Is the school system turning me into a tiger mum?

Three weeks ago the girlchild went up to Year 1 at school. That’s the second year of primary school for anyone confused.

So far so good. We had a good reception year and I felt confident my independent mini me would be fine.

Over the summer everyone seemed to say ‘it’s soooo much harder in Year 1′, ;the step up is tough’, ‘there’s no playing now’ in that slightly fear-inducing way people with children who have been there before you do. So despite thinking it would be fine, there’s been a niggling spectre of concern she was in for a rough ride.

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But it’s been OK. Until last week.

Hello the weekly spelling test. WEEKLY.

She turned 5 in June.

So despite muttering to Mr MotherFudger that perhaps we should move to Sweden and let her climb trees until she’s 7, we cracked on and encouraged her to practise her words. Her 10 words included ‘fright’, ‘turnip’ and ‘brown’. Pretty full on I thought. Did I say she was only 5 in June?!

She really tried – like usual – and always makes us proud, but all week I was completely torn about encouraging her to do it the required three times (as stated by the note with the spelling test book) and just letting her have some much-needed rest time. I’ve tried to feel hugely positive about the process, that if we’re chilled out about a ‘test’ she will be too.

Mr MF and I both felt unchallenged and still remember being frustrated at our primary schools – so perhaps having a challenge to sink your teeth into isn’t so bad. But I just can’t help feeling it’s too much, too young.

Over the week I had various convos with my mum chums who were a mixed bag of love/hate/not really sure about it all.

But we did do the required homework. We sat with her and went through what was required. Each time a bit of me wondered whether my encouragement and enthusiasm was a bit too much of a tiger mum style. When she resisted doing it, I’m not going to lie – I didn’t say ‘oh well, go and play’, but instead my encouragement (and Mr MF’s) pushed her on to finishing it and telling her she needed to do it. Eek. It’s not sat entirely comfortably with me.

It’s also taken up pretty much the only time I have to spend with my daughter. Once in from work, it’s a rush to sort tea, do bath and bed. Squeezing in all the homework has sapped that brief period in between.

Then the night before she had a meltdown while practising. And I didn’t blame her. She’s exhausted.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT – SHE’S 5.

Friday came, she did the test and did very well. We’re really proud – mainly because she worked hard all week and tried. But now we’re onto the next set of questions and the next test on Friday. That’s as well as the maths homework she has, the daily reading of her own reading book and us reading to her.

So I’m sat here wondering how right it all is. Surely it’s too much? How gently coercing her to do all this through the week is a good thing? She’s engaged now – but will she be week after week of doing the same thing every evening? I hoped school would inspire and engage, not just force-feed the building blocks of learning…and not turn us into parents who are supporting our daughter by becoming tiger parents about what she’s ‘learning’.

 

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7 things I’ve learnt since my daughter started school

So the girlchild is now a pupil. The home visit was fine (read the post) despite the four-day delay due to the silent knocking teacher. So that was fun keeping the house immaculate for the best part of a week.

The initial period of settling in seems to be done and sorted. Days and days of a morning here, afternoon there, while Mr MotherFudger and I had to rearrange our lives is over. I blahed after the first drop off. The girlchild didn’t. The initial motivation, by me, to plait her hair has passed, but we’re ironing her clothes for fear of the wrath of my mother who told me off before term had even begun. Actually Mr MF is doing the ironing as I do most other things, so have dug my heels in about that one.

It’s a crazy world this school thang, and a learning process for all of us:

  1. The school system pretty much hasn’t moved on from the Victorian era.

Mornings, half days, sit and see sessions, assemblies – firstly they seem to assume one parent doesn’t work. Hello – it’s 2015. I had an invite to an assembly 2 days later. On Monday week there’s some kind of meeting at 2pm on a Monday I need to go to. Now luckily I don’t work on a Monday – but oh, hang on, other children aren’t invited. Great, so erm, they’ve made it easy to attend that one!

And aside from that – what is with the paperwork? Erm hello 2015 school system – what about social media, what about updating your website, what about text alerts, what about not photocopying information and handing it out on A4 sheets. We’ve all moved on. Let’s embrace technology together.

