It is June and Gigi is almost finished her Junior Infants year- her first year at school. She is five years old, above average height and has curly, curly hair. She is growing.
Talk about preparing your child, I wasn’t right myself until Christmas about the whole thing. I attempted to address the worry in Starting School and Social Media but I actually came nowhere expressing my fears in the blog. It was too hard.
Nothing prepares you for your first child starting school. You can buy all the books, plan lunches and uniforms but watching their little baby face as they first face the classroom is a wrench.
(Nothing prepares you for your second child starting school like your first one starting, so that’s a plus.)
It has been emotional. Scary. Cute. Precious. Anxiety inducing. Relieving. Fast. I am pretty certain it was all those things for Gigi too, which is even more harrowing to consider. Now it’s over.
No longer in the ‘baby’ class- another milestone to pass.
She has a lovely school. Small, rural and of the Cheers variety as every blade of grass seems to know your name on the school run. (Apologies smiling parent who seems to be totally in control and runs an efficient home- I promise to learn your name).
I will not miss the excessive homework (and I know she won’t either) as we have summer break. It has been a bone of contention with us. The reason Gigi and I squabbled most evenings was phonics related and I stand by my opinion that there was far too much homework assigned to five year olds in Gigi’s school. I live in hope that she reaps the promised benefits and I remain blindly trusting in the new methods of teaching reading as there is little other choice. (The fact I am a homework giving English teacher is not irony lost on me, oh no, you can sure of that).
I already miss the cuteness of first pinafores, zipping up the front with a little navy metallic heart. Putting my flat palm over her heart, cudding the little girl in front of me. Gigi grew out of those by January. As they became shorter and shorter, I finally gave in and bought the bigger ones. Soon, she will revolt against the pinafore in favour of what is fashionable, joggers, skirts whatever. I will enjoy the adorable while I can.
She loved getting the special new shoes last summer and chose the overly priced, gimmicky Lellie Kellies. Together we coloured in velcro hearts, using the magic pen to change the colours from black to pink. She will not want those forever. One pair of shoes I do not want to ever give away.
Gigi tried so many sports this year. They had introductions to volleyball, basketball, hockey and gymnastics. They played Gaelic football. She started hurling on Wednesday evenings. Gigi found some of these sports difficult but I love that she keeps playing. Buying her a mouth guard, a hurl, a helmet- every purchase feeling like she was growing even more. Learning how to fit a mouth guard- new skills for Mammy.
I will enjoy a break from the school ‘contact’ which is basically sheet after sheet of yellow letters stuck into Gigi’s homework copy demanding I scrutinise and recall every detail right now. And by god, there were plenty of them. Phoning school seems to be out of bounds unless you call at a very specific time, that only is an option twice per week, so the journal is important. However, I admit to emitting many groans and grumbles this year opening the homework for Gigi to realise there seemed to more for me to do than her (and believe me, she had a lot to do). A one-sided type of contact, I felt, that frustrated a worrier like me. I will enjoy a break from Textaparent too. Just a little time out even though I think the app is good idea- just not both app and paper.
A highlight for Gigi this year was definitely being in a school show which was lovely and inclusive for every student. She enjoyed the preparation, the build up and I think the show itself. I didn’t agree with the idea of letting youngsters wear make up for the show but that’s what happened. (Another occasion in this school year where I felt uncomfortable. Should a five year old have a face of make up even for fun? I don’t mean face paint, I mean blush, foundation and lipstick. Why?? ). I chose not to let her have a full face of make up. It just didn’t go with her Moana pyjamas and white teddy costume combo. Or my conscience.
We dealt with the challenges of forming friendships for a socially quiet child. This was very tough for us all but I think Gigi is doing well. Birthday parties were the hardest. I thought labour was painful until I witnessed my beloved child sit alone at a party for several hours and was powerless to help her, as she tried fruitlessly to get involved. Again, this has improved. Parties became less tough and more like what they should be – a bludy party- by the end of year.
Watching Gigi happily walking into school beside a classmate is lovely. Her smile at the companiable trot, no looking back is heartening. Gigi’s teacher is a gem. They trust her, respect her and behave angelically for her. Due to her obvious gift at giving comfort and promoting self-esteem in children, I try to work with the homework. She has been wonderful for Gigi.
There have been enormous progresses. There has been stomach churning. Giggles. Tempers (the whole angel at school and devil for your parents is true). She seems happy. She talks a lot about Africa. The Arctic. America. She came first in a local Art competition for a picture of us lot. There has been progress.
It is over. She is now a Senior. Or Seenyur as she would say herself. One who believes in fairies and thinks Grandads are old because they lived in the Time of the Unicorns. This time next year Betsy will start school and I wonder will it feel different?