Monday, 21 September 2009

Education, Education, Education

The truly incredible thing about being a parent is that you're constantly learning and experiencing new things with your child. Just when you think you've got it sussed, something surprises you.

This morning we experienced one of us clinging for dear life to the school gate shouting "YOU CAN'T MAKE ME GO!" (it was him, in case you were wondering) and we learned just how embarrassing a 4-year-old child can actually be when he really puts his mind to it. The surprise element was that this child, who up to now has taken life in his stride without a moment's self-doubt, has worried himself into a tantrum over his first full day at school.

The last two weeks have been half-days, but from today my son's school career starts in earnest. He's wound himself up about there being 'millions' of people there because it's the first time there will be a full class ("You do know that Jimmy Krankie* will be going today, don't you Mummy? He's trouble. He's a troublemaker. Honestly. He was trouble at playschool. So I shouldn't have to go if he's going, should I?") and he's very concerned that I might do something exciting in his absence ("You won't go and buy any bread without me, will
you?") But I still wasn't prepared to have to physically propel him towards the school gates as he furiously shouted "Get OFF me! I'm not your child!" at the top of his voice, and then prise his determined little fingers off the gate post while the other parents (whose children were, of course, standing quietly holding hands with their guardians as if butter wouldn't melt) gave me sympathetic "we've all been there" smiles, ignored us both completely, or failed to hide an irritating "thank God it's not mine" expression of smugness.

Driving home with a heavy heart, I cried from the guilt of leaving my baby unhappy, after he'd clung to me and begged me not to go, and from tiredness after being awake most of the night worrying because I knew he was.

At the same time, I suspect he was playing happily with his fellow prisoners of education in his bright, friendly classroom and sparing not a moment's thought for home.

Such is the lot of a mother.

* Names have been changed to protect the troublemakers. Or at least their mothers.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

A New Phase of Evil

The toddler I used to write about started school last week. It's a truism that time flies at a speed that almost blurs your vision when you have a young child, and his pre-school years have been no exception. Suddenly my baby is an eloquent, ferociously bright schoolboy, and as his mother for me the first few days of starting school were a bittersweet blend of fierce pride and excitement mingled with nostalgia and a feeling of loss for what is now past.

For him, there was just excitement: new uniform, new classroom, new friends, new adventures. He started his school career in typically independent style, and on the second day I found him on the pavement waiting for me when I arrived to pick him up. He'd walked out unnoticed as soon as they'd opened the doors to allow parents in to collect their children, deciding he'd save me the walk to the classroom from the school gate. One visit to his class teacher and a phone call to the head later, eliciting much horror and mortification from all concerned, and a flea would have trouble exiting the school without permission. That's just my way of making a point; any sign of actual fleas will prompt another call to Mr Headmaster.

The first week was just morning attendance, and after school on the third day I treated my boy to a session at a local playbarn. There he met one of his new school friends. They played happily together until my son's lunch arrived when he grumpily left his playmate whooping down slides and clambering up foam bricks to eat it.
"Have I eaten enough?" he asked, approximately every 4 seconds. I told him he had to eat his lunch and then he could return to his friend.
Presently, the friend mooched by to assess the situation. He looked at my son's plate.
"I had that too," he observed.
"Did you have to eat it all?" asked my son, crossly.
"No. I left some of it because I was full."
My son glared at me, then turned to his companion.
"SHE says I've got to eat all mine," he grumbled, then added with venom, "She's evil".
His new friend gasped. "IS she?" he asked, breathlessly. He stared at me in fascination, as if trying to decide whether having an evil mother was interesting enough to override the obvious downsides.
My son continued to grumble. His friend, still keeping a beady eye on me in case I suddenly burst into flame and poked him with a trident, remarked that he'd enjoyed a dessert of delicious chocolate cake.
"Even though you didn't eat your lunch?" I asked, becoming my own mother. "I thought you were full."
"Well I was full of my LUNCH. But I left room for the chocolate cake," he replied with a 4-year-old's sturdy logic.
"Can I have some chocolate cake?" asked my son, predictably.
"If you eat 3 more mouthfuls of your lunch," I replied, almost automatically.
His school friend gazed at me with a look of slight disappointment in his eyes.
"Oh," he said to my son, dejectedly. "She's not that evil after all."