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What First-Time School Parents Need To Know, From A Mum Sending Off Her Last

Ambivalent is a word I learned in high school that I probably haven’t used since, until now.

As school returns for another year, it is the perfect word to explain my feelings because this year it is different. Like many parents around the country, I am seeing a child off to school for their first year.

But it's my second time in this position and it will also be my last. With the knowledge that my youngest will be leaving the nest and subsequently me, lies my ambivalence.

On one hand, I now have two entire days where I can work from home and actually work. I have an entire day where I can drink coffee uninterrupted and talk to a person on the phone without the possibility of a cute but very loud voice screaming “MUUUUUUUM” in the background.

Shona and her youngest daughter. Image: Supplied

On the other hand, both my daughters are now school aged and to me, this is a clear symbol they are officially growing up. Despite this, I know it will be okay because I have been here before.

It will be okay because at school they have things to do, all day. Their minds are active, they are interacting with other children and adults and they are constantly being physically active. In other words they are busy, busy, busy.

I know it will be okay because schools have incredible teachers and other support staff who are compassionate, caring and experts at what they do. They look after your child like they are one of their own because in many ways, for at least this year, they are.

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They console them when they’re upset, work with them when they face challenges, encourage them when they are despondent, compliment them when they have overcome a hurdle and help them in every way they possibly can.

It will be okay because they will learn so many new and wonderful things about the world. Things that will often leave your own adult mouth gaping wide open in astonishment. Not because you didn’t think they were entirely intelligent or capable, but because despite this, you are still utterly amazed.

On occasion, you will also be bewildered, wondering if the piece of information they’ve shared can actually be correct, until a quick Google search confirms -- yes -- male seahorses do indeed give birth to babies from their tummies. Yes, it is a sight to see.

Shona Hendley. Image: Supplied

I know they will be okay because they will make friends. Wile they may not be ‘forever friends’ (if that is even a thing), they will be important friends to them at the time and this is just as important.

From these friends they will learn about to compromise and there are many differences in the world. Different personalities, opinions, backgrounds and values and how to negotiate these. They will love these friends so much that even after a long and tiring day, they will still want to stay at school and play with them in the playground.

It will be okay because even when their ‘best friend’ wouldn’t play with them that day, they instead found a new friend in the yard they wouldn’t have met otherwise. And the following day they all play together, the three amigos.

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It will be okay because they will experience so many new things for the first time. Excursions, learning a new language, belonging to a House Group, sports days, how to read, write and count. Watching their minds soak it all up is wondrous.

And finally, I know it will be okay because although for the six hours they are away making new memories, new friends, having new experiences and learning new skills and knowledge without you, at the end of the day they will greet you with a huge hug and tell you all about it -- until high school, at least.

Featured image: Supplied