2. Your child imparts “nothing”

Oh how I looked forward to the little anecdotes we’d share about her day:

Me: “What have you done today darling?”
Girlchild: “Nothing”

Me: “Who did you play with today?”
Girlchild: “No-one”
*Heart breaks as I visualise her sobbing in the corner*

Me: “Did you do drawing today?”
Girlchild: “No”

But then she’ll reveal random snippets of information like “Aspen was sick today”. I don’t even know who Aspen is?

Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah. It’s so frustrating. I’ve had a chat with the teacher – apparently she plays with everyone, she’s settled and involved. She isn’t doing “nothing”. It’s OK. Mummy panic averted.

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3. Having said she says “nothing”, we have had plenty of discussion about the lunch menu.

Talking about what the option is – they still have arctic roll, insane – dominates the morning, the evening, the post-school discussion. Apparently she’s refused to eat broccoli her entire life because mine is awful – awful being still in a floret form opposed to over cooked slush which she prefers.

The food is the only time the Victorian era of school life is a positive – they have crumble, custard, proper big desserts. Jeeeezzz, my kids are lucky if they have dessert once a month. We’ve been palming them off with a yoghurt as a great end to dinner. She thinks it’s Christmas every school day – although this has incited the “what’s for dessert?” question a lot. Weekends have been dominated making crumbles. Mr MF has found his nirvana. We’re boosting Ambrosia’s sales right now. It’s ridic.

4. I’m a total snob.

Fuck I hate myself. *hangs head in shame*

I actually found myself saying to another mum the other day “she would’ve eaten the salmon, but it had breadcrumbs on it and she thought it was fish fingers.” Feel free to punch me next time you see me.

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5. The school run dominates

I naively thought on my non-working days (please note NOT days off as I still have the wild thing of a toddler to look after), I would have some time to do stuff that doesn’t revolve around cleaning, cooking, washing, organising.

Apparently not. From the moment I wake it’s like I have a cattle prod up my arse to get showered, dressed, put some form of makeup on my ever-ageing face, sort the kids out while I shout at Mr MF to chip in, before we then have some kind of ‘debate’ about shoes/coats/not watching iPads/how knickers are an essential item of clothing/that I actually do have to clean the crap from that nappy/that we aren’t taking 4,000 Paw Patrol figurines on the school run. Then we march up to the school in some kind of urgency I’ve never had before in my life.

I fit in a bit of gossiping with other mums (natch) before marching home, and then blink, look at the clock before I find myself having to have similar conversations with the boychild about having to stomp back to school to collect the girlchild. Fucking exhausting.

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6. Your child starts school – you become their PA

Not a day seems to go past without several pieces of paperwork in the girlchild’s bag. Daily communication books, notes about parents’ evenings, clothes collections, assemblies, meetings you have to attend during a working day (see point 1), cake sales, the Christmas play, water bottles needed, blah blah blah. It’s never ending.

The other day I (AGAIN) sat down and got the diary out, put in dates, highlighted sheets with important dates while Mr MF cackled next to me basking in the glory of watching some shite on his phone. Because also this is apparently the deal – my vagina automatically means I pick up the load on the paperwork.

I missed that memo.

7. You miss them so much

Before my daughter started school we had the week off and had loads of time together. I realised what a great age she’s at – she’s so capable now and my little mate. We can do stuff together. I love it. And I felt so sad that I have to send her off to school.

I know there’s weekends, but I really miss her.

Despite my usual tongue in cheek blogging on parenting, I shall end on a positive though – two positives – just in case my children ever read this. The girlchild did say this week pretty much the cutest thing ever. She said “Mumma, you are the bestest loveliest Mumma in the whole wide world. You are so much better than Santa.” LOVE LOVE LOVE.

AND a friend who visited with her newborn last week texted me and told me what wonderful children I have, how polite, sweet, happy and kind they are and how they want to parent like us and hope their baby grows up like my children. I always feel proud, but felt super proud of my little duo. You know who you are and you made my year – nicest thing ever, because in this crazy path of parenting, the mum guilt, the struggle, the daily battles are all so worth it.

Apols for Oprah end there.

The girlchild is starting school

In a few days’ time my firstborn starts school. I’m quite emosh about it, probably more than I thought I’d be.

But I am putting aside the emotions of the occasion, as quite frankly I don’t have the bloody time. Why? Because the whole process means I have had to morph into some kind of secretary, personal shopper and socialiser.

