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Image by Jeremy Kemp

Feeling dizzy? Getting confused? Running out of puff for no particular reason? Me too… I think. The whirr of life can make your head spin. ‘Round we go; another Tuesday almost done. Days filled with swimming lessons, soccer practice, lunches, dinners, crunch and sips’… endless stuff… and then there’s the holidays.

I love the holidays. But they, too, have their own circular motion. Here we go aaaagaaaiiiinnn! Spin! Sleep in late! Tough life. Watch a movie, make-a-tha-lunches, book in the cousins for a play, stay up late. Jeepers, it’s like we never stop. But that’s life and it’s a great life.

I love watching my kids grow up! I love that they still want me around (except when they’re playing some serious Lego and don’t want me to hear it). Yesterday my son asked my daughter who her best friend in the whole world was…are you ready for the answer…? She said, “Mummy!” Oh my goodness, stamp it, frame it and hang it in my bedroom why don’t you! Sweetest thing ever!

I love seeing their eyes sparkle with knowledge. Sounds a bit strange but I swear I can see them growing through their eyeballs. The light that grows in them as they grow is delightful. They grow in confidence as they grow in knowledge and they just love knowing more than their parents. And I love being ignorant!

I love their sweetness in their cuddles. I love that they still smell like babies, even though they’re both kids now. I love that they don’t smell like teenagers (no offence teens but that’s why people invented deodorant and air freshener). I love their lack of fashion sense: my daughter wore old tights with a sparkly singlet and and aged dress-up skirt to a party last week. Oh, with sparkly bangles too! Can’t forget that!

Ah how our heads spin with our never-ending ‘To do’ lists but look at what we get in return. Love! Magnificent, frustrating, incredible and unconditional love! You cannot buy such things.

Image by Whit Welles

Fear. Dread. Anxiety. Terror. Things that go ‘bump’ in the night, or the day, or in your head. What scares the nickers off you?

The tangible: spiders, snakes, lizards, whales, donkeys, hippies, carnies, clowns, fingers and/or toes. For me, it has got to be spiders and whales. Imagine a spider whale or a whale spider… (she shivers). I don’t mind cockroaches or snakes or sharks unless they’re crawling over my face as I sleep or trying to bite me to death. Nup, it’s the hairy, multi-eyed, crawly little eight legged bug and the huge lump of blubber that gets my heart racing. What about you?

Answer: __________________________________________________

The intangible: failure, success, rejection, nightmares, ghosts, commitment, marriage, being a parent, not being a parent, being a nerd, not being a nerd, other people’s opinions on you being a nerd, depression, sunshine or failing friendships. This is the big section if you ask me. Because you can pretty much stay out of the way of sharks, spiders and snakes (if you’re lucky) but these are always with us. We carry these fears in our heads, throughout our lives. It’s a constant battle to keep them in check so that they don’t ruin our lives.

Fear of failure is pretty common. Especially when you take on a new job or school, most of us just want to be seen as successful. It’s humiliating when you miss the mark. It hurts. And that hurt stays with you and effects the future levels of anxiety and fear. Ooga booga.

Then there’s rejection. There’s nothing like school to instil in a person the fear of rejection. Girls especially are skilled at the nose in the air, turn of the back move. They perfect the ‘you’re not my friend’ sentiments from a very early age. Not sure why girls are particularly hard on each other. Must be something in the waters. Or the emotions.

Fear of people’s expectations is tied into the whole rejection thing, which is linked into the fear of looking daggy or not seen to be fitting in. And I bet that nearly every person is walking around with this paranoia; that they’re not good enough, that they don’t fit in. It can drive a person crazy, all this comparing clothes, cars, careers, houses, smarts with everyone else is exhausting. Why do we bother?

Our masks don’t help anyone. Rather, they perpetuate these false standards that everyone hates but strives to life up to. We’re all running around trying to be good enough, when the truth is that we are good enough, because no one is good enough, if you get my drift. We all have our weaknesses. Truth is powerful, masks are harmful.

What are your biggest fears? Come on, remove the mask and share. Cos you’re not alone out there.

