If, like me, you have a child starting school this year, you may have some mixed emotions about this. On one hand, of course it’s exciting to see them going off into the world. You’re looking forward to seeing them grow and learn and develop new skills and interests, and, yes, you’re looking forward to a bit more ‘you’ time. On the other hand, you may be a bit sad about no longer having your little one at home. The hands of time are marching on and maybe you’re not feeling quite ready for this, very permanent change.
At least, I know that’s how I’m feeling. I can’t wait to see what my little man learns at school. I’m so looking forward to his excitement over being able to read and write, just like his sister. Of course, the additional time for me to focus on work will also be a bonus, but in all honesty, I am struggling with the knowledge that my time with him at home, my time with just the two of us, is coming to a close.
I’ve written about these feelings before, so I won’t bore you again with the inner workings of my mind and my tugging heart strings. My goal today is to map out for you what I plan to do on his first day. The plan I have to get through with a smile on my face and excitement in my voice, because of course I will never let on to him that I am anything other than thrilled.
Throughout all of these suggestions, don’t lost sight of any older children you may have. Although the first day of primary school is a really huge deal, so is the first day of any other year level, so make sure you celebrate your older kids’ milestones too.
The night before
Do not spend time mulling over old photo albums and shedding tears over the fact your baby is growing up too fast. No, do not do this! Instead, take time to prepare your child for the day, lay out the uniform and the bag and, along with your child, check to see that you have everything they will need. You could even create a checklist that they can tick off.
I like to make lunches the night before – you don’t have to do this, but if this is your routine, involve your child in the preparation so they are familiar with exactly what they have and when it is to be eaten etc. Knowing what’s there for them the next day will help them relax and focussing on this task will help you relax!
Get them to bed nice and early – you are permitted a slightly longer cuddle and stare at them on this night – take it all in, but stay positive!!
The morning of
Make sure you get up a little early so you don’t feel (additionally) frazzled. I always like to use this time to get myself ready and prepare breakfast before I wake up the kids. I also use this time to slip a little note into lunch boxes – just a little ‘hello’ for during the day. At first your child will need the teacher to read the notes for them. Before you know it, they’ll be reading them by themselves and loving it! I’ve done a lunchbox note for my daughter everyday for 2 years now and I will be starting the tradition with my son on his first day.
When you get your child up you may want to have a little additional ‘first day treat’ as part of their breakfast – maybe a chocolate milk or freshly squeezed orange juice or pancakes. Something that starts their day with a smile and again, gives you something to focus on.
Then, just before you leave the house, all dressed and packed, take a photo of your big school kid (and siblings if there are any). It’s nice to pick a spot where you can then recreate this photo each year. We take the photos on the front porch, bag on back, ready to go!
At school drop off
Okay, so this is going to be the tough part. My kids’ school does the first day beautifully – with a little gift pack for parents, containing tissues, a chocolate heart and a little poem. It is, as I said, beautiful, but oh my gosh, it makes it almost impossible not to cry, so if your school does anything like this, my advice is: look at it and read it ON THE WAY HOME! Your little one does not need to see you crying – they will be confused and sad, so hold it together. Try to tell yourself it’s just another day of kinder – you’ve left them there and you can leave them here. No big deal, right?
Make sure you get a few photos in the classroom. Again, focussing on being photographer will help you stay smiley, smiley.
When it’s time to leave, give a big cuddle, tell your little one how proud you are of them and how excited you’re going to be to hear all about their first day, then, go. Try not to drag it out too much – although you are permitted a sneaky peak through the window after you’ve left.
You might have another child/children at home to look after, so maybe ‘you’ time is a little hard to achieve, but you might be able to adapt what it is I plan to do.
My plan for that first day is to go and spend a bookshop gift voucher I got for Christmas – yes, I’m saving it – and then take my new book to a café and order myself coffee and breakfast and then, read. I will read for as long as I like and I will not stop reading until I feel like stopping reading!
Obviously, if you’re not a reader, this idea will not appeal to you, but you get the idea. Shop for as long as you like, knit for as long as you like, garden etc. And if you are a reader, but don’t have a gift voucher to spend – visit the local library, browse, borrow and then read!
The point is, I am not going to spend that first day doing the grocery shopping or catching up on the washing, or paying bills. I am going to choose to focus on one of the positives of my baby starting school.
If you have others still at home, or if you have to go in to work yourself, try to plan a lunch break for yourself. See if someone else can look after the kids, or the office, and you get to take some ‘you’ time.
Plan a celebration
When I’m missing my kids I always like to plan a little surprise for them. Sometimes I buy them a little gift and wrap it up for them to open when they get home. Other times I take them straight from school to the ice cream shop, or to the library (my kids LOVE the library!). Sometimes I just have a fancy afternoon tea planned at home – put anything on a platter and my kids get excited.
For my little man’s first day of school (and my little girl’s first day of Grade 2) I am planning a ‘school themed’ afternoon tea. We’ll have Tic Toc biscuits and gingerbread cut into numbers and letters. I’m also going to use cheese cubes and sultanas to spell out ‘Well done!’ All of this will take some time and that’s a good thing – keep my busy! The kids will love it, too!
School pick up
This is a great time of that first day! You’ll see your little one as they exit the classroom and you’ll get that cuddle you’ve been looking forward to since 9am! I don’t really have a plan for this part – I’m just going to enjoy it!
After the special afternoon tea, you might want to prepare (or order in) your school starter’s favourite meal. Although don’t forget any older children may feel a little miffed if their favourite isn’t also included. Don’t worry so much about what you eat, but make sure you eat together. Then go around the table and tell each other the best part of the day.
Try to get the kids talking about school and all the things they did and loved. Make sure you let them know you were fine, too. Starting a habit of talking about the activities they have done will help them get through the tough days. It will also help you stay connected to them even when they’re away from you.
You might even want to write down some of the things they tell you and then keep a ‘First Day of the Year’ book to add to each year.
After dinner, get them packed and ready for tomorrow. The second day is much, much easier.
You’ll soon find the new normal is actually, totally fine and not nearly as traumatic as you were fearing.
After all – they haven’t moved out of home… yet.
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