When you’re a kid, school is the centre of the universe. You meet your friends, you play sport, you idolise your teachers. Sometimes you even learn stuff. It’s a win-win place to be.
What you don’t realise is that school is also the centre of your parents’ universe. Because while you are there gliding like a swan through the school day – arriving in the right place at the right time with the right kit, the right musical instrument and your dinner money, someone is there desperately paddling away in the background to make it happen. No prizes for guessing who that someone is.
Before your kids start school, you think school will somehow make the world an easier place. No childcare worries! Wrong. Life gets so much more complicated when they get to school. Nurseries and childminders usually operate 8 till 6, giving plenty of time to travel to and from work and put in a reasonable day’s graft in between. Schools work approximately 9 till 3. Thirty nine weeks a year. Less INSET days. Yes, they leaving a gaping hole that has to be filled with ever more complicated arrangements.
But as just keeping them in school and keeping up the admin is a full-time job, you might just as well give up work now and make life easier for everyone!
As a family we are in our 7th year of what will be a total of 19 years with kids at school. We are in a relatively simple position – the second of only two years in which all three will be in the same place. But life is still a complicated web of kits, letters and musical instruments and you need at least a BTEC in admin to be able to cope.
On the first day of the school year my kids came home with no less than TWELVE letters between them. There were one or two duplications (despite the school having a policy of not duplicating and of emailing and texting information), but on the whole these were separate letters, most of them requiring action. Surprisingly, none of them required cheques. A letter requiring a cheque came home on the third day. One year I tried to keep track of the school spending, but it got too depressing, so I gave up.
So I empty the bags, fill in the forms, sign them, write the cheques and send them back. I have a write-on calendar to remind me who needs what on what day. PE kits live at school, but not always with trainers in them, so I have to remember to send the trainers in on the right day. I have a VERY poor record with that one. Book bags and water bottles are easy. They are every day. Lunches slightly less easy as sometimes we have school dinners in the equation. Which I have to remember to pay for on a Monday.
In addition to the regular stuff, we have swimming kit, forest school kits (basically old clothes and wellies for playing in the mud), musical instruments and ad hoc bits and pieces for art and craft activities.
Sometimes the kids go to school in fancy dress or their own clothes. Dress as a character from your favourite book or a child from Victorian times? For a working mum with no sewing skills whatsoever and three kids? Not easy.
My younger son started playing recorder last term. The problem was, no-one told me. There was a letter, apparently. It made its way to me over a month late, by which time my son had spent three Tuesdays practicing his recorder fingering on a ruler. The shame!
So as you pack a change of clothes in your toddler’s nursery bag and set off for a full day’s work, breathe a sigh of relief. Because life will soon become a LOT more complicated.