Sep 042008

Published on in the WOW! supplement of the Evening Echo on 03 September 2008

IMG_1552 Yipee! School starts on Monday, and for the first time ever all three of the girls are going! The little one is five… and it will be her first day of “big school”. She’s all excited about it… but, truth be told, not half as excited as her Mum and Dad!

There was a time not so long ago when we were sure sending our “baby” off to school would be a heart-wrenching experience; if ever there was a time for a tear in the eye and a lump in the throat this would be it. But a long, dreary summer with three kids on top of each other in the house, constant bickering and all out sibling warfare, to be brutally honest we’ll be glad to see the school term start.

Once upon a time the first day of school used to evoke something akin to dread in the hearts of children and parents alike… but not any more. If they’re anything like ours, five year olds all over the country are positively rejoicing at the thought of their first day at “big school”. I was reading this week that the National Parents Council used to run courses for parents whose children were going to school for the first time, but they stopped them because children and schools are so much better prepared these days. There simply wasn’t the demand.

There are open days, when children and parents get to meet teachers, see classrooms and familiarise themselves with school before term starts, and improved communication between teachers, parents and children means it’s all become less of an ordeal and more of an adventure for the children.

But what about parents? If anything, the first day at school is more traumatic for them than for children today. Sending your youngest off into the big wide world without you for the first time – even if it is only the local national school – is sure to tug at the heart strings. But trust me, the prospect of a few hours of genuine peace and quiet every day is a real mitigating factor.

The twins can’t decide whether they’re looking forward to the return to school or not… but they’re more than ready for it. They’ve been wired for the last couple of weeks, which is pretty normal for the end of the holidays. Except that this year it’s been much worse… largely, I suspect, because we haven’t really had a summer. School will at least keep them occupied, and re-establish a bit of routine and order.

We’ve been talking to the little one about her transition to full time education all summer; doing our best the lay the groundwork for the coming weeks. She thinks it’s a great idea, but I’m not convinced she realises school is an all day, five days a week, week in, week out thing. Yes it will be difficult, yes there will be tears, and no doubt there will be three tired, cranky girls to contend with on their return.

But there’ll also be a mum and dad who’ve had a few child-free hours: brief respite from the constant questions, incessant demands and the childish exuberance and boundless energy that, while delightful, can also prove oh so exhausting. We’ll be able to focus on work uninterrupted, go for walks together when we feel like it… even, perhaps, go out for lunch every now and again.

When you think about it, school really is a wonderful thing!