7 Things Primary School Mums Should Know
My eldest daughter, Grace finished primary school for the last time a few weeks ago. Now all of the focus is on preparation for secondary school. Recently I took a few moments to reflect on what I have learned as the mum of a primary school child. So I made a list, a point for each year that my daughter was in primary school:
1. Not all Reception teachers like children
I was really surprised to find this out as I assumed that you kind of had to like kids to be teaching them. It’s not like she was even a tired, cynical teacher who was just waiting to escape from school life and go on a macrame retreat in Swindon for three months. Grace’s teacher was only two years into teaching. Grace was never ever a troublemaker either, so I’m not sure where the attitude towards her came from.
She didn’t take an instant dislike to my daughter, but let’s just say her demeanor could be frosty at parent’s evenings culminating in her remarking that ‘Grace certainly knows how to work a room.’ a bit of a bizarre comment to make about a quiet, polite five year old. I’m still flummoxed by that one, but it did conjure up images of my little girl networking and schmoozing her way around a class of five year olds and treating the Early Years like some long drawn out cocktail party.
2. Schools never ever have enough money
The fact is being the parent of a primary school child is a bit like working in a large open plan office, there is always someone collecting money for something and it is never for anything as fun as birthdays or weddings. My daughter’s school was no exception. I almost got to the point of treating the letters from school with the same contempt that I used to do with credit card bills (yep, leave them in a corner unopened and hope they would go away). The problem was that if you didn’t reply to the begging letter then you would get be bombarded by texts which leads me onto my next point.
3. All school administration staff are trained at the ‘Had an accident/Life Insurance/PPI Claim School of Texting.’
They stick by the golden rule of cold calling (or in this case cold texting) which is ‘Never send one text about something when you can send thirty’.The amount of times I have almost shouted at my phone (much to the bemusement of the three year old), ‘Yes I know that the bake sale is on Friday, I’m not a complete idiot.’ That is what thirty texts about exactly the same thing can drive a relatively sane mother of two to shout on a Thursday morning.
Of course there will always be that exception where they either don’t text about something really really important or if they do text it is about 3 hours before something is required. I used to look forward with positive glee to the receipt of the text saying ‘Parents can you bake a cake for the Christmas Fair which starts in precisely 2 hours and 58 mins? Thanks The School’
4. School information is invariably wrong.
You might think that education underfunding in this country is due to the current government or overspending in other areas or the global recession. Wrong! It is down to the multiple texts that are sent out (in addition to the numerous texts previously mentioned) and the additional paper required for reprints of the newsletters or addendums to the very important, must read letters sent out by school. Each of the texts and reprints start with those chilling words ‘Unfortunately there was a misprint in our last communication’ or ‘Contrary to our last text’ and then is when you begin to groan internally.
I soon decided that rather than take note of the first communication it was better to wait for the correction to be received. As the years went by I did consider disposing of any first drafts received from school as all that happened was that they messed up my calendar. These revisions and corrections were the cause of great confusion amongst all the parents and it was a blessing that we had our own Facebook group so we could confirm any arrangements communicated by the school. Inevitably this led to further confusion though, depending on which version or draft of a letter or text a helpful parent might be referring to.
5. School dinners are not what they used to be
As a child of the 70s I have fond memories of school dinners at primary school. Some of this may be in part due to the fact that growing up in the 70s there was less of a tendency to snack between meals (apart from the obligatory Milky Bar which apparently used to be a snack you could eat between meals without ruining your appetite) which meant that after a full morning of hard work and play you were positively ravenous so would eat anything. In addition to this our palates were less ‘refined’ so we never questioned pink custard or blancmange that had a faint waft of vomit. My goodness, we were positively transfixed when they started making fish cake type products in the shape of fish!
Children these days expect so much, although I believe that as a result of the massive budget deficit caused by point 4 there has been a drastic reduction in spending on school food. Grace managed to get by for nearly 2 years on school dinners before she shared the fact that they were somewhat inedible and was swiftly moved to packed lunches. Eventually she went back to having a school meal on a Friday as this was affectionately called Chippy day, I don’t think you can go far wrong cooking chips, but I might be mistaken.
