I am one of those disorganised mothers you see dropping the contents of her bag and trying not to laugh as her child runs wild in the supermarket. I don’t do organisation. I learned a long time ago that balancing college, work and motherhood was a wing-it sort of thing. Plans are a recipe for disappointment so I don’t make them. This has worked well up until recently. Like most parents, I try not to think of my baby growing up. Having a future? Sure. But one so far away that there was no need to plan for it.
A few weeks ago, things changed.
Another mother at the crèche asked me what school I would be sending my daughter to. I listed the few in my area and told her how my school of preference had a ‘year-of’ enrolment system. As I said the words, I realised it was currently this ‘year-of’ that had seemed so far off. My baby could potentially start school this September. September 2018. The September that is only 9 months from now...I was internally freaking. I hope I hid my panic well. This lady had 4 more at home and knew the drill. She knows how to tell when a baby is no longer a baby.
It’s a question all parents must deal with: How do I know when my little one is ready for school?
I went at four myself. My own mother went at three, not a bother. Can you imagine a teeny tiny three-year-old embarking through the doors of a late 1970’s institution-when corporal punishment was still a thing?! This image makes my own doubts seem pathetic. Primary schools have come a long way since. They are sanctuaries of learning and nurture and have never been more welcoming.
Still. She’s my baby...
My little one will be four in May. Living with 5 adults in the house means she spoke early and hasn't stopped since. She lists dinosaur species on the way to crèche and asks if I’m okay when she thinks I’ve had a rough day. She appears advanced for her age. But I know better…I know she is still a baby. She spent a whole day as a pterodactyl last week, never breaking character. Her tiny hand still clings to mine all night when she is sick.
The idea of sending her to school terrifies me. The uniform. The homework. The rules. The independent toilet trips?! I heard they want them learned in the arts of tying shoelaces and doing-up buttons by the first day. They want them perfectly sociable and ready for maths class at 9am.
I was confident I had made the decision a few weeks back. The application is in, and we’ve begun classes in buttons and laces to prepare, but I’m still not sure. Another year and she’d be a proper little human and not this baby that crawls into my bed at night. Another year and I’ll know she’s ready…
But probably not. I realise I will probably never be okay with the idea of her growing up. None of us likes to admit that our babies need us less and less each day. It is silly and pointless to worry. We are so lucky to have all these options, and will it really matter if they go to school at four or five?
But it’s still a thing. It will always be a thing. It is our job to worry and frantically teach buttons and laces before September.
Let us know your thoughts about starting school in the comments!