Saying goodbye for the first time: What not to do when your little one starts school

September is fast approaching and many of us are preparing to wave goodbye to our little ones at the school gate, for the first time. How do we prepare ourselves for such a big change? I have no idea. I cannot tell you what to do, because I'm still figuring it out myself. However, here are a few things NOT to do whilst trying to cope with the fact that your little one will be taking her place in society… i.e starting school.

1. Don’t cry in front of her.

My daughter and I have similar levels of drama embedded within us. We are, as she once put it, ‘emosh people’. If you cry in front of your daughter and wail something along the lines of ‘ma baby is growing up’, you will make her cry too. Worse still, you will make her afraid of growing up and going to school. As one mum to another: don’t do this. Find someone else to share in your emotions. Enlist a mum-friend or your other half- that’s what they are there for.

2. Don’t use school as a threat.

Over the past few stressful weeks of having to look after my own child 24/7, I have admittedly used the concept of school rules to convince her to behave. I have said things like ‘Do you think you’d get away with that in school?’ or ‘You better learn some manners before September’. Funnily enough, this was a bad tactic. Now, when people ask her if she will be starting school in September, she answers with ‘If I behave’ or ‘we’ll see’.

3. Don’t panic about the fact that your child hasn’t read War and Peace or Wuthering Heights

Yes, there will be someone in her class who has read these classic works. However, you know your child. You know that your love and support is what is going to get them through school, and not a marathon reading list from now until September. Very few children can read going to school and nowadays we know that letting kids progress at their own rate is the best way to do things.

My daughter wrote her name and the names of her favourite singers today, completely backwards. Like each individual letter, backwards. After time spent teaching her letters over the last few months, these symbols would be difficult for an archaeologist to decipher. Instead of panicking, I smiled and complimented her on her effort. Go me.

4. Don’t make fun of school in front of her

Mamas, it’s around this time where we must actively start lying to our little darlings. In fairness, school is no longer a dreaded gloomy place where there are rules about how to breathe. Do not tell your child stories of mischief and homework mishaps from your golden days.

I was an imaginative (just pure naughty) and opinionated (cheeky brat) child. Once, a teacher of mine told my daughter that I gave her a hard time in school. My five-year-old hasn’t forgotten it since. I’m hoping she won’t play that card when she finds herself in a spot of classroom bother.

5. Don’t worry

Though it may seem like you are the only who has ever handed your child over to be institutionalised, you’re not. Somehow, you and everyone else made it through the education system intact. Every mum waves goodbye to their baby at the gate, at some point. You are not alone and many other mums who are waving goodbye for the first time will be holding back the tears too. Find them. Befriend them and you can cry together once your babies are out of sight.

Anna Murray is an Irish student mum to one little girl.

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