A couple of weeks ago my eldest, Lewis, turned 18. I spent the whole day feeling a little glum which is a bit daft as for him it’s the birthday that he’d been waiting for; the milestone he’d been looking forward to reaching. But as his mum I couldn’t stop thinking about how fleeting time is and that all his ‘firsts’ happened so long ago, even though it doesn’t really feel that any time has passed at all.
The expression the days are long but the years are short doesn’t half hit the nail on the head.
I can remember how I felt when Lewis started school, my middle daughter, Holly, following along a year later. As far as first days at school go: I’ve been there and done it. As September looms, my final baby, Rose, will begin school life and this year, this first day will be the last one for my little family…
The last time I prepare my child for reception, the last time I will go shopping for tiny school uniform, and brand new shiny shoes, the last time I make the first packed lunch with the handwritten note, and the last time I will make the journey to the school gates for the very first time.
So I’m going to make the most of it because these ‘firsts’ become the memories, I know that only too well.
I also know that I won’t really recall how perfectly ironed her uniform was but I will remember how it felt to send my baby off to school with the confidence to be herself, at the start of her journey and what a privilege it will have been to watch her thrive.
Rose has already been in nursery 4 days a week for a couple of years. On her first day, the class teacher arranged for an open classroom so the parents and children could all get to know one another.
Sound lovely? Read on.
The children were all on the play equipment, Rose is at the top of the slide. Suddenly another child calls “Mummy! That girl’s done wee wees” I looked and discovered to my horror that Rose had stood at the top of the slide and had a wee which was slowly trickling down the slide.
Oh no. I’m thinking. This is not good.
The other parents are staring at the slide and I can hear one of the mums saying in a loud voice that “no one is to slide down because it has wee wee on it.” Trying to act nonchalant although I’m dying inside I quickly grab several tissues from my bag (inwardly giving myself a pat on the back for remembering to pack tissues in the first place) and make my way to the slide.
It’s one of the long ones and there’s absolutely no way I can reach to the top and wipe up the offending wee. So I – as proudly as I can muster – climb the steps to the top and tell the children to stand aside.
“Don’t worry children” I call out “I’ll clean up the wee wee”
With all the dignity I can summon I slide down slowly, simultaneously wiping up the wee as I go.
Disaster averted. The slide is free from wee and the first ever day at nursery can commence with all the parents pretending nothing ever happened. I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t one of the most embarrassing moments of my life. But honestly? I’ve told this story so many times and by the end, I’m crying/laughing because it was just so funny and it could only happen to me.
Do you know what though? Rose’s teacher was so lovely about it and fully understood that accidents in small children can and will happen.
So that first day at nursery meeting with the other parents didn’t go to plan at all, but it really doesn’t matter. I’m sure we’ve all had our fair share of embarrassing moments when we’ve wanted the ground to swallow us whole, haven’t we?
This week I’m working with M&S who are sharing the brilliant #TrustMeImATeacher campaign to help you feel at ease on that very first day at school. They’ve gathered lots of lovely anecdotes from the people in the know: the teachers that spend time with our children day in and day out. I’ve joined in with a few of my own top tips too!
Here are my top tips for a stress-free first day
- Get organised – buy school uniform at the beginning of the summer holidays. I know people say to leave it to the last minute but your children won’t grow that much in 6 weeks so when you see the uniform is in the shop, stock up on everything they need. That way you can relax over the summer knowing you have everything in the bag (literally!)
- Get children used to being in uniform – do a few dress rehearsals in the run-up to the big day. Help your children get accustomed to how it feels being in clothes that they don’t usually wear. Make sure you’ve practised doing up zips and buckles so that you can be assured they can dress and undress without getting in a pickle.
- Label everything – there are loads of different school uniform labelling systems, from iron on to sew in badges but a Sharpie hasn’t failed me yet! Don’t forget to write your child’s name on the inside of their shoes and on their lunchbox too.
- Do a practice run – if you’re within walking distance of your child’s school I’d recommend a practice run. This is a good way of checking how long it will take you to get there as you wouldn’t want to be feeling the stress of running late on the first day.
- Talk to your child positively – let them know what they can expect, help them to feel confident that although this is a new experience for them it will also be a really fun and exciting new chapter of their lives.
- Don’t do a runner – if they’re upset when you drop them off, don’t do what some people say and just run out of the door when they’re not looking thinking they will be fine in 5 minutes. Explain to them that you will be back and that you love them. Let them watch you leave instead of suddenly realising you’re not there. It’ll be hard, but fight back the tears as although you may feel like crying seeing this will make your child feel more anxious. You’ve got this mama!
- Talk to the class teacher – tell the teacher your worries and concerns, they are there to help. Let the teacher know about anything you feel might affect your child’s behaviour. If your child is prone to toilet accidents, for example, let the teacher know you’ve packed spare underwear in your child’s bag.
- Let them take a comforter – check your school’s policy on this but I’ve sent all three of my children to school on the first day with a small teddy. This is something they can bring in that is theirs and will help ground them. Rose has to put her teddy into a box as soon as she gets into school but just carrying it in from the car will help with any separation anxiety.
- Don’t be afraid to call – I’m sure the receptionist at the school is used to having several calls from anxious parents checking their child has settled ok. In my experience, they never mind a quick phone call and this has helped me get on with my day numerous times.
- Enjoy it – your children are only little once and you will never get this first day back again so try and enjoy it. The more positive you are the more your child will pick up on your mood and it will be a huge confidence booster for them.
I would absolutely love to hear stories about your child’s first day at school or if it’s your first time then let me know in the comments what’s worrying you – maybe I can help. Don’t forget to check out M&S #TrustMeImATeacher there is so much fantastic advice from the experts.
Here’s to a wonderful first day for all our children, I’m keeping my fingers crossed there’s not a slide in sight…good luck everyone!
*This is a commissioned post