And there we have it. Primary school is done. Another phase and another era ticked off the list with change afoot come September, and mixed feelings stirring in our tummies.
Where did that time go? Yup, the million dollar question that every parent ponders as they watch their children’s childhoods dash by. But seriously though: where did that bloody time go? There’s a saying about parenting that: ‘the days are long but the years are short’ and it is so very, very true when talking about the borrowed years of our little ones. Like a sand timer, childhood is but a gift bestowed upon us that slips through our fingers all the time. And none even more so than when your child starts school as academic years positively flash past. So, so much of parenting is bittersweet. And then, one day – just like that – their childhoods are a memory.
So, since memories are also subject to the tricks of time, I decided to write down some of my memories and thoughts of the last seven utterly chaotic, monotonous, routine, yet incredible, funny and oh-so-precious years of my daughter being of primary school age. It’s written to my daughter, Moo, so that she and I can look at this some years later and remember. Let me just grab some tissues!
Moo, I remember…
- Sending you off to pre-school with you thinking it was big school and you were puffed up with pride. Your first pair of clunky, patent shoes and teeny tiny uniform. I got a lump in my throat even then at how big you seemed yet you were just a baby still. If only I knew of all the milestones ahead that would take you further and further away from being my baby. Maybe that’s why us parents don’t know; we’re not meant to. Childhood is probably as much about giving us time to let you go as it is to let you grow. Baby steps.
- Your first nativity and you got to be Mary! And little Salil* was your Joseph. You and Salil don’t like each other
muchat all and yet, somehow, several years later you ended up in the same class at Junior school, sat next to each other. For years. No doubt he got as fed up with your prissy tellings off as you did of his annoying behaviour. I get the giggles just imaging your exasperation every time he so much as looked at you, or made a farting noise into the heel of his hand, ha! You never did have much tolerance for rule breakers (you may want to look at that a little bit before starting secondary or you could end up getting your head flushed down a loo!).
- Pre-school was a place where I sometimes felt different to the other mums. I was the ‘barely there mum’ because of work and the school run was often done by your childminder. Friendships formed between the parents that naturally excluded me as I just wasn’t always there. A precedent set that meant that I have never really felt comfortable on the school run, even at a point when I had the work flexibility to do it full time. Old habits die hard, I suppose. And if I used to get that slight fluttery feeling wandering on to the school play yard worrying if I will know anyone there, then how anxious must you feel about starting a new secondary school where you don’t know anyone. I must hold that thought close to secure my patience in place for when you start to get nervous about starting secondary school as I know sometimes I have the tendency to be short with you. I must work on that.
- Your first Sport’s Day; the only time in your whole school career when it was actually competitive and you loved it. In the video of my mind I can see you racing past me waving the English flag positively beaming. And you won!
- And then Infant school came along. We never got our first choice which meant you had to leave your beloved childminder and start at a school that was graded inadequate. You won’t know of the hours I spent appealing, form-filling, E mail sending, appearing in the newspaper, having heated discussions with professionals trying to advocate for you to get the good education that all children deserve, and that so many don’t get because of the post code lottery that is the UK education system. Until that point you’d thrived and I cried many a tear of frustration that something out of my control could negatively impact that. I needn’t have worried.
- Tears of sadness came when I had to find you a new childminder though and the only person I could find wasn’t right. Your safety was never at risk but your happiness and comfort was and it broke my heart leaving you there despite us both doing ‘brave smiles’. The tears were compounded knowing I had no realistic choice because, as a single parent, I was the only bread winner and had to work. That was a crappy time full of real worry for me. The relief I felt when the school set up a breakfast club and I could drop you there instead was immense.
- You also started at an after school club at a church which you later decided you wanted to be Christened at. That was a joyful place where if I ever got there early enough I would wait “five minutes, Mummy!” while you finished your game of dodge ball constantly checking to see that I was watching. You made me so proud and I loved watching you so happy. Later, when I finally managed to get you into a different Infant school and you were able to be reunited with your old childminder – who later became your Godmother – the after school club and your school sent you off with the loveliest presents and cards and well wishes. You felt super loved.
- My God, I hated that school. Doing the school run was like being an extra in the Walking Dead. The parents were something else. Fights breaking out on school premises, racist language, swearing, the Police often parked up at school tip out time. In fact, on your first day in Reception, a parent sidled up to me in the class room and then referred to her son as a little fucker. To his face. Whilst shouting. When she rolled her eyes in conciliatory mumship at me, I just stared at her mouth agape. You didn’t notice, you were already off exploring, innocent to it all.
- Despite the madness, you excelled and when I thanked your teacher for her hard work at parents’ evening she stopped me and said: “No, seriously, thank you for giving birth to her. Your daughter keeps our sanity”. Jesus wept, that’s a hard day at the office when you’re grateful for someone giving birth to one of your pupils, lol.
- We were given permission to take some days off school to go for a little holiday to Disneyland Paris. On the verrrry same week that you got picked to look after the class sodding bear, that came with its own photo journal. I laughed so hard when I saw one of the parents stuck a photo in the journal of the bear sat on the sofa with the caption: Bear was going to come on our day trip but instead he chose to stay home and look after the house. When we went out the next day, we asked Bear if he would like to stay home again as he had done such a good job of looking after the house yesterday. Bear said ‘Yes!’, he’d love that. Lol. Genius.
