So what did I learn from my first year of having a child in school?
Well, first lesson was don't leave it until the week before school starts to buy uniform. Two frantic trips to two separate Marks and Spencer and an emergency online order meant we did get all the uniform in time but it was a close run thing!
The rest of my lessons can be summed up as the four Ps...
I hate making packed lunches. Come teatime I just want to clear up and relax. I know it doesn't take long but I just find it a total chore. I also found that when I'm doing the shopping I always seem to forget one key element so end up rushing to the shops on a Sunday for juice or fruit or something. We've also gone through more tupperware than I thought was possible and have amassed a huge collection of mis-matched lids and boxes. So top tips, get lots of small, good quality, same sized tupperware boxes. I also found that I was packing too much food and lots was coming home un-eaten, other parents had the same experience saying the kids didn't have enough time to eat a big lunch, so try making a smaller lunch and then increasing it if they say they are still hungry.
Or just opt for school dinners.
Anyone who's read a party thread on mumsnet will know this is a can of worms! For lots of parents its the first time they will have organised a party that goes beyond a family only one and there is much stressing over who to invite, where to have it, what to do at it and how much to spend.
We opted for a full class party. It's hard to admit but when my child didn't get invited to parties that I knew others were invited to it made me sad - silly, but there you go. So for this first year I decided whole class invite was the way to go. I know for lots of parents that's not an option due to space or budget issues, but it just felt right for us. We went for a hired venue and hired entertainer, plus some party games. It worked out well, but was exhausting and expensive!
Another P is 'presents'. Wow, we could not believe the presents he got. Some of them are still hidden away in cupboards to bring out at the right moment. And then the thorny issue of what to spend on a present for another child. A quick poll says £10-£15, but I could tell some of the ones we got were way more! Best advice here? If you see a bargain buy it! Or ask the parents what they would like you to get, or more importantly - not get!
Oh my. Phonics. If you're a parent of a certain age this will be totally new to you. No more learning by rote, it all seems to be a combination of guesswork, sounds and signs. I really didn't get phonics until it was too late. We were getting stuff sent home but it was never clear if it was proper homework or an optional activity (I realised too late it was proper homework). So read up on it, and get stuck in from the very start and soon you will be t-t-t-t-op of the c-c-c-c-lass!!
Other parents are your friends. Remember this. Yes they might look at what you're wearing. Yes, they might have more or less money than you. Yes, they might want to talk to the teacher every day. And yes, they might have vastly different ideas on how to bring up children. But they're also just doing their best, whether they're rushing out of the gates, dressed to the nines to work, or standing chatting for hours in the morning. Be nice. Smile at everyone. Go on at least one of the nights out for 'mummies'. You might make some new friends, you might not. Just don't think you're making enemies!