How Not To Be Shit At Helping Your Kids ‘Do’ School
When my eldest started school I was entirely unprepared for the part that I would now have to play in the whole shebang. I mean, sure, I knew I’d have to kit them out, sort the odd packed lunch, and help them with the occasional school project from time to time. But you know, they start Reception aged 4 – how hard can it be…..?
Little did I know that there is so much STUFF you have to do / know / be when your kid starts school. If you don’t get the hang of it quickly, you can end up feeling like you’re just a bit shit at helping your kids ‘do’ school. However, once you do get the hang of it, it’s not so bad.
Here’s my take on how to do it without losing the plot.
Now I’ve got 2 of the sprogs in the school system, I’ve had a couple of years to get used to how things work. I’ve now endured the settling-in stage twice, and doing it a second time has jogged my memory, and made me remember the rocky road to understanding THE RULES.
No-one talks about THE RULES.
They are not written. There is no newsletter, email or parent text telling you about them, but they are there, and you must figure them out (possibly without asking anyone) and conform.
*Because not following THE RULES will inevitably lead to dangerous levels of Mum Guilt, and fear that you have somehow condemned your child to a lifetime of social outcastery. This, in turn, enables you to consider the possibility that the entire school staff now know that you do not, in fact, have your shit together, and will judge you harshly for it.
(*Ok, so that last bit might just be me, but I’m pretty sure everyone’s felt it a bit, even if they’re not quite my level of crazypants. Read on…)
7 Golden Rules For Mums of School Aged Kids
So, having reflected on this particular minefield, I have come up with what I think are the 7 golden rules for Mums of school aged kids.
There may be more. In all honesty I’m still a bit shit at this, and have yet to grasp all aspects of managing the STUFF. Feel free to hit me up in the comments if I’ve missed something crucial. Here’s what I’ve got so far..
1.) School Drop-Off
This might seem like a simple and straightforward transaction, but there are significant variables which could seriously hinder its smooth running. The most likely confounding variables are as follows:
a) Your child loses a shoe 5 minutes before you leave, despite having had the pair ready 10 minutes previously. Frantic searching and upturning of sofa cushions ensues. It’s likely that you may get a bit shouty. Eventually your child ‘finds’ the shoe in her bed. Congratulations! You are now 10 minutes late.
b) Your child, who is ratty and overtired having smuggled lego into his bed and stayed up playing for a full hour before being discovered, decides to have a full-blown meltdown 30 seconds after leaving the house and refuses to walk.
Ultimately you must carry said child in an awkward makeshift fireman’s lift and stagger to school. You try to ignore the horrified glances of other parents, who are secretly relieved it’s not their kid screaming like a banshee, until you arrive, red-faced and sweaty, and plonk him at his classroom door.
You then try your hardest to regain your composure whilst explaining to his teacher that he’s ‘a bit reluctant to come in this morning’, using your knees to block his exit whilst he squirms about trying to squeeze past you in a bid for freedom.
c) You are knackered, having been up and down like a yo-yo all night dealing with a teething baby. Everything appears to be going well until you zone out loading the dishwasher and somehow manage to lose 10 minutes scraping plates and wiping worktops. You are now 10 minutes late. Again.
To avoid such debacles, you must plan your morning routine with military precision. Get clothes out and packed lunches made the night before. Get your children fed, washed and dressed with a good 20 minutes to spare. Also allow at least double the time for the school run itself, just in case.
2.) The Homework Diary
Yes, that’s right. Your 4 year old now has a frigging homework diary!
This basically means that you are now obliged to do ‘homework’ with your child, regardless of the fact that when they get home from school all they want is to scoff Cheesestrings and watch Cartoon Network.
After all, they are 4.
Still, you need to at least do something with them from time to time. You can use these resources if you get stuck. Try bribing them with chocolate and screen-time. Then pour yourself a glass of wine as a reward for not being shit.
3.) School Trips
“What’s the big deal with school trips?” I hear you ask. Well it’s not a massive deal, but getting it wrong can be a deal-breaker. It’s not the trip itself – it’s the consent forms.
If you’ve got school aged children you will know that when you collect them you are often gifted a crumpled handful of seemingly random pieces of paper. Be warned: Not all pieces of paper are created equal.
You must, upon collection, sort through this fistful of papers and ascertain if any of these are actually printed letters. Look for any with a dotted line bisecting them, FOR THESE ARE THE CONSENT FORMS OF DESTINY.
These slippery little fuckers can de-materialise in an instant, never to be seen again. If you find one, guard it with your life.
