Have I mentioned I'm a teeny weenie bit nervous about my son starting school next week? I know: what a cliché. Pass me a tissue while I weep at the gate.
I've whipped myself into a panic with all the chat about kids being 'school ready' going on at the moment. What does that even mean? Separating from me, focusing on a task and sitting still? Good luck with that, teachers.
According to Ofsted, a primary school head teacher defined their school view of school readiness as follows;
'By four we would expect children to be ready to be separated from their parent or carer, to be able to demonstrate listening skills in being able to show interest and pay attention to a subject or stimulus. To have enough language to be able to express themselves if they need something and be able to communicate something about what makes them who they are, such as name, age and something about family or relevant factors in their life. To be able to interact with an adult and/or a peer. For example, during play to be able to take turns and take some responsibility for their actions. We think that children should be able to focus on, and show interest in, their work and the world around them. To make observations, notice things and ask questions. To be able to hold a book, understand some aspects of narrative and respond to some boundary setting.'
No mention of parents then. What d'you mean this isn't all about me? As a mum, this is up there with my children's graduations and wedding days. Am I ready? Yes I've got the uniform, attached the labels, attended the transition day and planned my exit strategy from the school gate when the inevitable tears spring, but I still feel like I'm about to turn up to class without my pants on. Or sit an exam I haven't revised for. Unprepared, vulnerable and naked doesn't cover it.
What gets me is that other people will be spending more time with my son than me. From next week, the balance shifts away from family, towards friends and teachers. Most of whom I've never even met. Whoa there, can that be right? I feel like I'm handing him over to the establishment. Not sure I'll ever be ready for that.
And don't get me started on the first-step-into-the-big-wide-world thang. We've sheltered our baby from so much; he's young for his age... babyish, even. And no, that's not an insult. I LOVE that he's still rapt by Chaley Bear, Duplo and Lift-The-Flaps books. He knows nothing of guns, death or even Disney. (Yes, I did just lump those together.)
And then there's the structure and routine of school. No more taking things as they come, lazing about in our PJs till noon if we feel like it. No more kicking around barefoot outside all day, planning around the weather and season. No more holidaying when we need it, no matter the time of year, or turning up late, just cos. We answer to an institution now. Shame I've always had an issue with authority.
What about the politics of becoming a School Mum? From the school gate 'catwalk' to the PTA power struggles, there's a whole new social scene to negotiate. I've read The Playground Mafia - an essential guide to observing, identifying and managing playground mums. I've been warned - I'll be Flaky Mum, forever looking for my keys/children/handbag, forgetting permission slips and arriving five minutes late for every bell. Not school ready in any sense, to be honest.
Clearly I've got an issue... which is why our decision to go against school policy and start our son on half days is reassuring. Not to mention the holidays we've already booked in term time. Get us! #Rebels. School won't be happy but until our four year old turns five and is legally obliged to be there (during next summer holidays,ironically,) there's not much they can do about it - except add me to the 'annoying parent' list, of course.
At least that's one good thing about my son being a young school starter. We have more flexibility than the parents of older kids to work it our way. If that means a long slow run up, holidays as necessary and a homework boycott, then ain't nobody gonna stop me. School Ready now or School Ready later, we have the power to take it as it comes. Keep telling yourself that, mama.