I write, dear reader, not for your pleasure, but as a form of therapy session for myself after a marathon session of ‘tray bake’ making for the annual school Sixth Class sale tomorrow. As usual, I over committed to the children earlier in the week. Today, I had one of those days and started baking at 9.30pm. Of course my excited daughter wanted to help. ‘You promised Mam’, said the sad little face. My son wanted to stay up to do quality control, tasting all the goodies. Wired from sugar and excitement, they have just gone asleep. It’s almost 11pm.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been reflecting the past school year. My twinnies are almost finished Second Class ! Half way through their primary education.
Having twins in primary school for four years has given me eight years’ cumulative experience of School hood, so here’s some thoughts on it, as well as general warnings for greenhorn parents with children starting school in September, thinking that they have it all sorted, just because they have ordered their school uniforms already. Hah!
1. Think you had it all sussed with the ‘free’ ECCE year in crèche? You hadn’t! The scheme may have been set up to better prepare children for school, but it doesn’t do much to prepare parents. ‘Big School’ is bigger in every sense and that included the pressure to be Mother/Parent of the Year and if you, as a parent, feel like you don’t succeed in that, Failure of the Year.
2. Expect to lose your identity. You will become *insert child’s name* Mom/Dad, in a number of variations. In my case, it’s ‘‘LeonAndMya’sMom’’, ‘’MyaAndLeon’sMom’’, ‘’Mya’sMom’’, or, that which makes me feel eternally young, ‘’Miss’’. It’s usually accompanied by a child (whom you may, or may not know, tugging at your clothes).
3. Lead by example in showing your children it is okay to fail. I do so spectacularly last year when I came last in the Mothers Race at the School Sports Day. My son reminds me of this achievement regularly, to which I remind him that ‘it’s all about taking part son!’ (In my defence, I see myself as more of a long distance kinda gal. The sprint just didn’t suit me)
4. Find one safe place for all of the letters and notes home from school. That’s ‘ONE’ place. Not several places, which lead to blind panic on the details of the following days activity. And if you can’t manage that, have one organised friend on speed dial, who doesn’t mind emergency phone calls late at night and early in the morning. A friend who doesn’t tut or frown (to your face).
5. Expect to get in trouble for mixing up your children’s friends names. Think : Kayla, Jaden, Kahlen, Kia, Caleb, Kaylem, Caitlin. Need I go on! Expect to not always know if the children are male or female and to feel the double scorn of your children. Expect them to quiz you on who-is-who and to try and catch you out. Admit defeat at the outset. YOU WON’T WIN.
6. Start saving up your loose change now. For the never ending notes home from school, with random sums of money for various fundraising, donations etc. Invest in a multi pack of envelopes. A labelled, clean white envelope will give you the appearance of an organised parent.
7. Don’t be fooled by the convenience of a school uniform and think you have it all sorted. I once did. I’m a big fan of the uniform. It doesn’t, however, account for early morning arguments over socks, tights, undies. Unless your school has regulation socks and jocks. I’d strongly advocate for them.
8. Just because you buy two of the same uniform t-shirts/jumpers, do not take that to mean that you actually have options. I can guarantee that a child will have a preference of one of the two items and refuse to wear the other, because the buttons are a slightly different shape on one of them, or such like.
9. If you find socks/tights that your child has quality assured, invest in multi packs of the multi packs. It’s a nightmare looking for these towards the end of the school year, when the heels and toes are threadbare and the elasticity in a pair of tights is shot and they hang around your daughters knees.
10. Don’t believe the labels. Like the ones on the A4 plastic zipped folders. The label that says ‘super strong zip’, ‘made to last’. It actually means that it will last a fortnight, which I suppose is a whole two weeks longer than the non-super-strong variety.
11. Try not to scream and/or vomit and/or instill fear in your child the first time you see live head lice on his/her head. Silent screams behind the child’s head are acceptable, provide that you can turn it into a pretend yawn when he/she catches you. Practice the mantra that lice only jump onto clean heads, just as your own mother told you.
12. Start making handmade Christmas cards/gifts for your children’s classmates now. It will buy you much needed kudos later in the school year. There is nothing worse that feeling Parent Envy when your children arrive home with something bespoke and handmade. Beat the others to it.
13. Lunchboxes. Give me strength. I always thought that I’d be one of those moms who made nutritious lunches like carrot sticks and homemade hummus, or flasks filled with chunky soup. There’s close to mutiny here most mornings. And that’s only over the fruit. It’s not just green or black grapes. It’s the size of the grapes. Expect each child to have a different preference. Sometimes I think my children should work for the EU on fruit specifications, such are their nit-pickiness over the goddamn grapes. As soon as I get into a groove on lunches that both children like and eat, they change their minds.
14. Drinks containers. Don't get me started on this - I’ve bought all price ranges and specifications, but they all leak and it’s ALL MY FAULT. Apparently. Pointing out design flaws to your child is pointless. You wrecked it to ruin their day.
15. Expect to turn into a blubbering mess, at least twice a year, crying uncontrollably when some cute kid, that you don’t remember ever seeing before, sings a solo of anything at a school event. Or End of Year events when Sixth Class pupils do or say something that refers to their final days and weeks in school. Or the whole school sing the National Anthem. Try to redeem yourself (and most importantly, your child’s reputation) by pretending that you have hay fever/dust in your eye.
16. At the End Of Year, clear a room and every windowsill in the house to accommodate the onslaught of a years’ worth of returned artwork, projects and work sheets. Expect to feel extremely sentimental about ever last mark your children make on a sheet of paper. Know that someday, the sentimentality must wane and there may be a bonfire. A large one. Failing that, you can sign up to be a participant on a TV show for Hoarders.
17. Learn a super fast/cheap/impressive recipe for ‘tray bakes’ for school sports day/cake sale, etc. I’ve just discovered a fab recipe for a Rice Krispie assemblage. Just melted Mars bars, butter, Krispies and chocolate. No cooking requires and the children think I’m a genius. The calorie content is up for discussion in another blog on a different day. I've come a long way since my early tray baking days. My first attempt was a lemon cheesecake for the first school sports day. I didn't quite get the concept of a tray bake being something that you could pick up without a plate and a fork. I later found out that my cheesecake was set aside for the Bishop to eat later, but in all of the sports day fuss, no one remembered to take it out of the fridge. I stuck with the Rice Krispies after that.
18. If above mentioned tray bakes turn out a mess, sprinkle them with icing sugar. This magic dust can transform any baking disaster. A fancy doilie will complete the Great British Bake Off feel.
19. Expect your children to sense your fear. The morning that you have sweat rolling down your back because you have an important meeting and you need the Getting Ready For School and Out The Door to run like clockwork. It will all go in the s-l-o-w-e-s-t … o-f … m-o-t-i-o-n-s ...
20. Like every cliché ever told, it all going by in the blink of an eye, so enjoy. Some day you can look back and smile about it all. Or else, get revenge.