It's fast-approaching that time of year when many parents will be preparing to send their little ones off to school or pre-school for the very first time...
When I say preparing, I mean, lying awake at night worrying about the best way to get your child ready for this important milestone.
How can I help my child do well at school? What if she hates it? What if she cries at the school gates? What if I cry at the school gates? How can I make sure she eats her lunch? Will Best of Both bread be frowned upon?
My daughter starts pre-school this year. In just a few weeks time I will have to wave goodbye and leave her to embark on her academic journey - without me.
I am not sure I am ready for this. It feels like only yesterday she was a tiny baby in my arms. Now just as I am getting to grips with toddlerhood, I have a whole new set of things to worry about.
Will she make it to the toilet on time? Will they help her wash her hands? Should she be able to draw something other than squiggly lines by now? Or do her shoes up? What if all the other children can draw landscapes and tie shoelaces and she can't?
I am even worrying about lunchboxes. Surely lunchboxes should not be this stressful. But there are a lot of styles out there. Is there a particular box the kids are using these days? If she has the wrong lunchbox will she get upset or will the other kids laugh at her?
At least at home I can protect her from horrible children, germs and loom bands.
While she is in my care I can hold her when she cries or comfort her when she feels sad. I can make her laugh when she is grumpy or kiss her better when she falls over. I can untwist her knickers when she pulls them up the wrong way, I can wash her hands before lunch and tell her it is ok if she can't do something right first time. But what will she do when I am not there?
In the end, I did what I always do when I have no idea what I am doing - rang my mum.
"Mum, I have three weeks until the toddler starts school and I have no idea what to do to...I have not even brought a lunchbox or a pencil case. What if I can't get us all ready in time if I have had a bad night with the baby? Should she be able to draw a face yet? SHE CAN'T EVEN DRAW A FACE FOR GOODNESS SAKE! I am just not going to send her. Shall I just not send her mother?"
"Right," said my mum calmly. "The main thing is that she enjoys it and has fun. She will learn as she goes along."
"Fun? That's it?"
"Oh, and try not to drop her off in your pyjamas. It will inevitably be the one time the teacher wants to talk to you."
"As if I would do that..." At this point I realised it was 11am and we were all still in our pyjamas. She had a point.
So then I did what I always do when I have no idea what I am doing (and have disregarded everything my mother has told me). I consulted Google. What I needed was a list. A list to tell me what the hell to do - and preferably one that won't advise me to brush up on my maths.
Ten Proven Ways To help Your Child Do Well At School was just the list I was looking for! Apparently, rather than frantically forcing fractions on your child or replacing The Gruffalo with the complete works of Shakespeare - the key to a child's success at school is simply adopting a healthy learning attitude. And showing them that failure is a stepping stone to success and making learning an activity that they love are some of the most valuable lessons they can learn at this stage. I think even I can manage that.
So, it seems that maybe I have been worrying a bit too much, and maybe, just maybe, my mum was right...
In conclusion, I have come up with a list of things I am pretty sure won't help my daughter do well at school.
1. Buying her the right lunchbox. Whether she chooses the Fireman Sam box or the one with princesses emblazoned over it - I imagine it will have no bearing on her academic achievements.
2. Giving way to tears at the school gates. This will probably just a) Make her cry, or b) embarrass her. So I must be strong!
3. Teaching her to paint like Da Vinci. I am pretty sure that by attempting to get her to 'refine' her art every day this week, the only thing I have succeeded in doing is to make her sick of painting.
4. Telling her not to reply to all questions with 'poo' or 'bum' like she does at home. She responded to this request by shouting 'POO BUM POO AT HOME'. Continuously. Lesson learnt. Tell a toddler not to do something and they will most definitely do it!
5. Buying her expensive trainers. When I was at school I told my parents I definitely needed Nike Air trainers. They told me they couldn't afford them and bought me Nicks from Poundstretcher. I told them they had ruined my life. It is a miracle I managed to pass my exams and go on to study at university under the circumstances.
So with term time almost upon us we are finally good to go...sort of...