When you get home, fill out the form, rifle through your bag to scrape together the right change (you’ll always need to cough up for these things you know), put it in an envelope and leave it under your keys / in your coat pocket / sellotape it to the front door. Do ANYTHING it takes to remember to drop it back, completed, the next day.
Forgetting to do so may result in the form getting lost or forgotten, and your child will be ‘that kid’ who has to stay in school doing maths puzzles whilst all their mates go off on a jolly for the day. They will hate you forever for ruining their life.
4.) Parents’ Evenings
Yep. Even when they’re 4.
Here’s your chance to wait around for 45 minutes on a tiny chair admiring scrapbooks of your child’s work to date. Eventually you’ll be ushered into their classroom for a 3 minute chat during which you try to think of grown-up questions to ask whilst the teacher tells you everything seems to be going well so far.
Pretty much a waste of everyone’s time, but you can at least be reassured that your child is not entirely miserable, and has not, as yet, been branded a psychopath.
5.) Mufty / Dressing Up days
What seems like a fairly innocuous idea may actually be the bane of your life. It falls under my umbrella term ‘homework for parents’ which applies to all projects which ultimately rely on the child’s parents to organise on the child’s behalf.
There are a lot of these. At first they may seem fun, but over time you will come to resent them.
These may come in many forms: Plain old mufty/home clothes day are a breeze, obvs. However, as soon as you here the words ‘World Book Day’ or ‘Red Nose Day’ you must be on red alert.
These are the days which strike fear into the hearts of scatty mothers worldwide.
You must read the brief, my friend, and pop a reminder in your phone.
Stay prepared by going charity shopping and putting together a fancy dress box. That way, you’ll always be able to cobble something together that vaguely relates to the theme du jour.
If your child only wants to wear their Darth Vader / Elsa costume on World Book Day, you can always lie and say they’ve got a book of the film. No-one really cares. It’s either that or go as one of the 126 Harry Potters who inevitably show up on the day.
If you forget, you will essentially be committing the cardinal sin of sending your child into school in their uniform, resulting in the same outcome as failure to comply with rule 3.
6.) School Fairs
Oh dear god the school fairs.
I won’t lie, I hate the sodding school fair. Our school tends to hold them after school, no doubt so that your kids can cajole and coerce you into going ‘just for a bit’ at pick-up time.
Prepare for an hour of unbridled chaos during which you will shuffle through crowded corridors until you spill into a heaving hall rammed full of cluttered stalls selling various forms of tat at inflated prices ‘for a good cause’.
You’ll be obliged to do the raffle, and possibly the bottle tombola. You will bitterly regret your donation of a pretty decent bottle of merlot when you ‘win’ a bottle of Listerine, or a 2l bottle of diet Pepsi Max.
My advice: Don’t bother to conform on this one. Be sneaky. Offer to take your kids to their favourite park / the cinema / a play-date with their non-school friends. Arrive promptly at pick-up, and depart swiftly. Bring snacks.
You will save yourself a world of pain, and the kids will think you’re amazing for planning their fave thing unprompted. Mum win.
7.) End of term/Christmas/Summer/End of Year shows
Actually I have to say, I love going to their shows whilst they’re so little. It is totes cute to see them doing all the singing with the actions and shizzle.
Most schools do their shows in the school hall. Mostly these are large rectangular rooms, suitable for games and having school dinners in. What they are not best suited for is cramming hundreds of parents into rows of seats set up width-ways, and then staging a show up one end, rendering the rear half of the audience view-less.
Competition is fierce. As the show progresses order is lost. Everyone wants to see their child singing twinkle twinkle. People start to hover off their seats, or start creeping into the central aisle so that they can record it on their iphones.
Unless you are right at the front you will likely spend 45 minutes staring at the back of someone’s Dad’s head pondering whether you could sneak out early seeing as you can see sweet FA. Therefore the golden rule here is simple: Get in there early. I mean, like, 30 minutes minimum, and guard your seat like a rottweiler guarding a piece of steak.
If you cock up, turn up late, and find yourself crammed in at the back unable to see beyond the lady balancing on one leg trying to shove her phone high enough in the air to capture the magic, make a U-Turn and pop to Costa. The battle is lost, and your kid will never know the difference anyway.
So there you have it. It may not be a complete guide, but it’ll certainly help you avoid the worst faux pas. Beyond that, just fake it til you make it baby! You’ll get there in the end.
Mainly though, just do your thing, and don’t worry about whether anyone else is doing it any better. If there’s one thing I know for certain, it’s that we’re all just winging it really.
Happy school-runs Motherlovers!
Big Love, Kate xx
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