This post is a retrospective.
I wrote it on Little Chap’s first day at school, but had so many posts to catch up on from the summer, I’ve been unable to schedule it before today. We’ve since had a successful first half of term in Reception and Little Chap has settled as well as we hoped he would, getting no less than three merit badges for demonstrating the Golden Rules.
Here’s how it all started…
Yesterday was Little Chap’s first day in the Pre-Prep. Reception has two classes. He is in Robins with half his friends from Nursery and the other half are in Squirrels. One Nursery boy, Little Chap’s friend A, left to repatriate with his family in Singapore.
Both classes are doubled back to the size they were in Nursery with new boys. Little Chap is over the moon that one of the new Squirrels is one of his best buddies from various pre-school mother and toddler groups. So am I, as I will occasionally see my good friend J on the school run and on the odd night out with the mums. Yay!
By the beginning of this week, signs of first day nerves were showing and I wondered if we’d over egged the whole “Big School” thing. Maybe we’d overdone the comments
“you’ll have to dress yourself/use a knife and fork/listen/do as you’re asked… in Big School you know!”
and so on that Mayfair Dad and I felt compelled to throw out all too regularly over the holidays when faced with determined resistance of the four year old kind.
And you all know by now how well I coped with my first day as a Reception Mummy!
So how did it go for the Little Chap in question?
Well, at first glance, he came out smiling and in one piece and not many parents can hope for more than that if we’re truthful. On closer inspection, where we are normally faced with silence or monosyllables to indicate the content of his day, on this day we were left in no doubt as to his antics! Here’s a synopsis of what we were told:
- The topic this term will be water, so they made a duck to put on the classroom walls.
- They also made a robin – nothing to do with the water theme, but everything to do with the name of their class. So they all had to colour in a robin and write their name on it. These were cut out and stuck on the window for us all to see from the playground when we visit. Each class of Robins does this every year and it makes it “their” classroom.
- Lunch was in the dining room and it all went very well as far as we could tell. As in he ate something. He told us it was delicious. He ate pudding as well (a sign he did actually eat the main course and wasn’t just saying he had because he thought that was what we wanted to hear!) and although I can’t remember what it was, it did at least match one of the options on the menu posted on the classroom door and website for the day by the dining staff.
- Did we know he had something called Assembly after lunch? This was about sitting down quietly and letting their lunch go down apparently“So we’re not sick” Little Chap told us they sang songs and said a prayer, which he said he liked. I thought it might have been the Lord’s Prayer, as when I repeated my favourite version to him, he agreed it was the one he’d said. Despite only having learned it that day, it was quite clearly discernible from the bits he could remember. I can’t explain why, because I don’t think I’m particularly religious, but that made me really happy. Like a fine, almost invisible thread of my own childhood has been carried through the generations, and the solid foundations of my upbringing have not disappeared in the face of progress after all.
- Little Chap then had us in stitches, telling us how the boys have been taught to bow to the Headmaster and curtsy to their Head of Pre-Prep. (I still have to get to the bottom of exactly what this is all about) Apparently, one of the boys did the curtsy a little wrong and ended up sticking his bottom out at the Head (a source of great hilarity and multiple demonstrations but I’d dearly love to know how it all went down at the time!)
- So how was playtime? “Fine thanks, Mummy.” He found all his old chums from his nursery class apparently and even saw his old friend L!
- He was very excited to tell me about Coffee & Cream, the class gerbils (or are they hamsters?!) who apparently “eat” cardboard, so please can I give him raisins in little boxes for his snack, as he’d like to give his empty cardboard box to the teacher, who will recycle it in their cage!
- His final point for the night, was on a slightly sadder note. He excitedly told me that he’d seen his teachers from the nursery class. Having been unable to stop him from telling us all the exciting things that had happened to him all day, he finally hugged me goodnight and asked me, in the most tragic little voice, which quavered a little at the thought of my confirmation of his worst fears:
“Mummy, I’m never going to be in the Nursery again, am I?”
What could I do but tell him the truth? It broke his little heart and he’s still so little and vulnerable that I hated myself for doing it to him but he’s emotionally articulate and I can’t help feeling that sometimes the truth might be harder but its fair and honest, whereas a lie is harder to recover from in the end.
I suppose it was inevitable that he would come crashing down to such a low, having just been riding such a high of excitement but on reflection it is similar to his emotions at the end of a play date – desperately excitable just before the friend leaves, only to break down in tears when the door shuts behind them, weeping as if his little heart would break and he’s never going to see them again. He doesn’t like not being able to control the fun and happiness and make it last forever. (Hell, who does?)
Unfortunately, his utterly understandable disappointment at the nursery door closing in his face (metaphorically speaking!) led to his broken-hearted reaction – especially as he clearly suspected and now knows for sure that this play date guest is never coming round to play again.
I can only be thankful he wanted to share both his happiness and excitement at his new adventures but also that he could articulate his sadness and concerns about his loss of the past. Funny how I never once doubted how happy he had been in Nursery. Mayfair Dad and I fairly glowed with pride when the staff said they felt he was “settled in” the day he arrived.
I can’t help feeling I’ve been a little naive to expect the happiness to just move with him seamlessly from one year to the next. I should have realised that with change, comes loss. In his case, the loss of that great happiness, love and affection received in the nursery.
He will still see the staff from time to time but he will never again have their attention the way he had it for that year when he was “one of theirs”. This will hurt. Arguably the happier he was there, the worse it is for him now as everything changes – location, teachers, headmaster, head of pre-prep, uniform, classmates, school lunches, the structure of his day.
Thankfully there is much that is consistent. The school did much to familiarise him with his new classroom and teacher before starting. His teacher seems lovely. Miss G is very enthusiastic and fun but not standing any nonsense. Much like Miss W was in the nursery. Little Chap’s weekly routine is broadly unchanged.
His After School Club arrangements remain consistent, I know his friends will still love him and play games with him in the playground even though they aren’t in the same class this year. The school’s expectations of his behaviour will appear consistent too although I’m sure there will be more norms for him to remember this year and I know it will only be a matter of weeks before he feels as if he’s been there forever.
So while I remain optimistic that his transition will go well, I also know we will have to be a little sensitive to how much he is having to deal with this term and help him as much as we can to stay positive.
Did you have a little one start school this term? How did they react to their first day?