While I am in general loving parenting in the primary years, it does have its moments. Here’s the low down on what to expect in your child’s primary school years.
A is for After School Activities
While you previously had all day to take your children to activities, you now have to fit them in between 3.30 when they leave school and 8pm, by which time need to be in bed in order to maintain your sanity. Plus you need to feed them. Welcome to your new job as chauffeur to tired, hangry children.
B is for Birthday Parties
Been enjoying lovely weekends of family time at home? You can say goodbye to that from around the Christmas of Reception year. From then on, your weekends will be overtaken by the endless round of parties your child will be invited to, which you feel you mustn’t let them miss in case it makes them the class outcast.
C is for Class Teacher
Whether your child’s class teacher is Mary Poppins or Mrs Trunchbull, it’s likely that your child will now bow to their greater wisdom on everything. If their teacher says back is white, they will believe them. Get used to no longer being considered the font of all knowledge by your child.
D is for Dates, Play Dates
Dates, where children play. Unfortunately there is no child equivalent of match.com so you’ll need to set them up yourself. Stalk the parent on Facebook before you commit. Find a friend for your child who’s parents you like and you’ll make your primary years parenting experience much more pleasant.
E is for Exams
It starts with spelling tests in year one and culminates in the year 6 SATS. The primary years are where your child is introduced to exams that will measure them for the rest of their lives.
F is for Fundraising
Unfortunately, unless your child is attending a private school, the chances are they won’t have enough money to do all the lovely things they’d like to do with your child. They’re also keen to set a good example for the children by helping others who are in need. This means that it will seem like you are almost constantly being asked to contribute to the latest bake sale/non uniform day/summer fete/harvest collection etc. I suggest visiting your bank to apply for a loan in November to prepare for the near constant donations required in the run up to Christmas.
G is for Girlfriends/Boyfriends
While I don’t remember anyone having a boyfriend or girlfriend in my school until at least year 8, both of my children declared their first significant other in year 2. This is fine, it seems very sweet. The trouble is when does it stop being “ahh, aren’t they sweet” and change to “Don’t you dare close that bedroom door”?
H is for Homework
The bane of primary years parenting. This starts in Reception in our school with easy things like “spot the numbers on the way to school” and “see what shapes you can find in your house” but before you know it you’re sat at the dining room table begging your 8 year old to please read the bloody question instead of just guessing what is says and making up a random answer.
I is for injustice
The school playground is full of injustices. Little Johnny will often come home upset because their bestie is now someone else’s bestie and they don’t have anyone to play with. While this will send us in to over protective mum mode it’s highly likely this will be forgotten the next day so try to resist the urge to march in and demand someone plays with your child.
J is for Journal
When your child begins learning to read, you’ll be presented with a reading journal. This journal is to record each time your child reads at home. You are supposed to read with them every night. This journal exists purely to guilt you into doing that. There may even be certificates for when your child has read a certain number of times just to make doubly sure you feel really guilty if you don’t do it.
K is for kit
Your child will need a surprising amount of kit for school. While it’s considerably less than they will need when they go to secondary school (shudder), you’ll still be required to remember to give them the right kit of the right days. This will prove surprisingly challenging.
L is for Lunch
You will initially rejoice that in the infants your child will receive a free lunch! Your joy will be short lived however when your child refuses said school lunch because their friend is having packed lunch/they don’t like the food/the packed lunch kids get to eat first/the dinner lady looked at them funny. Once they start juniors and you have to play for school dinners they will of course beg to have school dinners everyday.
M is for Mates
When they start school you’ll interrogate them everyday to find out if they’ve made friends. This will annoy them. You will do it anyway. They will stop telling you anything. I suggest making friends with the lunchtime assistants to get the inside track.
N is for Nativity
Each year parents wait with baited breath to find out what their child will be in the nativity. The results may leave them over joyed, disappointed or, most often, confused. Were their really Zebras in the barn where Jesus was born? Since when did aliens feature in the Christmas story? And isn’t a Christmas tree part of the set, rather than a part?
O is for Other People’s Children
I love my kids. I’m very fond of some of my friend’s kids. But in general, I don’t like kids. Primary school is filled with unwanted opportunities to “enjoy” the company of children. From play dates to visiting the class to see your child’s work, other people’s children are hard to avoid.
P is for Parents Evening
For some it’s a chance to hear how well their child is doing at school, for others it involves being asked to please teach your child how to wipe their own nose. For everyone it’s a chance to feel like a giant when you sit on a tiny chair.
Q is for Quarantine
The school expects your child to achieve 100% attendance while simultaneously not letting them come to school if they’ve been sick in the last 48 hours. They are children, they will be sick, you will be in quarantine for 48 hours on a pretty regular basis. Enjoy.
R is for Run, as in, the School Run
Weather you walk or drive, isn’t really the issue. The problematic part of the school run is getting out of the house in the first place. I suggest starting to ask your children to put their shoes on before they go to bed the night before, this seems the only way to achieve leaving the house on time.
S is for Sports Day
There is much controversy these days about whether it should be competitive or not. Should their be a parents race or not? Should children be forced to take part if they don’t want to? Of course none of that really matters. The only relevant question is whether or not you’re allowed to consume alcohol on the school premises.
T is for Timetables
Timetables practice begins in year two and, in theory, is completed in year 4 when your child’s hard work means they now know all twelve sets of timetables back to front (literally, because they have to learn division facts too). For most of us, we’ll still be helping them count on their fingers by the end of year 6.
U is for Uniform
I think uniform is great. The idea of my child trying to choose what to wear every morning horrifies me. We’d never leave the house. The problem comes when they lose it. Daily. One of my children has never lost a single item of uniform. The other one seems to claim something is “lost” at least once a week, until I inevitably find it on the peg next to his.
V is for Visits
There are two types of visit. One where the kids go out of school, and one where you go and see them in school. Avoid attending the first. Make sure you attend the second. I can tell you from experience that saying you’ll be there and then forgetting will not go down well with your child.
W is for World Book Day
And the other 72 times a year school asks your child to come in wearing something that isn’t their uniform. Every World book Day you’ll suggest cheap, easy and appropriate outfits for your child. Each year they will tell you they want to be Spider-Man and only a shop bought costume will do. Technically, Spider-Man is from a (comic)book. Choose your battles. Live with the judgement of super mum whose child is wearing a homemade Pippy Longstocking outfit.
X is for Xmas
The month of December will involve: a class assembly, a Christmas fair, the nativity, a school panto, a Christmas jumper day, a non uniform day, a Christmas party and a Christmas lunch day. If you work, it might be easier to just book the month off. If you don’t, you may as well just sleep at the school.
Y is for yard, as in school yard
Playground politics are a complicated thing. Friendship groups form. Someone’s off sick for a day and return to find they’re no longer in the gang. Cries of “they’re leaving me out” will be heard. Talks will be given in assembly about the importance of inclusion. And the children are nearly as bad as the parents.
Z is for zips
And other aspects of getting dressed your child struggles with. One of my children received a head teachers award when he finally managed to do up his own zip. It took a really long time because he sweet talked one of the girls into doing it for him for ages. He’ll go far.
So there you have it, an A-Z of what to expect when parenting in the primary years. I’d love to hear what your love and hate about primary years parenting.
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