Becoming a school mum – how I have survived my first year.

My darling little daughter Addison started school this year. It seems like only yesterday they were forcibly removing her from my body with a pair of oversized salad tongs (which you can read all about here). Then I blinked, and she was five. Five. What the hell have I been doing the past five years? (making human’s…that’s what I have been doing).

The first thing about Addison going to school, was whether Addison should go to school or not. She is an April baby. Therefore born in that dreaded “first half” of the year, where all the kids who get sent can be younger than their peers who are born in the coveted “second half” of the year. But we sent her to a Christian school, therefore we don’t covet. Because Jesus. Complicating that further, Addison’s school has a cut of date at the end of April. So if we sent her this year, she would be four turning five when she started school, and she would be one of the very youngest in the class. It was a point of contention between husband and I. I was an August baby, therefore was one of the older people in my year group. I wanted to keep her home. Husband was a May baby, therefore he (and most of his friends) were all the “babies” of the school. They all started when they were four. They turned out alright (debatable) and therefore we should send her. But I figured, it was only a few months right? The eldest in the class would be turning 6 in May, and then within the year she would turn 6 too. Not that huge an age gap. I was wrong about that. Things have changed since the 80’s…I’ll cover that later.

Now I am going to sound like one of “those” mothers who thinks that their child is a genius. But, I promise you I am not. Addison is quite intelligent. Unlike her mother, who has been sitting here trying to work out how exactly one spells “intelligent” (three attempts before the red squiggly little line stopped coming up). She is very bright, she has been reading since she was three and a half, she knew her alphabet when she was 18 months old. She has the most insane memory and forgets nothing…seriously, nothing. Yesterday she was telling me about a very specific incident that occurred on our trip to Thailand, that we took three years ago, when she was 2 years old. She is very mature, mostly, and generally people don’t realise she is only 5. However, she is one of those really smart people that have very little common sense. Street smarts isn’t her strong point. But book smart…she is.

I was never concerned about how she would cope with the work, I knew she would do fine, she would excel most likely. I wasn’t really concerned about her socially, she is very social, she makes friends quite easily, she certainly isn’t shy. So what was I worried about? Losing my baby, mostly.

We decided to send her to school. Quite possibly in my top five of most emotional days of my life. I actually sat in the car park and cried before the parent orientation night (don’t judge me too much, I was 8 months pregnant) so I do not know how I survived that first day. There was a lot of clock watching, there was a lot of eating, and there was a lot of laying on the lounge feeling sorry for myself because I was pregnant, fat and in so much physical pain that I really couldn’t move. Pregnancy was not kind to me.

Now, we are into term four, nearly the end of her first year of school, and I have learned many things. Firstly, apparently if your child turns 6 after September you can apply for an exemption and not send your child to school until the following year. So Addison is in a class with children who are turning 7 this year. She is in class with children who are up to 20 months older than her. And I don’t know how I feel about that. Most of my friends who have 7 year olds have children who are either in year one or year two. It really widens the age gap, and maybe it is a good thing starting school when you are older, I know that there are a lot of countries who start school at seven rather than five or six. But a range of children from 4 years to 7 years old is a huge gap to manage. So I don’t really like the idea. I personally think they should either change the age for school starters, or everyone should just send their children during that financial year when they can go. However it has made me put my foot down when it comes to Scarlett starting school (again a first half of the year baby, being born in March). She will be staying home that extra year. Scarlett is super clever too, but she is so little in stature (I know not a reason to keep her home, but not only will she be younger, but she will likely be shorter, so I don’t want her being treated like the baby of the class), and she is very attached to us, I think socially she will be better off staying home an extra year.

The second thing I have learned is that to get through your first year of school, is that you need an amazing teacher at the head of the classroom. And lucky for us, we were blessed with the most wonderful teacher ever. And if she doesn’t end up being Scarlett’s teacher in three years time I will probably have some sort of mummy meltdown/tantrum. The first day of school she gave us chocolate and a little card…it’s like she knew the way to my heart from the beginning. She has always been very open communication wise (she gave us her home phone number on the first day!) and she is honest. All the qualities of an amazing kindy teacher.

