Lots of people get anxious or upset about their children starting at school. They are worried about how their child will cope, how they will settle and whether they are old enough and ready for big school. They are also sad about the pre-school period of their lives being over. Their baby has grown up. They are no longer going to have the time at home that they had before. Anna starts school this week. I am not anxious or upset. I am not worried about how she will cope, how she will settle or whether she is old enough and ready for big school. I am not sad that the pre-school period of her life is over, that my baby has grown up or that she will no longer have the time at home that she did before. I don't mean to be dismissive of other parents. I do completely understand their concerns. But I am ok with it all for two reasons. Firstly because it is part of the course that she is meant to take. Babies become toddlers, toddlers become young children, young children become older children, older children become teenagers and teenagers become adults. It's life. But the main reason is because if she spent anymore time at home with me she would grow up to be a complete lunatic with no understanding of social norms.
The first five years of her life have been brilliant. I have always been able to fit my work around childcare so we have spent lots of time together. For the last couple of years she has had Iris to play with too. If there is one thing Anna has not been short of in her life it's attention. And if there is one thing she isn't lacking it's confidence. The only time she is shy is when she is pretending to be shy in order to get more attention. Anna strolls though life like everything she comes across has been arranged specifically for her entertainment. She walks into a room and looks around to see who has come to see her. Regardless of what room she has walked in to; a shop, a friend's house, the waiting room at the doctor's surgery. In fact I did wonder for a while if she thought everyone else in the doctor's waiting room was simply sat there for her to dance for or tell stories to. She enjoyed going there because she had a new audience to entertain. Until recently when we were there and she pointed at each person one by one asking me what was wrong with them. At that point I was pleased to realise that she did have an understanding that other people's lives continued when she wasn't there but I was less pleased to realise that she had little idea of what questions were appropriate to ask in public. She continued this today whilst at the swimming pool when she loudly asked "When are the old, slow ladies going to get out of my way so I can do jumping in?" To be fair to her they were pretty old and they were moving very slowly but that's not really the point. But my point is that from Anna's point of view the world revolves around her. So she needs to be thrown into a class full of other little characters who are going to challenge her. She needs to come up against some challenges and work through them. I hope she gets to a point where she is loud and confident in school but I think the journey there is going to important for her.
But along with this Anna also needs to see what is 'normal' outside of our house. I probably don't set a very good example. I have a feeling that what I think is normal may well not be very normal at all...
In our house it is common to use random names for people as long as it rhymes with what you are saying. "What do you want for tea Lee?", "Shall we go to the park Mark?" "It's time for bed Ned." "Wow, that's a big poo Lou." I could go on. It's just a bit of fun but something that she probably needs to understand is only appropriate in certain situations. She will come across people in life who don't necessarily respond well to being given random names throughout the day. Or those who want a compliment on their poo either now I think of it. In fact talking in rhyme is something we do quite a lot and Anna is really starting to get the hang of it. But the problem with talking in rhyme is it makes you say rude words without really meaning too. It is too late for me but Anna could still be saved before she finds herself getting into trouble for accidentally rhyming class with arse or silly with willy.
I also have a little issue with preaching one thing and then doing another. Another bad example I set. We have a laid back, liberal house. We teach the girls that everyone is equal and everyone should be allowed to believe in whatever they like without judgement. But then when put on the spot I am prone to slipping up. "Daddy why do some people believe in God?" "Well Anna, I think it is because they don't really understand science." I can hear the words coming out of my mouth but I can't stop them. I really do want Anna to be open and understanding of religion but I appear to have little control over my mouth. Another example is when I was asked "Why does that mummy keep letting her little boy run away down the road and then keep shouting at him lots for running away down the road?" How did I respond? Was I forgiving of this random person I have never met before? Did I suggest that she may have a behaviour strategy that we didn't know about? No, of course I didn't. I simply said "Because Anna, some people are just stupid." I wish I was better at this. So I am hoping that she will have a better example set by the teachers at school so she grows up to be better person than I am!
In fact there are many other things that Anna thinks are normal but I am hoping school will reinforce that they are not. It is not normal to walk out from the toilet halfway through a poo because you are bored or lonely. "Daddy, can I just tell you..." "No you can't, get back in there." It is not normal to start twerking if grown ups are having a conversation that you find boring. It is not normal to consider calling a guinea pig Dave Grohl when you are four years old.
So then school, it's over to you. I expect you to right all my wrongs. It won't be easy, I am a terrible example at times. I'll give you until half term to make Anna a normal person...
Now of course don't really worry school. I say all this but I really don't want her to become a normal person. I want her to continue to be an extravagant weirdo and be as eccentric as she likes. But it would be useful if you could at least teach her how to cover it up at times...
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