With the new school year comes the inevitable influx of cute pictures in our social feeds of smiley, fresh-faced kids and their slightly bleary eyed, brave-faced parents huddled together at drop off for the first day of Kindy. The difference between the ‘newbies’ and parents with older kids is that many of the ‘vets’ are wondering when it’s appropriate to start skipping as they exit the school gate, while the kindy parents are frantically rummaging in their bags for a tissue while quietly chanting the mantra ‘It’s ok, they’ll be fine, I’ll be fine, deep breaths’ then running through a list of things they might have forgotten…if this is you, the good news is this: You don’t have to wait a full year to realise that all that stress you are carrying right now, can be gone, with just a few simple steps.
When our daughter started kindy we both worked full time and she went to ‘before care’ and ‘after care’ every day. This meant the margin for error on the lunch, bag packing, uniform front was slim. Neither of us worked in the area, so there was no slipping in to drop off a forgotten crunch ‘n’ sip box or popping back home to change into the sports uniform or to pick up the reader from the night before. It was a military operation and once we’d left the house there was no looking back between the hours of 7.45am-6pm. As a result, I ran around in a fervor of stress all day, every day. You know that feeling that you’ve left the iron on? I had that feeling every time I walked away from the school gate. What had I forgotten? Running through a checklist in my head trying to work out what had slipped through the net…then there were the exceptions…such as when they mess with the uniform, encouraging kids to wear all orange for World Harmony Day for example – there’s nothing less harmonious than walking into school and being greeted by a sea of orange when your child is in head-to-toe navy. On that note, if you don’t have a ‘Class Parent’ system I suggest getting one set up pronto…our class parent was a lifeline for many of us, especially in that first, particularly hectic year. They filter the information through to the parents from the teacher with a weekly email update of key things to remember…which day they have sports, library, recorder, exceptions to the rules; remember to wear green for the sports carnival on Thursday…see, LIFELINE!
After that first year and with a great deal trial and error (many, many errors) I finally had my ‘aha’ moment: Our kids are so much more resilient than we are! I know, right? Turns out they are not living in a war zone, if they have the wrong t-shirt on for sports, they won’t, in fact, die. A forgotten lunch just teaches them resourcefulness! OK, I never actually forgot a whole lunchbox, just the occasional crunch ‘n’ sip or water bottle, but friends did, and I can assure you they were duly mortified, but guess what? The school expects these things, this ain’t their first rodeo! So they have contingency plans in place to make sure your little one doesn’t pass out from malnutrition by 3pm. Also, other kids at kindy age are way less judgemental than we think. Images of our kid being left out at lunch because they haven’t got the latest Star Wars lunchbox, or being laughed at for wearing the wrong uniform, or being found crying in a corner because they forgot their reader, are generally unfounded.
So here’s my advice: test the safety nets. Get the worst mistakes you can think of out of the way early on; forget a lunch and call the canteen; send them in the wrong uniform for sports; forget the library bag…maybe just try not to do them all in the same week, eh? Because the sooner you (and they) come to realise that they can survive these things, the easier your days will be.
Now, it took me to midway through year 2 to really get to this point, so believe me, I know it’s not easy, but I wish someone had sat me down and told me this in the first few days, because the more relaxed I have become, the less times I forget things and I put it down to the fact my mind isn’t spinning out of control juggling everything all the time…oh, and I have lists; on the fridge, in my child’s room, on my phone…it helps to get everything out of my head so I can focus on not tripping over my own feet as I skip on out of the school gates.
So my dear friends, may the drop offs be smooth, the failures be painless, the coffee be strong and the Class Parent be there to help keep your heads above water!