PARENTS

Starting School At 4

26/09/2014 12:46 | Updated 20 May 2015

B7RMFD Royalty-freeChild reading bookModel release - YESProperty release - NOPhotographer:  DainisCredit Line:  © Dainis

You could say I've been a bit of an emotional wreck this past week (more than usual, that is).

I have a good reason, though: Somehow, the little cherub I gave birth to back in August 2010 is now school-aged and starting reception this week (which I think my NY friends find crazy because their kids won't start school until the year they turn six).

When I ran into one of D's nursery teachers last week and told her I had been up all night tossing and turning, feeling anxious before D's first day, she laughed and said: "Oh, you're still at the stage where you actually like your children. That'll pass."

It was hilarious - and I can also see where she's coming from, ie. while I'm sad about not having my long morning walks with both girls and Bolshy the bulldog, and I'll miss our daily crafts sessions and puzzles, unless I receive some further training (in a circus or something equally mind-blowing), I'm no longer capable of keeping D entertained for more than a couple of hours, let alone an entire school day.

Even D has realised there are people better equipped for that task these days; for one, Liv happily follows her around like a jewellery-and-high-heel-wearing shadow. While just two months ago, Diana was asking me to play memory games and princess puzzles with her; now, when I offer, she'll often say she'd rather play on her own.

I am so confused for a minute I can't decide if I should be happy I can check my email or heartbroken at the rejection.

I think starting school is an emotional time for any parent; I think it particularly throws you off your game when you're still forgetting that they're 4 instead of 3 (not that D hasn't reminded me every day since our eventful trip to NYC, which coincided with the big birthday).

I worry about Diana being the youngest in her class: will she be able to wipe her bottom properly in the excitement of the school day and have enough energy to make it through six hours of learning and playing (and still manage to stay up until at least 5pm for dinner)?.

At least Diana has embraced four with gusto; in her mind, it means she's now old enough to boss Liv around whenever she pleases. What's more, she thinks she'll be praised for telling Liv off for doing something naughty - now that she's four, she has new responsibilities, you see.

She also thinks four means she can defy me and the way she spits out the word "No" is terrifying; no longer the exclamation of a hysterical toddler, it's now said in an eerily calm, controlled and totally definitive way. In fact, her tantrums have become so sophisticated (and cruel, on occasion) that they often leave me speechless. She doesn't sound four, she sounds 14. And I'm scared.

Of course, D also equates turning four with going "to big school." Which she thinks means she's officially a grown-up (I think this comes from the fact her nursery last year was connected to the school so she would see friends chatting to their older siblings in the big school playground).

It's exciting because even though she's allowed to be scared, or shy, or exhausted by the prospect of a full school day, every day, she's decided she's going to be thrilled. Which is great - because school is really exciting and fun and something I want her to look forward to.

She even, sweetly, thinks that "homework" means drawings you do at school and then take home. I'm not correcting her - yet.

There are other benefits to D starting school: that other child of mine, aka the neglected second, will finally have some one-on-one time with me. Liv revels in every minute of bonding time (I think this is why she sleazily tries to stay up until 9pm after D's gone to bed at 7:30pm) and she's at that lovely-loony almost-20-month-old stage where everything is hilarious (and also quite hard work).

As a work-from-home freelancer who isn't averse to spending the morning in my PJs (which I was able to do when D had a PM nursery slot), the thing I'm most dreading about this school challenge will be getting the girls - and Bolsh, ideally - dressed and out of the house by 9am.

I have no pretenses to look like Elle Macpherson at the school gates, but it would be nice to look (and smell) like I've at least showered.

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