Image by Bill Ebbesen

Tic, tic, tock. Time is a-ticking away to my daughty’s first day at school. I’m tired of the build up, the stress of getting everything ready, the geeing up of little gal… I just want to be in the routine. Then what?

Daughty is my last kid at school. It’s a big moment. Tears have already welled, as I push down the panic of what the heck is next for me. I’m sure she will be alright. Big bro will be around the playground for a bit of security. But as I look at my friends entering this new phase, it’s like we’re all looking at each other saying, “Whadda we do now?”

So, I’ve decided that after 7 ish years of stay at home mumming, I’m going to take the first couple of months reclaiming the fun in my life. Work can wait. I’m sure we’re all due some early long service leave. After all, parenting is 24/7 with bad pay and no real holidays so, ladies, live it up.

Plan 1: Go to the movies in the day time with a friend. Stuff this watching a movie by yourself idea. That just feels weird. I’m going to grab my nearest bud-dy and head off at midday for some popcorn and a girly movie AT THE CINEMA. Woweee.

Plan 2: Hire a canoe, boat, stand-up paddle board and get onto the water (or probably INTO the water knowing my poor boating skills). It’s a simple thing but there’s nothing more soothing that being gently rocked by the water as you look out into its sparkling vastness. You can’t help but breathe in the healthy, salty air and gain a little perspective.

Plan 3: Head to my buddy’s house, grab a floatation device and float around in her pool, perhaps sipping on an exotic drink and talk for hours about stuff without interruption. Bliss!

Plan 4: High Tea! Got it for Christmas so I’m going to sit, sip and enjoy some lovely delicacies while talking, once again uninterrupted, about STUFF!

Plan 5: Day trip. Finally I’m going to visit my friend that lives across the water. I’m going to catch the ferry and have a chat, hang out with her little bubba and reconnect. It’s going to be awesome.

The rest of the year can then begin. Hopefully I’ll be so full of ideas and zeal. You never know, I might just get some work done.

What are your plans for post school days?

December. A time for parties, Christmas, sun, sand and holidays. It’s also the time of farewells and new challenges… for me anyway.

My littlest kiddo is off to school next year, which means the Christmas concert at her kindy will also be a graduation. After 4 years at the one preschool, it’s going to be hard to say goodbye. But it is time, the little lass has to grow up and we have to move on.

This limbo time before big school must be a funny one for our 5 year olds. Their crazy mums are tearing up when they try on their new uniforms and the teachers at kindy start talking letters and numbers, not just painting and craft! What the…?

In this time, the pre-schoolers may start to get a little over-emotional. Screaming, tears and airborne toys may drain us mums of our energy as we explain for the umpteenth time why they can’t have it, eat it, do it, say it, throw it. I keep saying to myself that little girl is just overwhelmed with all the changes. Her skin is mighty thin and some wise old tiptoeing is needed to keep some semblance of peace in the house.

My son went through a similar thing before school. There’s such a long build up before the big day and then a sense of normality, a routine sets in and they seem to settle down… in a tired kinda way. I’m hoping this will be the case for my daughty. She is so very very nice when she wants to be but extremely high maintenance when she doesn’t. Hmmmmm I wonder who she gets that from?

Next week is a big one. End of year concerts and those tearful farewells. Oh how will I cope with 2 kids at school? Will somebody please pause time so I can keep them at this age of innocence, joy and snuggliness?

Before I know it my little man will be a stinky old teenager with a limited vocab and a scratchy beard. His room will smell musty and he’ll start to look at me like I’m a crazy, naggy old lady. Frown. And then there’ll be the hormone battles, woman against miniature woman. Screaming, crying, foul words and slamming doors. Boyfriends I don’t approve of and skirts that are a little too high for my liking. Or maybe my kids will both be quiet, lovely nerds whose idea of a great Saturday night is to stay home with the family and play Monopoly. (Tell her she’s dreaming!)

But back to reality. Back to the countdown of yet another milestone. Will I survive without copious amounts of tears and lumps in throat? Will my little girl get a great teacher or be in the same class as her bestie? What will be will be I guess. It’s another motherly challenge to conquer. I’m just hoping and praying for the best! Eeeeek.

