8 things I've learned in the first term of school

Lesson learnt ... Never let your kids start playing before they are ready for school in the morning.
Lesson learnt ... Never let your kids start playing before they are ready for school in the morning. Photo: Getty

If you’re the parent of a kid who just started school this year, your life has probably changed in many ways over the past couple of months.

I know it’s been a big learning curve for me. For starters, I thought having a child at school would open up my days and make life a little easier – but I was wrong; it actually requires a whole new level of planning and organisation. Another part of me thought I’d miss my “big kid” and, while I do, it isn’t with the intensity I expected, probably because the days fly by so fast it feels like pick-up is only an hour after drop-off.

School life is here for many more terms to come, so I’m taking this chance to be a good student myself and learn a few lessons from our first try at it. This first term has been, well, interesting, and I’ve learned a lot:

Your organisational skills will be tested. They need to jump up a level to meet the challenge of notices and things to remember. Library day on Wednesday, sports day on Thursday – these are the things that sound so simple, but will easily slip your mind. And that’s before we even mention all the washing involved in having a clean uniform ready every day and making sure there are always appropriate lunch foods in the house. I never knew how much planning and thought had to go into school life, but that realisation has now hit me on the head like a naughty school kid.

Your purse will be like a leaking tap. Just when you think everything is paid for, your child loses their hat, a fundraising notice comes home, another levy has to be paid … the list is endless, as is the stream of money flying from your hands. I feel like I’m forever trying to scrape together the right change for the next thing to be paid.

Letting your child play before getting ready for school is a rookie mistake. The only way to get them out the door on time is to have them ready first, and then use any leftover time (if that’s even possible) for playing. “Sure, you can play now, but you need to get ready in twenty minutes” is a sentence for the most naive of parents. It won’t happen; you need the bribery – I mean, incentive – of potential playing time to ensure they get ready quickly. (And I have a feeling we’ll be working on the “quickly” part of that sentence for many years to come.)

The days fly by. Funnily enough, I imagined long days trying to find ways to entertain a toddler who misses her big sister. In reality, the days whiz by and I often feel like I’ve barely had time to even look at my little one, let alone leisurely play with her for hours on end.

Chatting at the school gate is important. I spend what’s probably considered far too much time chatting to other mums at the school gate. But while it’s fun to have a chat and a laugh, there’s another reason I’m happy to do it: I’m building relationships with the families of my daughter’s friends. That makes it easier to know who she’s playing with and feel comfortable when she’s invited over for a weekend play. Oh, and it’s also nice to know that they’ve been going through learning all the same lessons as me, too.

Exhaustion has hit a new level. Even if you have a child who has been super active every day of their lives, it’s likely they will have experienced a whole new level of exhaustion in this first term. Five days a week of solid learning, building new friendships and getting used to unfamiliar surroundings and routines has probably given them an over-stimulation that’s resulted in meltdowns at times. And let’s face it, that’s exhausting for all of us. I know I’m ready for these school holidays and (fingers crossed) a sleep-in or two.

Outsource as much as you can to your child. They really need to know how to get themselves ready for school, if the next thirteen years are going to become anything resembling orderly. Some do this with routine charts, others have a more relaxed approach: whichever suits your child and your parenting style is great. My style of “Quick! Whack some sun cream on yourself now! We were meant to leave five minutes ago!” isn’t the ideal way, so don’t follow my lead. Which brings me to…

We have time to improve our school parent style. The good news is, it’s only the first term of many, and we have time to perfect our style. Here’s to getting better and better at it as the terms go on. Or at least learning to live with chaotic mornings.

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