of the days we walked to the local town and bought ingredients for dinner together (and sweets for Lena, of course, kid has the biggest sweet tooth). It was so much walking for her little legs though bless her, I did a fair amount of carrying too. She did so well though, she’s so tiny and was such a trouper. Especially because her big bro got to use the buggy board if he was tired up until now!
Getting settled at full time school
I couldn’t have hoped for her settling in to go better. I’m so relieved with how it all went. She’s starting to realise what school really means. Towards the end of her first week she said ‘what am I doing in the morning’ and I said ‘school’, she replied indignantly ‘NOT AGAIN’. We might be in trouble once the novelty wears off. It’s a big adjustment for her though, she was previously going to nursery only 2 days a week. Though her nursery days were 7.30am-6pm so they were long days and this has meant so far, just like with her brother, school has not really tired her out like everyone said it would. In fact, while all the other parents were telling me how tired their children were, Lena seemed to be energised by it! Bedtimes have become quite the challenge as she struggles to wind down.
It’s felt nice as a second-time parent that I know more about what’s going on this time. And I’ve spoken to more of the parents before this time so I feel less isolated on the playground.
After school club
Previously, Arlo went to Lena’s nursery for wrap-around care on the days Papa Ginge and I both work but now that Lena has left we have moved them to a new kids club. I was anxious about how they were both going to take to that too. And I felt terribly guilty for adding yet another change to the little mite but this is what happens in a two-parent working family when you don’t have family close enough to help on a daily basis. I’m just grateful Grandpapa Ginge can help out sometimes and we get to work part-time/condensed so it’s not all the time.
Fortunately, this too went well so I’m relieved about that. I feel like now the firsts are out of the way we can all relax into our new routine. Though the sceptic in me is saying I’ve been too lucky and am waiting for the other shoe to drop. Of course, I understand from experience that just because the first few weeks have gone well doesn’t ensure it will be plain sailing all the time going forward. There will be fallouts with friends, bumps and bruises and upsets to tend to along the way. I just have to be there to pick up the pieces and advocate for them both the best I can, even when that involves uncomfortable discussions with staff at the school.
How have I adjusted to my new independence
About Lena starting school, people have said to me ‘eeeh you won’t know what to do with yourself’ and that couldn’t be farther from the truth. I set up my business in January 2016 and have been running it around a part-time job and Lena at home this whole time. In that time she has gone from a just walking one-year-old to a rambunctious 4-year-old and I’ve been trying to be present and focussed with her while juggling client obligations and growing the business.
So the past couple of weeks, it has been incredible to be able to write and work in a quiet house. There are so many plans I’ve had for the business and blog for such a long time and time has been against me but now I can actually be ahead for once. Already I’m feeling less stressed and more on top of my to-do list and emails. I’m really trying to resist the temptation to do housework in the time and focus on getting as much done as I can. Chores are something the children can do with me when they return from school.
The time obviously feels like no time at all and absolutely flies over! Initially, I’m struggling to be as focused as I could be as I feel like there is less pressure now that I have more time but of course it’s not more time if I’m not efficient. I’m just getting used to the new set up so I’ll have to figure it all out as I go. I think writing clear goals the day before and scheduling my time out into specific tasks will be helpful.
If you work from home what are your tips for staying focussed and efficient?
Anyway, enough about me, did any of you have little ones starting school? How did it go? Let me know in the comments.
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