- I was so, so glad when a place came up at our first choice Infant school and you started there. You squealed with delight when I told you not that you really had a clue what it all meant. You were just picking up on my excitement mainly, but you fell back in so quickly with your old pre-school/childminder friends and, of course, your old childminder. Everything just felt right.
- A new infant school meant a dash across town now and what with me working full time, school/childminder runs and pick ups became even more of a mad dash. Sometimes we laughed, sometimes we cried and sometimes I shouted and you sulked. It’s a trigger point in our day, that’s for sure, and it’s never not been chaotic. Too many times I’ve climbed into the car weighted down with bags, and laptops, and PE kits, and school projects, and had to do a quick glance down to check I’m wearing matching shoes. In the end it became a habit.
- Because you joined mid-term we missed the memo about the school photos and on that day you turned up looking a little ‘relaxed’ shall we say. It must have been one of those hectic mornings! So many years we’ve bummed out on the school photos. I’ve either forgotten or you’ve been at your Dad’s and he’s ‘done his best’ with your hair, ha! We declined to buy that school photo where your Dad had slicked down your baby hair with olive oil…quite a lot of oil…
- The concerts, the plays, the nativities, the dance recitals. I’ve been at them all even though every last one was an absolute juggle to get to because of work. And what do you remember? The one school fete at Infants I said I could not attend but managed to get there half way through. Your indignance was such that even now you’re convinced I wasn’t there. I can assure you I was baby girl. I bought the toot.
- Much of your childhood has been me running around manically trying to juggle All the Balls so sometimes – I won’t lie – I would mess up. I wouldn’t always read every school note (in time) or remember those I did (I should get a system for that!). So I never quite got the memo to say the Easter parade was cancelled and instead I bust a tit sewing ribbons and flowers and birds and eggs on a Poundland hat with a bow Mary Poppins would be proud of. You wore it anyway. With pride.
- And then it was off for a transition day to Junior school. Yet another note overlooked and of course the day happened to coincide with Oh-Shit-I-Need-To-Do-Some-Washing-Day when all you had left to wear was a checked pinafore with a whopper of a Sweet and Sour stain ingrained on it. Balls.
- Junior school was a flurry of change. You got so big so quick. And nothing quite screams your baby is growing up as seeing them as a year 6 next to a teeny tiny year 3. I still can’t believe you’re at the end of it all. You arrived all Disney and you leave all Tik Tok. It’s all just too much!
- Friends took on a new importance for you. You adore your friends but it’s not always been easy as you’ve sometimes been the target for some mean behaviour from your peers. I won’t say any more than that but some of the things you’ve told me broke my heart at times, I won’t lie. The thought of you about to start at an all girls school does fill me with some anxiety. I so hope you fall in with kids that recognise your beautiful spirit, and want to build you up, not drag you down.
- The scrabbling around for costumes when the school give you a second’s notice of a WWW1 day, or World Book Day, or Greek Day. Such joy!
- The time you moaned about one of your teachers called Ms Misra and we looked at each other and added a quiet -ble to the end of her name. Even now we add the -ble. And still crack up at our naff joke.
- Your first trip away on a school residential. You came out grinning from ear to ear, with your hair in ‘full mode’ from no products and a suitcase full of clean clothes which you took great care to intersperse wet towels in amongst.
- The pride I felt when you were entered into the school’s Book of Excellence for your kind and caring ways. Twice. The excellent reports you got year after year until the very last Parent’s Evening when your teachers gathered round me to do an impression of you day dreaming, and pulling out your lip gloss for the 100th time that day, or asking to go to the toilet (again), or filling up your water bottle just to avoid doing work. So, you didn’t think you’d get found out that you’d started slacking, you little shite bag?! As my mum would say: you always get found out! And as your teachers said: you’ve got real potential but you need to fix up! Boy, you got such a flea in your ear after that Parent’s Evening from your Dad and I.
- Year 6 saw a lot of change. You stopped going to your childminders and started walking home alone. We moved just behind the school last year and it’s been lovely allowing you that independence and watching you grab it wholeheartedly. Working from home and flinging the windows open means I can hear all you kids play at break time and it always makes me smile knowing you’re among them. I may have to close the window come September knowing you will no longer be there.
- And then Covid happened. Suddenly you left school in March and we had to grapple with establishing home learning whilst I worked from home. And it was hot. So hot. And we bucked heads a bit. But mostly you knuckled down and just got on with it. You made it easier for me than what it could have been. I’m very lucky.
- Thankfully, you got to return to school for the last 6 weeks. But just your year group. And you were in a bubble with none of your friends. Turns out you just made new friends. But you never got your leaver’s disco, or your French trip, or your last Sport’s Day (although tbh neither of us are that bothered about that!). I’m grateful that on the last day, parents and kids all went to the local park and there was a send off of sorts. It was a day of smiles. And one day you may get to tell your own kids that you were a #schoolleaver2020 during the Pandemic.
- Your last school report spoke of what a lovely young lady you are, and of how your confidence has grown allowing you to often sing in front of your class. You have a beautiful voice and they think you’re gifted at Art! You’re so ready for big school, and even if I’m not, I’ll catch up because that’s how this goes right? You zoom off and I catch up. Just as it’s always been. Just as it’s meant to be.
*Child’s name changed. Obvs.