The third thing that has happened is that I have learned to appreciate Friday, Saturday and holidays. I really love having her home. I love the freedom of no school the next day, I love that on Friday she can come home and we can go for a walk or play outside or play the wii and not worry about bedtime, or getting in and out of the bath when the clock says so (honestly I think she generally skips baths on Fridays…I am that lazy). And holidays are awesome! No dancing or swimming lessons or school. I can laze in bed. How I love bed.

Wow. Reading all of that back, it turns out that I just love being lazy. Awesome.

The final thing I have learned is that not only is Addison going back to school, but so am I. I have read so many things about school mums and school mum politics, about the cool mums (of which I am definitely not) and about finding your mummy clique. So I was a bit worried about it all, however I have not really had any dealings with that. Being heavily pregnant at the beginning of the year seemed to mean that the school mums avoided me like the plague. Probably because they didn’t want to catch what I had (pregnancy). But I have met some lovely school mums, actually every school mum and dad that I have met have been amazingly kind and lovely. So I can’t comment on school mum politics.

Addison is coping very well with school. She has made some lovely friends, she is reading like a champion, she seems to be able to solve fairly complex (for a five year old) maths problems without using her fingers (e.g if there are five horses in a field, and they each have four legs, how many horse legs are there all together. Or…I have six oranges, how many oranges do Scarlett and Addison get if they both need an equal share of oranges) and she just seems pretty happy.

They say hindsight is a wonderful thing, and looking back on it all now I have no regrets. I love the school, the teacher has been wonderful, and the school mums are lovely. I don’t know if I would have changed my mind if I had known that there were seven year old’s in the class…it may have altered the way we did things, but what is done is done. She loves school and there’s no turning back now!

To those mums who have babies who are about to start kindy next year, I say this…it is an emotional time for everyone. Seeing your baby grow up so fast from February to December can make your heart feel so much pride, but ache so much at the same time. Your baby! That’s your baby! Seeing your baby become so independent and have her own ideas and opinions and thought processes and learn things so quickly is amazing. Don’t get me wrong, there have been challenges too, and it can get overwhelming at times, and there are days you sit at home or at work wondering if they are doing okay, and hoping that they won’t come home and drop the f-bomb, or wondering if they actually went to the toilet this morning and hoping that they won’t become that child who wets their pants at school (my child actually was that child, three years without an accident, and she does it at school! She didn’t care at all and it hasn’t been a sticking point, so don’t worry too much about that). To get through that very first day, make sure you have something to do. Sitting around clock watching is not the best idea…book in an appointment to have a massage or something. I was so pregnant that all I wanted to do was sit on the lounge and not move…but it made for a very long day.

At the end of the day or year, you will all get through it and while all her achievements generally bring me to tears (happy tears) it is all because I am just so damn proud of her.

Next time I’ll tell you about that time I became a dance mum…

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. Michelle M says:

    Just to let anyone know who is worried about the 7-year olds in kindy thing, in NSW public schools children must be at school by the time they turn six. The denominational/private schools may have a different rule, I am not sure how that works, and there may be an application available for exceptional circumstances. But a child legally has to be enrolled in public schools before they turn 6. So there would pretty much never be a 7 year old in kindy unless they were repeating.

    1. Sarah Moy says:

      Which is what I always thought so it was a bit of a shock when she started school. Thanks for the info Michelle!

    2. Sarah Moy says:

      Actually, I jumped the gun there Michelle. According to this https://www.det.nsw.edu.au/policies/student_admin/attendance/sch_polproc/exempt_gui.pdf (see page 6 point 3.1.1) you can apply for an exemption if your child turns six after 1/10 for government and non government schools.

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