There was a point in the first term of my daughter’s first year of school that I considered bundling her up and running away to the circus.
I wanted no further part in a system that had taken my generally happy-go-lucky little preschooler and turned her into a raging Preppie.
It was about midway through that eye-opening first term, when a teacher approached me in the school ground to tell me that my daughter was a delightful child. Where previously I would have accepted the compliment with the knowing smile of a self-satisfied parent, I actually thought the teacher was joking and was preparing for her to suggest I go speak to the principal about some kind of behaviour management plan.
I just could not equate her kind words with the extremely unpleasant child I picked up at the end of the school day. Indeed, she was speaking in glowing terms about the same child who, the week before, had lain down on the footpath on the way home from school and refused to move for 30 minutes, and the girl who had stood outside our house the night before screaming that she did not want to go inside so loudly that our neighbours had come out to see what was going on.
After carefully broaching the tantrum topic with friends and other parents in the school grounds, it seemed that we were far from alone. And, in some cases, getting off fairly lightly.
My theory is that the school gets the best of them for at least those first few months and we, as parents, get what is left at the end of the day. And, in the case of four, five and six-year-olds, there can be not much left that is worth having. Even as adults, it is an exhausting and overwhelming process learning to fit in to a new system, especially one that involves conformity rather than the relative freedom of home. My daughter’s little mind was in overdrive as she tried to remember all the new things she was learning, from having to sit with her legs crossed to the letters of the alphabet. All we as parents can do is feed, bathe, clothe and love the monsters, and wait for the children we know and love to come back to us.
Which mine eventually did. And now that I have reached the end of my first year as the mother of a school child, I can see that my daughter has blossomed and grown. Not only can she read and write and add up, she has made her own network of friends and support groups, and has a new and separate life from which she shares stories and events with me on the walk home from school.
To other parents embarking on the school journey, I want to warn you that you too may wonder what an earth you have signed up for and remind you that “this too shall pass”.
Did you have a similar experience with your child during their first year of school? Leave your comment below.