6. Playground politics is alive and well
When people mentioned playground politics to me I thought they meant the kids! They meant the mums! Penetrating the mum groups is actually more difficult than passing selection for the Marines. There were various groups at my daughter’s school and I never really fit into any of them as I was a bit of an anomaly. When Grace started primary school I went back to work full-time (having worked compressed hours whilst she was in nursery). I had a very flexible boss who allowed me to do the school drop off four days a week and the pick up on a Friday. So I was never part of the Stay at Home Mums club, although I would gaze after them enviously as I was jogging back down the path to get in my car to go to work and they were jogging off to Zumba or Costa.
I took voluntary redundancy when Grace was in Year 5 and I was hopeful of joining the SAHM group, but I’d left it far too late, Zumba had somewhat gone out of vogue, and most of them had traded in their trainers for heels and done what I had just given up and returned to the world of work! I was never part of the Working Mums club either as most of them were already on their daily commute or had done an hour’s work by the time I was doing the school drop off. I spent most of my time like an MI5 spook hovering around the periphery of the playground with people wondering whether I even had a child at the school.
As time went on the groups changed in dynamic and I noticed that people tended to huddle depending on which extra-curricular activity their child was participating in. There were soccer mums, dance mums, Brownie and Cub mums, you get the picture. I never did manage to get my own mum group going, it seems there wasn’t much call for ‘My daughter tends to engage in solitary activities like Minecraft and reading, but she’s saving me a fortune in afternoon activities’ club. Their loss I reckon! I was relieved when in Year 5 Grace decided that she wanted to walk down the path by herself and after that there was only the odd occasion that I had to brave the loneliness of the school playground.
7. There is such a thing as school run rage
There is a saying that says ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’ I prefer to think that ‘Hell hath no fury like a parent who is running late on the school run’ is much more appropriate. Over the past seven years I have realised that the school run is perhaps the one aspect of driving that people are prepared to completely change the rules of the road for. Driving on the wrong side of the road, standard. Parking wherever you can stop the car, acceptable and screeching round corners like you are being pursued by a car load of zombies from The Walking Dead, yep all good as long as you are on the school run!
Have you ever played Parking Wars? A fun game for all of the family! The main aim of the game is to see how close to school you can park without having a wheel over the zig zag lines and without parking in the staff car park. There was a real skill to this one and the ones who were the absolute champions of this were the grandparents. They have a trick up their sleeve that very few of us can call upon. It is called retirement.
In their keenness to win at parking wars I swear the grey childcaring element of society parked up at their designated spot just after their working sons and daughters had dropped off the children to start school at 9am. That is can be the only explanation of how they manage to get the same spot to pick up at 3.15 over a period of seven years! Since I’ve been working from home I have been tempted to drive by casually at around 11 am and catch them all in the act snoozing in their cars or maybe having set up an impromptu game of bowls on the school playing field.
Every so often I have even wondered if the grandparents have been playing a sneaky game of ‘reserving’ the best spot in the style of the Brits abroad? Do they stealthily park up their cars in their designated spot at 10am and then go off and do all their chores, errands and visits before returning to sit in their car at 3pm as if they had been there all along? A bit like a giant game of towels on sunbeds that you see on the continent? Hey grannies I’m on to your game!
Thankfully I will not have to face any of this parking nonsense or school run rage anymore. I ‘d like to say I came away unscathed, but this would be a lie. Two years ago en route to school, I was in a minor car accident. Luckily no-one was injured (much to the chagrin of the accident claim people who persisted in calling me to make a claim as detailed in Stop Cold Calls to Your Mobile) but unfortunately my car was a complete write-off and the culprit of this little smash? Yep you’re absolutely right another parent on the school run, but not only that, a parent from the same school as my daughter. I told you the school run is dangerous!
So seven years ago I sent off a blonde haired, blue eyed four year old for her first days at primary school, those years have whizzed by and now I’m faced with an 11 year old mid blonde tween who is totally excited about her new adventures in high school. I’ve got a year off from primary school before Siena starts and I am already in training, it’s packed lunches all the way, ignore every communication from the school and I’ll be putting cones on my parking spot from about May 2017 onwards just to make sure I have somewhere to sit and wait from 10am each day. Watch out grannies!
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