By: Rebecca Bowyer
You know that moment when your shiny new parenting gig turns to crap around 6 weeks after you bring baby home? The ‘Why didn’t anyone tell me this?’ moment, where you’re sure nobody ever mentioned how soul-sucking constant sleep deprivation is, how painful breastfeeding can be and how you may not actually love that little bundle of joy every second of every day.
Except they did tell you – several times. You just didn’t have the point of reference to be able to really understand what they were talking about, so you dismissed it. Waking up every two hours for nine months or more? Pfft, they must be exaggerating. Nobody could possibly live through that and tell the tale.
Your eldest child starting school is a little like this. Despite being told otherwise by friends, family and the media, I was convinced it would be a total breeze. I thought when Mr 5 started school this year it would free up heaps of time and we would enter some sort of fantasy post-preschool-parenting world where I could sip wine and eat biscuits and cheese on a Friday afternoon while the kids played happily with their friends on our well-manicured lawn.
Clearly I had confused my own life with an episode of Better Homes and Gardens. The reality has been a little different.
I like daycare. Daycare feeds the kids nutritious, hot meals every single day. School does not. School requires that you pack your child 6.5 hours worth of food every single night.
Better still, they require that it is ‘rubbish-free’ which means you have to have a bunch of teeny-tiny containers to put things in, which you also have to handwash (because there’s not enough time to stick them in the dishwasher) every single night.
ALL THE NOTICES
An online form for after-school care, a paper form for the school dentist program, a notice about icy-pole days starting up again (with gluten-free options), a starter pack for some Premier reading competition thing, AusKick enrolment forms, discount book order forms, family twilight sports evening, class reading volunteer forms (which direct you to the pre-requisite online Working With Children Check form), optional music lessons, please bring your art smocks in, tick your time slot preference for meet the teacher night, OMG THE FREAKING NOTICES AND FORMS.
Every evening I open up Mr 5’s school bag, slightly fearful of what new obligation or opportunity is lurking atop the mostly-empty rubbish-free lunchbox and the crumpled school jacket that cost a fortune but he never wears.
SPECIAL THINGS ON SPECIAL DAYS
We need to remember the weekly craft homework goes in on one day, sports shoes must be worn on another day and icy-pole day occurs two days every week, on which I must send $0.50 to school in a named envelope so that Mr 5 can have an icy treat at lunch time. God help me if I forget. Canteen days for Preps will start in Term 2.
They broke the news to us gently, at a Foundation Parent Information Evening in the second week of term. Starting in week three, our pride and joy would be bringing home three types of homework every single night, two of which needed to be signed off.
I actually went home that night and cried because I was feeling so overwhelmed – three types of homework, lunches, notices, forms, different days of the week… and this would continue for the NEXT FIFTEEN YEARS (including Mr 3, who is two years behind).
The next morning I woke up and realised that the ‘homework’ would really only take 5 minutes each night and was mostly just what we do with the boys anyway – read a book. It’s just that now it has to be the particular book that comes home with him each day.
For everything else we’ve developed systems a few weeks into term and we’re slowly getting there. But it is definitely a huge adjustment!
Rebecca Bowyer lives in the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne with her long-suffering husband and two young sons, who are both quite delightful, especially when they are smiling or sleeping.