When you become a parent there are certain things you have to teach your kids: how to eat, how to use the toilet, how to shave… But as they grow older, there are other subtle things that you may miss on the way.

My kids are almost all at school now… sigh. They know how to bath, feed, toilet and dress themselves. They know how to pack away their toys, how they’re supposed to talk to each other and us, how to tell a good yarn. But, sometimes I have an ‘uh-o’ moment where I think, “was I supposed to teach you that already?”

Crossing the road is one of those things. Do you take them to a variety of roads, make them sit, wait, look and cross? (or is that just for dogs?). It’s kinda a no-brainer in my mind. If you’re on the side of the road, you wait until all the cars are long gone and then walk sensibly across a clear section of bitumen. I just don’t think kids think like that. So, sorry kids, oops forgot to teach you that one, I’ll try and sneak it in the next time we’re at a road.

Food glorious food! Yes, another lesson I think I missed. How not to be a fussy child. This is a tricky one because I am naturally fussy with my food… and my spoons for that matter (no I don’t want to use a soup spoon with my cereal thank you very much!). Instead of just encouraging them to like a variety of foods from an early age, we gave in to the simple foods such as carrot, cucumber, sausages and bread. So you can imagine how exotic our meals are now! Glum.

Communication with strangers. It is all well and good to have the stranger danger antenna out there but when it comes to manners, sometimes our kids are a little shy or unsure of what is expected of them. They are almost too scared to speak to a stranger… even with us at their sides. I feel I have overdone the warnings and haven’t given them enough confidence and skills to say a cheery old ‘Hello’ to an adult that greets them first. Now, they get the nudge, the winking eyes, the verbal ‘say hello’ from me because I’ve forgotten to explain to them that you have to be courteous as well as cautious. Confusing stuff, really.

So, my dear kiddies I’m sorry for the little/big things that I have failed to teach you. Hopefully, we’ll make it up as we go along and all will be hunky dory. Forgiven? Alright!

It’s getting to that time again. Yes, the public schools are putting on their shiniest faces to entice a whole heap of little people through its doors. This is the time of year when mothers of 4-5 year olds start stashing paper bags in their handbags, gloves boxes and kitchen cupboards, waiting for the moment when the hyperventilation will come on… again.

It only seems like yesterday that my 4 year old wonder was born. Fluffy black hair and dark chocolate eyes. Then came the first smile, word, crawl, step, tantrum and first day of preschool. Oh how the years have flown and I guess I can now call myself a proper parent. I have weathered the sleepless nights, the feeds, the learning and the monotony that comes with the best job in the world. I have dreamed of my baby’s first day at school from when they were born, who they would be and how they would go in such a new place.

I now have one baby at school and one to go next year. Sigh. What is a mother to do when her kiddies have temporarily left the nest? The usual guilt rises of course. Get a job and all that. But then there’s a little voice in my head saying, “take a day off and be free for a while.” Because, my fellow parents, the job is so far from done.

Sure, school is a new world of freedom and independence but they will still need us to be there to watch their plays, dances and hang out with them. My son loves it when I do an hour of ‘reading groups’ at his school. After that half the day is almost done. Then there’s the shopping to do, the cleaning (the what….?) the blogging (yippee) and the hanging out with long lost friends who are also lost in the parenting sphere.

The weekends fill up with parties, sport and general house things and then another week begins. Before you know it you’ll have your little monkeys home for the holidays and it will feel like you’ve gone back to the full-on days of yore. But freak-out-not my dear parents for there is fun to be had with these older kiddies in the holidays: museums, city adventures, climbing – lots of climbing, holidays and movies.

If you are one of the many mummas who is freaking out about next year’s freedom – don’t. It is a new era, a chance to take a breath and find your feet again. Take the time and rest, play and remember what an incredible job you have done so far. And, I believe, the best is yet to come.

First there was birth, then preschool, now hold on to your hats for the greatest challenge around… Primary School! Da… da…DAAAAAA! Yes that’s right parents, school is not just a new chapter, a new set of friends and teachers to get in the good books with but a new community for you to find your place in. Do you dare dig through the muck of years past and find your place? Have you perfected your winning smile and friendly “Hello”? Would you introduce yourself if no one else is interested in you as you sit solo on a silver chair, pretending to text!?

