Your little uniform is washed, ironed and labelled – (that’s three hours of my life I’ll never get back). Your name is already assigned to a peg and you’ve met your new teacher. Your new Clarks shoes are as shiny as they’ll ever be, and your pink bag is packed.
You are SO excited and so ready to start your “big” school adventure. But I must confess, Mummy just isn’t quite ready for this day.
When I dropped your older brother off at school for the first time two years ago I was emotional because my first-born was off to “big” school – but I was OK, because I pushed you home in the pram and although we missed him, I still had a purpose – looking after you.
But when I dropped you off at school this morning, I had no one to take home with me. I left empty handed. My world is just down the road, but I’m not included. You see, your first day makes me feel redundant as a mummy.
Before this day you were all mine, and now I have to share you. You’re going to change and grow without my input. I know the teachers can teach you things I can’t, and that’s why I’m giving up my time with you, but that isn’t easy.
I’ve got home and it’s so quiet. I have to adjust to life where there’s no mid-morning snack to prepare, no more toddler coffee mornings or baby swim classes. What has been my life for the past seven years is no more. It’s not just your life that is changing, mine is too.
Whilst I’m sure many parents up and down the country will be rejoicing as the school gates re-opened after six weeks of play time, I can’t help but feel like you starting school means we lose something – and that something is our time together. I’m sad about this change – although admittedly not sad enough to home school you!
You’ve not long turned four and yet you’re entering this whole new world where big kids lurk, and that worries me. Before now I’ve caught you if you’ve fallen. I’ve wiped away your tears, and only my kisses make that knee better. I can’t expect a teacher to protect you in the same way I do.
I hope you make friends quickly, I know you will. I hope you have someone to sit with at lunchtime. I hope other boys and girls in your class are kind to you, but most of all I hope you are kind to them. I hope you are happy and that you feel safe, and I don’t want you to worry about a thing. I hope you cope without your afternoon nap.
Leaving you for the day is nothing new because you’ve been to pre-school. But “big” school is different. For a start, they wipe your bum for you in pre-school. (Teachers aren’t paid enough to do that.) You will need to do this for yourself – and if your older brother’s skiddies in reception class weren’t proof some four-year-olds aren’t ready for this life change, I don’t know what is!
You didn’t go to pre-school five days a week, quite simply because I didn’t want you to. I worked part-time so I could spend as much time as possible with you. That all changes at “big” school. You have to go every day – it’s the law and I’ll get fined if you don’t. You won’t get help to eat your lunch, so, just like you did on your taster day, you’ll probably eat your peaches before your fish pie – because I’m not there to help you.
I wonder if you will follow the rules. Apparently you were a “delight” at pre-school, despite being a devil for me at times – I still don’t understand what that’s all about – but please be the same at school, even if it means I don’t get the best version of you at home.
Being a single mum, I do feel like your behaviour is a direct representation of how I’ve brought you up. Please note, if you act like a little monster, that really reflects badly on Mummy.
Please don’t be the nightmare you were on the day we had the home visit where you stood on the coffee table whilst I tried to pretend to the teacher I had parenting covered. On the other hand, if you’re the lovely, kind, bright and polite little girl I’ve done my very best nurture, then that credit’s got my name all over it.
It’s not that I don’t like new chapters – I do. But I’m in mourning here. The pre-school years, tough as they have been at times are irreplaceable and now gone forever. For me that’s sad and life-changing. It seems although some days were long, the years are short. It’s like using your pram for the last time. I’m no longer a pre-school mum, I’m going to be a school mum of two and I’m not sure I’m ready for this level of responsibility!
In all honesty I feel like I’ve winged the last two years and only just kept up with the demands of being a school mum of one. I don’t know if I’ll fare well as a school-mum of two. Two sets of parents to fit in with, on two different playgrounds, two teachers to keep up with, two sets of homework. Two uniforms to iron, two PE kits to remember to pack, two bags to check for paperwork… Seriously, who knew children required so much life admin?
I’m worried I’ll forget something like the quid for the dress-up day, or worse, that you will be the only child in school uniform on the day I forget dress-up day all-together. Will I remember to send in the plastic bottles, newspapers and other random requests we get from teachers, on time for two children? I’m worried I’ll get it wrong, or that I’ll miss or forget something important. I don’t ever want to let you down.
I’ve tried to be smart this time round though. I’ve got you double the uniform, so hopefully I won’t find myself frantically baby-wiping the bean juice off yesterday’s cardigan in the same way I did your brother’s jumper when I opened his wardrobe one day to realise there were no clean ones left. (OK, that has happened more than once.)
But I can’t promise the efficiency of tomorrow with your pristine uniform and shiny shoes will last forever. We may not even make it to Friday. Being a school-mum is hard work – but I will try my best for you both, even when I’m in a rush to drop you off and get to work on time.
One thing is for sure, come 3.30pm I’ll be there for you. I promise I’ll be there with a smile on my face – ready to hear all about your day. I’ve taken a days annual leave to make sure I’m there! Although, if you’re anything like your brother all you will tell me is you can’t remember anything, nothing, nada, nought, not. a. thing about your entire day. Really?
So, this is it baby girl. September 5th 2017 is the day you start school. I wonder if your pre-school years with me have set you up properly. I hope I played enough games with you, did enough jigsaws and read as often as I should. I hope I’ve done you proud so far.
I’ll be thinking about you all day. I’ll be wondering if you’re thinking about me and hoping that you’re so busy having fun that you aren’t. I’ll be wondering if you need a cuddle or a reassuring smile from me. I will be missing you.
I know you can’t possibly understand how hard it was for me to wave you off into that classroom, but I didn’t let it show, that’s not fair on you. Your first day is about you, not me, it’s the start of a new life for you and I’ll be there to celebrate that and support you – even if I do have a little meltdown in secret. My brave face has had many an outing over the years and I’m pretty sure I’ve perfected it. You’ll never know what a big deal today is for Mummy.
I don’t want to be that parent who asks “where did the years go?” But seriously, where did they go? It’s come round far too quickly for my liking, but I’m so proud of the bright and lovely girl you have already become. Thank you for the most amazing pre-school years. I’ve talked about me a lot because I’m not worried about you too much. I know you will thrive.
Here’s to the next chapter. I love you more than life itself and now it’s your turn.
Let’s do this, together. Be good, be kind and be you (not the stroppy version!)
Love you always,
PS) Dear teacher, I’m sorry my daughter is starting school with a tattoo on her arm. When I agreed to it in Blackpool last week I didn’t think ahead to this important day and the fact it will be on all “first day” photos. #PleaseDontJudgeHer #mummyFailOnDayOne