Starting school is something I’ve thought plenty about over the past five and a half years. When Scarlett was younger, I wondered if she would be able to start school ‘early’ at four and a half since she was an August baby.
After her first year of preschool, I quickly realised that she was nowhere near ready for school, and didn’t even ask the question.
During her second year of preschool, she flourished. Under the guidance of a firm but caring teacher, she learnt that not everything could be done her way, and also learnt how to be confident and assertive in groups, overcoming her shyness a little.
Once she ‘graduated’ from preschool, I had no qualms about her readiness for school. That was until the week before she was due to start…
I got messages and emails from friends wishing me luck. Every person I saw asked me how I was feeling about it. It made me focus on it much more that I would have otherwise, and it made me anxious and confused.
Unlike some mothers, I never have those moments of longing or regret that the baby days are over. I don’t think back to my children being babies and wish I could go back. I am always excited and relieved to pass new milestones and don’t want to ponder the past too much.
All this talk of how I would cope with my first child going to school made me wonder if I would be emotional. Would I be scared and not want to let her go? I did feel nervous on the day we were due to go. Had I remembered to label everything correctly? Had I ensured she had everything she needed? It was really more about if I was going to pass my first day as a school mum.
After we finally arrived for her first day of big school, I walked with her to the classroom, and before I had a chance to think, she had gone in and sat down with the class. I had to call her back so I could say goodbye and give her a kiss. I did not get teary or cry. I did not feel sad or worried for her – I was just relieved and proud.
She is a smart little girl who is confident in herself. She makes up her mind about (most) things for herself and is determined enough to see things through. While she has not gone into kindergarten with many close friends, I know she will make some when it suits her.
Now there is only the matter of my own insecurities… I have many mixed feelings about the incongruence of my desire to further myself in my career, and my want to be a ‘good’ mother and participate in my children’s school life.
Talking to other parents at school, I have discovered that (mostly) mums are expected to participate in school activities such as sporting events, helping with group work in class, canteen duty and more. As someone who works four days a week, I am not sure how much of this I will be able to commit to, yet I don’t want my child to feel that her parents are not as involved as others’ parents.
I guess it is something many parents have no choice in, and I am lucky that, for the moment, I have some flexibility to work ‘part time’. I am already starting to worry about two years down the track when my youngest starts school, when my right to work part time will no longer be a given, but a privilege. In the mean time, I guess I will have to learn to navigate each school term, and see where I can fit everything in…