It’s a jungle out there. A new set of rules and expectations: P&C meetings, fetes, meetings, tests, volunteering and fundraising! People come from far and wide and not just mums these days, you’ve gotta know how to talk to the dads too! And the shocker is that you cannot choose who your kid will be friends with and whoever they choose, you will have to connect with the family whether you gel or not! I have been lucky so far in that department but many are not! It’s the first stumbling block on the road to an educated child.

Then there’s the teacher who is responsible for drumming words, numbers and ideas into your little one’s head. If they’re a great teacher (like mine yippee) you are set for the year. Relax, kick off those stomping shoes and have a cuppa. But if they don’t understand how your child ticks, or if they have a temper or are just over being a teacher, then you may be in for a tricky year.

For a first time school parent it is a strange feeling, even just walking into the playground. I have had so many conversations with mums about this very thing. They all feel like they’re back at school. Like they will walk into the playground before pick up and hope to all get out that someone is friendly, someone will say hello and they will not be left alone to stare up at the sky! Having a toddler by your side provides you with a bit of cover but sometimes these mummas are just not very friendly! And it can feel lonely. Why is this? And it’s not as if my friends have adopted the gothic look or come to school naked, they are awesome people. I simply do not understand it.

The thing I always tell these mums is what the other mums say, exactly the same as them. Perhaps there are snobby mums out there who just want to stick with their cliques! Fine. Not the kind of people I want to hang out with anyway. But I think that most times, people are simply insecure and afraid to start up a conversation or completely exhausted by the rush of being a mum!

And so it is left up to the individual to make eye contact, some glimmering conversation, to swallow some pride and to be courageous and take the first step!

Who dares call themselves good? So many people walk around this place never feeling good enough. But for who? For me and you?? (sounds like a song!) They cake on the makeup, wear stilettos to the beach, wear their short shorts SHORT and hope that someone notices them, that they fit in, that they are good enough!

Sounds a bit like me sometimes. I just cannot bear to wear my pilling, slightly hole-ridden t-shirt to school pick-up! What will ‘they’ think? “Poor old gal, money’s as thin as that pathetic excuse for a t-shirt”. Or they may just take a swift glance around the playground in the hope that they too fit in somewhere. I was talking to a few mums about this very thing. It’s a given that kids will feel insecure in the playground, but not the mums. We strut around with our clocks ticking and our sunnies on, giving a swift wave, smile, hello to the regulars we see everyday. What the kids may like to know, though, is that parents care what other parents think of them. We have to make new friends and fit in as well.

The thing grown-ups have learned is how to hide the tears and the nerves. We are experts at it. Busyness is particularly helpful. When you’re scared that people won’t like you, having things to do makes it hard for them to find out who you really are. In the end there won’t be time for them to make a firm decision either way.

Light conversations about ‘the kids’, business and movies are great topics to distract them away from the constant butterfly dance in your tummy. Humour is also a winner, as long as you’re a little bit funny and you don’t try too hard. All this surface stuff works well to hide our insecurities and fears that if they dig a little deeper they may not like what they see.

So who, deep down, is good enough for whoever? Is it the lady with the designer clothes and the beautiful home, with career, travel and family seemingly going strong? Or is it the housewife, home with the kids, setting up the craft in the afternoon and teaching her kids how to cook? Is it the juggling mother who seems to do everything with 23 kids, a massive house to clean, work coming out of her nostrils and a smile permanently frozen on her tired face? And in the end, do we really look at each other or are we too busy looking at others in the hope they may look at us?

Today both my kids are off doing school like things, learning, playing, eating! For the last six weeks they have been my shadows, my constant companions, my noise. Today I am coping with screaming silences which are both welcome and alarming.

After school drop off today, while still in the playground, a few of us childless mummies raised our hands and let out a mild shriek. Free, free as a birdy. After all this time and lack of space, I suddenly find my self in spacious territory. Even my work-at-home hubby has gone west (poor young man) for a business thing, so the place is MINE, all mine. Shall I go for a dip, read a book, pop the air con on and watch Dirty Dancing?

