Back at the bottom of the heap
Isn’t life funny? Just when you think you’ve made it and you’ve got it all figured out, everything changes.
That’s never more obvious than when watching a child grow up. We watched our son start out in each room in the crèche, the smallest one there. Nervous, trying to learn how things worked in this new place. Gradually he’d grow in confidence (and height!), and then just as he got to be the biggest in the room, sure of himself and his surroundings, it would be time to move on.
I still remember my own heartbreak when he came home crying from his first week in the Junior Preschool Room. He’d moved up from the Toddler Room where he’d been ruling the roost for a few months. “Mammy,” he sobbed. “That boy said I’m a baby. I’m not a baby. I’m a big boy.” But of course he was the baby there, for a while.
And now here he is again, in a new situation. A Junior Infant. Bottom of the pile in the school world. Trying to learn the rules of the classroom and the playground. He’ll spend the next eight years in this building and then just when he finally makes it to the top of the pile, it’ll be time to move on, to reset, and restart in secondary school. Then maybe on to college, and then a career hopefully. Each time starting over, each time the new kid.
And I’m learning that as a parent, each of these new beginnings for my child is a new beginning for me too. I’ve been at this five years now, so I’ve got parenting in the pre-school years figured out. But now the rules are changing and we’re the newbies again.
Right now I’m learning as much about how school works as my son is. His school world is a far cry from my days of “lámha trasna agus teigh a chodladh” (cross your arms and go to sleep) – the direction my Junior Infants teacher used to give us several times a day so that we’d fold our arms on the desks, put our heads down and stay silent to give her a bit of peace and quiet. The blackboards have been replaced by interactive whiteboards, and the alphabet song has been replaced by Jolly Phonics. But there are a few other changes that I had been warned about but hadn’t really understood the implications. A teacher is not a crèche worker. There are no handy sheets at the end of the day to tell me what he played, what he ate, or how his form was. Instead I just have the snippets of his day that he chooses to share with me to give me insights into his new world.
New friendships appearing on the scene and old ones fading away. Goodbye Octonauts and Fireman Sam (they’re for babies apparently) and hello Beyblades, Hot Wheels, and Skylanders. Today he attended his first birthday party without us. And next week, it’s our turn to host our first “drop off” party.
It’s all change. But as he’s learning, we’re learning. This time next year we’ll be old pros at this school thing. Right?