The first week of September social media is always full to the brim with pictures of children either starting pre-school or school, or going back for another term.
And until this year, I’ve always just scrolled through them quickly clicking the odd like on a few friends’ photos. It’s never been a thing I’ve needed to think much about.
Now it’s my son’s turn. This week my three year old starts pre-school for two days a week. And suddenly it’s a thing I’m very much thinking about.
I, like pretty much every other mum in the same position, am feeling a bit emotional about the whole thing. In a variety of ways.
He’s hugely excited after visiting a couple of times and discovering a massive box of dinosaurs. That’s basically all he talks about. He asks me constantly if it’s time for him to go to “pre-school and see Karen-My-Keyworker” (he actually thinks that’s her name) and I keep having to help him grasp the concept of time – six weeks since his last visit is an eternity to him
But now it’s just two days away.
I am so excited for him, because I know he’ll love it. We were the last to leave the induction meeting because he was having too much fun, and he cried when I told him it was time to go. I took that as a good sign. The pre-school is just a few doors down from us and he points it out every time we go past, setting him off talking about all the different dinosaurs there were in the big red box, and what other things he’ll be doing there.
He’s so ready to go, and will love learning. He’s extremely bright (obviously I bloody would say that) – but he really is. His language is incredible, and he can reel off the names of dinosaurs with spot-on prononciation that I’ve not even heard of. Australopithecus or Paraceratherium anyone? No, not a sodding clue. Then he’ll tell you which period they lived in, what they ate, and how tall they grew. Andy’s Prehistoric Adventures is a WONDERFUL thing. I actually worry he’ll bore Karen-My-Keyworker to death by the end of the first day to be honest…
He also NEEDS to go. He needs to learn what it’s like to be in a structured environment with other children. To be told what to do by other adults other than parents and grandparents, and how to not have a hissy-fit when he doesn’t get his own way.
He sees different children every day of the week, but he’s never been in any childcare as I don’t work. I took voluntary redundancy from my journalist job whilst I was on mat leave with him – and now with two more to pay for as well, I’d be forking out more than I’d earn on childcare for three. So apart from a day a week with Granny and Grandad (basically his favourite day) he’s with me all the time. ALL the time.
As with all aspects of parenting, there are advantages and disadvantages to that. I feel very lucky (75% of the time!) that I’m in a position to be a stay-at-home mum, and I’ve had the best time with him over the past three years. Other than the times I’d happily work for free just to get some adult-time, whilst simultaneously selling him on eBay, of course…
But with all the pros of having a stay-at-home mum, there are obviously the cons, and he’ll not know what’s hit him when I leave him at pre-school this week. For the first time ever in a strange environment not knowing anyone and without that safety net of family around him. I already want to cry just thinking about it.
OR, what’s more likely, and what I’m hoping, is that he won’t give a shit and it’ll be ME who’ll be a blubbering wreck. It’ll be a scene played out across the country I expect, and one that all you mums with older kids will ‘get’, I’m sure.
My emotions are swinging from worry to happiness every time I think about it. I worry that he’ll be upset, that he won’t be able to open his packed lunch box, that he can’t hold a pencil properly yet, that he’ll be too afraid to ask to go to the toilet (he’s already told my mum he’s just going to wait until he gets home for a wee – he’s there all day!), or that he’ll be boisterous and roar like a dinosaur in some other poor kid’s face and scare the shit out of them.
But then I think about all the things he’ll learn and love, and that makes me happy. Especially the new things he’ll do that I’ve not really done with him at home – painting, messy play, and basically anything vaguely creative. Partly because I HATE (and am crap at) stuff like that, and partly because I have baby twins who have funnily enough taken up a fair bit of time in the last 14 months. Don’t even get me started on the mum guilt about that.
Then there’s a third emotion – a selfish one on my part – excitement. I get to have some me-time. My parents are going to have the Twins for part of one of the days he’s at pre-school, seeing as they now won’t be having him. I am going to have FIVE WHOLE HOURS child-free and I’m so EXCITED!
I plan to surgically attach myself to my laptop and work on my blog, moving only to wee, make coffee and fetch biscuits. Feel free to keep me in check when in fact you see me driving at speed towards the local spa, or sitting in Costa scrolling mindlessly through Facebook for 3.5 hours.
What I’ll PROBABLY do is sit absentmindedly gazing at my laptop wondering how all my babies are and what they’re up to without me.
Well, maybe just for the first hour…