My eldest boy started “big” school on Monday, 8 days before he turns 5. I wasn’t sure how I would take it but I felt that he’d be fine, he’s a sociable lad, independent and very keen to learn. He’s been in playschool 5 days a week for the last year and has really loved it, he’s street smart. I was confident that he would take it all well. I wasn’t as sure about me.
Three days in, I’m realising some things now, and while I had books bought and uniforms tagged, I wasn’t really prepared for the psychological end of things. Not just the separation, or the sense of him growing up, I hadn’t thought about how starting school is a such a culture shock for kids. It’s exhausting, so many changes, so many new people, new things, new rules, new places, new clothes.
Everything is new.
In playschool you can wander around the classroom and the ratios mean that teachers have time to open everyone’s lunchboxes, they’ll kiss you better, and things flow freely or chaotically. In big school you have to sit in your seat and do “lámha suas” (hands up) to talk and “lámha trasna” (fold your arms) to be still and quiet and you can’t talk incessantly. There aren’t as many toys, and there are more children in your class. Mammy bought you new books but “teacher took them”, and two days in you still haven’t even seen them again and haven’t started any reading or homework and you’re quite concerned as to when you will be reunited with them.
In playschool you call your teacher by her first name, in school it’s “Teacher”. In big school you have to wear your uniform and school socks not brightly coloured socks with Octonauts or Angry Birds on them like you wore with your jeans to playschool.
In big school you get two breaks and can play and eat snacks, and there’s lots of other children in the yard. And you’re so big and grown up, even though you’re the smallest in the school.
And on the second day the mammies only walk you to the gate because “Teacher said so Mam” and you join the líne (line) all by yourself, Jake and the Neverland Pirates backpack on your back.
So much change, so many things to remember, so tiring. You’re exhausted, and hungry, and excited. So you get a little more upset than usual over litte things and need a bit more time near Mammy or Daddy, And that’s fine, because it won’t last long.
And when you’re 8 days away from being 5 that’s a lot going on. And when you’re the Mammy of someone who’s 8 days away from being 5, you get it.
We’re learning more about big school every day and while our biggest boy settles into his new life as a schoolgoer I mourn the colourful socks and tshirts that are relegated to weekend wear and I try to embrace the school run, dreading the first day that I have to do it in the rain.
And I think back to five years ago, and wonder where the time went and think about all the memories we’ve made, and how proud I am of my small boy in his too baggy uniform running in to school. I think how quickly it has all happened and I vow to enjoy every minute of watching you learn and grow. And I really should start a college fund for you, you’ll be off before we know it.