Firstly the paperwork. Jeeeesus. It began last year, school visits to plan and organise, school place application forms to complete, acceptance emails to write. That was all before we knew which school. Then when we did the flow of letters, notes, messages and yet more bloody forms was like the scene in Harry Potter when the owls bombard the house with letters. It’s been endless.

I don’t even understand how I’m supposed to sign up to Parentmail, which will no doubt be another method of communication I have to engage with on a daily basis, all FOR MY FOUR-YEAR-OLD. Oh and then she’ll also have a daily communication book that goes back and forward to school I’m supposed to write in. FFS.

Secondly the stuff. Book bags, PE bag, PE kit, new plimsolls, new shoes, branded sweater, branded cardigan, pinafores, skirts, tops, wellies and raincoat to stay at school. It’s a wonder we haven’t had to flip a coin over which one of us would sell a kidney to afford it all. My parents bought the £50 shoes (Mum and Dad – if you’re reading and want to make the new shoe thing ‘a thing’ with the kids I’m more than happy!!!). I confess we still haven’t got the plimsolls, raincoat or wellies. Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit. I am THAT mum. Bollocks.

Oh and the name labels. I’ve discovered we’re all a type. I’m in the modern iron-on camp. I’ve invested in ones with a ghastly Hello Kitty symbol and pink writing. But there are the traditionalists among you – the ‘sew on, embroidered’ types. Those of you who are buying for life. My friend said the other day “these will last him forever”. I’ve yet to meet a ‘tag labeller’ or an ‘ink stamper’. Maybe they’re an urban myth?

Thirdly. The pre-social-school-events: summer fair, parents’ evening, playdates. I may need a new wardrobe soon just to fit in. Oh hang on, we’ve spent all our pennies on branded items most people tell me will be missing or be stolen within the first term despite the labels.

As soon as the school announcements were made over which one, I noticed divides too. People sizing up who was in the X school clan, which mums were at the Y school. I did it, hell I even wrote a little list on my phone. I’m spending the next 7 years with these bitches, I need to know some are on my wavelength.

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Look – the sofa cushions are all nice on the sofa

Fourthly – the biggy, the most pressured and quite frankly something that has ruined my night (drinks with a friend cancelled), and pretty much my day tomorrow. The home visit. Yes, tomorrow, my daughter’s teacher is coming round to, well, I guess size up my child, me, our house, whether they need to ring social services, I dunno. It’s totally put me in a spin. I may tell Mr MF their feedback was largely based around the need for a statement rug in the lounge (I’ve seen one, I want it). The visual stimulation will probably help my daughter to learn!

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What the lounge usually looks like

I’ve acted like the fucking queen is coming round. I snapped at Mr MF earlier – that’s what my mum does when she’s in ‘entertaining mode’ as my dad calls it. Another step towards becoming her. And I’ve spent the last 2.5 hours tidying, cleaning, sorting and mainly hiding crap that lurks over the floors, sofas, kitchen, leaking out into the ‘communal areas’ of our home to make it look like a total shitpit everyday. In case you’re thinking “I bet it doesn’t look that bad”, well let me tell you that my mum acknowledges every time she comes round that it does indeed look like a shitpit. If she doesn’t say those words she tends to say something along the lines of “darling, I couldn’t cope with the mess, so I gave it a little tidy.” Bless her!

Mr MF even got involved. The stairs are usually covered in stuff. Stuff to go up, stuff to come down. Stuff the kids have put on it, stuff I’ve put on it. Toys, washing, crap. Mr MF picked up every last little bit and rehomed it. Beautiful:

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Hmm, the stairs are clear

I might even bleach the sink in a minute, but I’m having a 10-minute break because the floor is wet as I mopped it. The last time it was mopped was when we had a cleaner – which we don’t have anymore since we moved *weeps over keyboard*.

I’m still wondering whether I should bake a cake, get some wholesome, yet educational, activity out for the children. I’m already geared up to tell them the TV has broken 30 minutes before she arrives. That way, any tantrums can be passed and they won’t ask to have it on. If the boychild asks for Paw Patrol while she’s here, I’ll pretend it’s a wonderful imaginary play game we do. That’ll go down well – or she’ll think I need meds.

Anyway, must crack on, might even rearrange the toys.

Wish me luck!