A Slightly Cynical and at times A Bit Rubbish Mother’s Guide.
This back-to-school season is the first one since 1995 that I won’t be doing it.(Or 1993 if you count pre-school)
Child #3 is off to college, and I am under no illusion that busses won’t be missed, folders forgotten etc –
It’s not my first rodeo but in theory, that’s my 26 years, twice-a-day stint done and dusted.
I left at 8am and would get back at 9am, and then 2:50pm, back at about 3:50pm: about 2 hours a day, if there was no extra traffic.
x 5 days
x 40 term weeks a year
x 26 years.2 x 5 x 40 x 26 = 10400 hours.
That’s 433.33 days.
(excluding parent evenings, forgotten PE kits,/book bags/art, school plays, Christmas performances, sporting fixtures, exam timetables, sports days, school fetes, etc)
That’s both terrifying and bloody marvellous.
It genuinely has been a blast.
I won’t lie, exhausting at times, and always doing work that fitted round that wildly weirdly inconvenient timing arrangement that we have for school in this country…
…that particularly penalises women in the workplace.
But we have had the most GLORIOUS conversations, I always have been the first to hear all news, the funny things, the tricky things, the unfair things and the achievements.
Like the GCSE results.
The time the teacher coughed and farted loudly at the front of assembly and it was the best day of everyone’s life.
When one of them had barely mentioned that they were in the panto, then turned out to be the best most hilarious Ugly Sister/narrator imaginable, with massive balloon boobs and a long green wig.
And the Panto when another of them was the most glorious Cinderella!
Getting involved in the PTA (umm.. I’m saying nothing) and the tombola and randomly face painting for 4 hours at the fete.
Friends I’ve had for 26 years too – and plenty more collected along the way.
I had a little trawl of the internet to find some back-to-school tips for you, but I won’t like – it was all patronising cr^p, so I thought I’d give you mine.
Reasonably qualified, I reckon.
So – My 10 Tips
1. Do not get involved in friendship stuff.
(bullying’s different – talk to the school immediately, but I am talking about fallings out etc).
Newsflash: If they ‘break friends’ on Friday and Emily is the worst person in the world – chances are on Monday, they’ll be swapping glo-pens.
A blanket and a cuddle are what is required from you – not life coaching, in this instance.
2. Let them fail.
Do not do their homework.
Do not nag them to do their homework.
I variably micro-managed, kind of helped, and then was hands-off.
Their GCSE results were pretty much the same.
Luckily – really good.
As were the A-Levels and degrees of the elder 2.
I used this line a lot: “Luckily for me, I have left school now, so if you haven’t done your homework…. you’ll get into trouble – not me.”
They’ll get their act together.
Once they realise the buck stops with them, they develop internal motivation, rather than relying on you as a backstop.
You have to hold your nerve.
And no one wants to keep getting into trouble at school.
3. That said… show them how to organise themselves.
We teased the youngest about the Mum’s GCSE “Action Station” that would happen in year 11.
Her brother and sister wouldn’t tell her what it actually entailed and it was driving her mental.
And I’m not going to tell you either – but know that the idea that calendars, times, dates, countdowns, textbooks, highlighters and are all together, is worth thinking about for older children.
All the things they need to hand without a treasure hunt around the house – time blocked out to do homework etc – is time well spent.
Also revision walks.
Beach, forest, rock climbing are my recomendation, rather than sitting and getting a headache in front of a screen.
4. Get it F*cking ready the night before.
Bag, water bottle, sunscreen, plimsolls, rugby kit etc .hat,
Paint a bit of wall with blackboard paint and write timetables on it in chalk.
By where the bags live.
Then you can have breakfast like normal humans and even dance to the Venga Boys as you leave the house like us.
5. Labelling with biro or Sharpie is fine.
Teachers don’t care and it comes off less easily than the expensive poncy ones from John Lewis.They DO care if things aren’t labelled – one of the many banes of their existences.
6. For the love of balls – please teach your little children to their own f^cking shoes and buttons.
OR send them in shoes and jumpers they can actually put on.
Either is fine.
But genuinely – teachers do not have time, and trying to get 30 cardigans/shoes/shirts on after PE is like wrestling octopuses (Octopi?) into string bags.
Also strings on gloves through coats.
7. They are going to be tired and grumpy.
Make them go to bed.
If you are paying for the internet/phone bill – you get to choose when access is available.
If they take their phone upstairs they won’t sleep.
Just a fact.
8. It’s our job to teach them to be kind.
Model that sh^t.
If they see the kid on its own – go and talk to them.
If they see other people being unkind – go and be the good guy – stand up for what’s right.
It’s really really important. Send them in knowing that: we are all different sizes, shapes, look different ways, are good at different things, like different things.
When they are bigger – people of all genders, are attracted to people of all genders…. or not. And all of it is perfect and fine.
(Actually today’s teenagers are so brilliant at this and much better than any of us)
Sanitary towels are just a great idea in the bag at secondary school – even if they aren’t needed yet.
They can help someone else out.
I heard a lovely story of a boy that took them in because he once saw a girl who climbed a rope and hadn’t realised that she needed one until she was up there.H
e always kept some in his bag after that.
His parents must be amazing people.
School is a microcosm of society – it’s where we learn who we are going to be.
Encourage them to go boldly and do great things.
9. Always be in their corner.
They will f^ck up.
Other children will.
Other parents will.
Whatever happens, make sure they are 100% certain that you have their back.
I don’t care how wrong it is but I have told all my children I would bury a body for them, as long as they told me what was going on.
We can work sh^t out together and make a plan.
Obviously, I’d rather it didn’t come to that, which they also know.
One of them is an amazing nurse, so it seems none of that rubbed off too badly, and she’s kept lots of people alive, so I am at peace with my former actions.
10. Enjoy it.
Even if you find yourself making an African drum at 1am.
Or a bee costume at 6:45am.
Or get a call from school to ask why you haven’t collected your French exchange student ‘Jordan’ when that was literally the first you’d heard of it, and there literally was not a bedroom.
Or a bed.(true stories) because you haven’t been given the letter and the email actually had no attachment
(remind me to tell you the story of when the school sent porn as an attachment once by mistake, also true story).
Even 26 years has gone in a flash, and you wouldn’t space your children out as insanely as me.
Genuinely the best years of my life and I wouldn’t have swapped a moment of it.
Even though it made me grey, wrinkly, and poverty-stricken most of the time.