I feel my work self warming up. My brain stretches and jogs on the spot, preparing itself for work mode rather than the land of holiday where I have half been for the last six weeks. Silence often brings ‘shoulds’ to the surface, “I should clean the house, do the gardening, enjoy the outdoors, dye my hair, clean out the fridge, manage my 2 blogs better, learn a new skill oh and get some more work in. But after the holiday period, it is difficult to get the old motivation cranking. Especially when it’s hot (and any other excuse I can find).

Like all things, I find it’s best to start slowly. It’s about finding the rhythm of life again. Routines have changed for everyone around me and a new year has dawned. New, new everywhere. So where to start? First the state of mind has to be right. So I decide to enjoy the solitude. Done. Now, I write cos I love it and it feels a little like I’m building a skill set. Also the nagging guilt will be delayed for a bit longer. Yippee. Then I give myself permission to rest and recover and regain the composure that has been tested over the holidays with little people tugging at my skirt, nagging me to get them what they want!!!

Over the next few free days, I’ll send a few emails, catch up with friends for a real chat without interruption and just meander around op shops and check out the sales. Then next week as life becomes ‘normal’ again, I’ll get a bit more serious about the stuff I really ‘should’ be doing.

For all you mums out there who are starting a year for the first time without kids at home, the key is not to panic (like I did last year). It’s ok to have a breather and rest because inevitably life will get crazy and you will be useful again and things will become routine before you know it. So grab a book, a cold drink, head to the beach, or whatever takes your fancy and enjoy these blissful sounds of silence.

What do you do when you’re feeling low? What is your ‘happy pill’?

When my growls are in full flight, when they are soaring in stormy clouds and cannot be safely brought in to land, I ease them down with the following:

  1. 1 x  episode Gilmore Girls / ER / Seachange or film (make mine romantic comedy!)
  2. 1 x glass of wine
  3. 1-2 rows of Cadbury‘s finest (usually Snack)
  4. 1 x silent bath, perhaps with wine, but silence is a MUST!
  5. 1 x ridiculously processed packet of orange tasty chips (think Twisties or Cheezels)

And if that doesn’t work, I glue myself to the television until my entire body has relaxed and my smile returns.

We all have those growly days, at least I hope we do! It is now week 6 of school holidays and my baby grrrr is slowly growing into a full blown GROWL. It’s not that the kids are being particularly naughty, it’s just that the same stuff is still going on that has been happening for the last 5 weeks.

Let me enlighten you…

  • When you are out and about, even just doing the regular grocery shopping, you’ll find the holidaying child full of “Oh mum, I really want…” You roll your eyes and say a stern “no” through gritted teeth for the umpteenth time.
  • The holidaying child will want to watch a movie everyday (at least mine do). It is tempting to the overwrought mother to say “yes”. But deep down in the ‘good’ mother part of you, you know that too much tv is not a good thing. Besides the sun is shining and the beach lives just around the corner, so it would be criminal to do a daily movie thing.
  • Before school starts back there may be a few ‘panic’ play dates. Perhaps you have lost touch with particularly good friends or there are group reunions. This requires energy. There’s small talk to do, the effort of getting in the car (especially to the beach) with all the stuff is an effort in itself. Though you may love the social aspect of play dates, it still revolves around the children!
  • Technology – kids on holidays crave technology. When all Lego has been played with, all Pony’s tails are brushed and the Barbies can’t bear another change of clothes, the children turn to computers or ipods etc. For this they need adult help with the setting up and the rules and the tears when they inevitably lose. Then there’s fighting over whose turn it is with the darn thing.
  • Late nights are a common feature of the holiday period. There are countless barbeques and festivals to attend, some ending at your bedtime, let alone theirs. The following day everyone is cranky, even more demanding as the little darlings haven’t yet learned the art of sleeping in.

We all love our kids and the time we have with them is so precious. But we’re not robots, we’re not paid enough to be happy chaps all the time. There is very little reward for all the STUFF us parents do for the ones we love so dearly. We may do it with a growl in our throats but it is comforting to remember that at the end of the day, they have to go to bed early and we can indulge ourselves in our ‘happy pills’ all night long!

image by Sanjay Acharya

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