Ziggler has completed a whole nine days at school. In this time I have no idea what she has learnt, of course, but I have learnt something new every day. Literally. Not corpus literally but actual real literally, as Ziggler herself would say if she knew the word or either of its definitions. Anyway. 9 things have I learnt, and here are they.
1. School? It’s just another thing. For Ziggler that is. For me and the adults in my family, her starting school is A Major Event. Relatives keep ringing and asking to speak to Ziggler and then grilling her. Who is her teacher? Who are her friends? Is she happy? Does she enjoy it? What does she have for lunch? She is predictably unforthcoming on the subject, except to maybe describe what socks she’s wearing that day or who hurt their knee so it actual bleeded. I think she may have a case of squeaky new-school clean. Also, two weeks is bloody aaaages in the life of a four year old. So there’s me, shaken as if by a major life change, moping about, missing my Zigs and not sure what to do with myself. There she is, dashing headlong in to what is, after all, just The Next Thing.
2.The School Run is a flippin’ pain in the arse. And Lo! There was discovered another form of drudgery. Before Ziggler started school and Pickle went back to nursery, I was really excited about the three mornings to myself I was going to have. The coffees I would enjoy! The work opportunities I would investigate! The regular exercise I would take! Alas. Turns out the travelling to and from school and nursery cuts that time in half. The day is carved up into precise sections of time. At the end of each you must be at an appointed place to drop someone off or pick someone up, and being a punctual type I start worrying about the forthcoming deadline at least half an hour in advance.
3. The things everyone tells you are true. Yep, she is more tired than she has ever been. A couple of evenings have consisted of me doing my disaster-management fake calm voice for the duration of the walk home, and once there gently placing her on the sofa, plugging Cbeebies directly into the little socket on the side of her head, carefully curling her fingers round a mug of hot chocolate, and dashing off to prepare chicken nuggets STAT. Yep, also, she always does nothing at school. Or she’s forgotten. Or she doesn’t want to tell me. Sometimes she will deign to reveal what she ate for lunch, but I’m never sure she’s not making it up. She is quite verbal about other people’s injuries and wrongdoings. I make do with that.
4. You Will Not Know The System. I got told off for taking the dinner money to the wrong place. I Failed to leave the water bottle where it should go. I did not follow proper protocol when picking Ziggler up from French Club (we can discuss my hothousing tendencies later). I always hated being told off when I was little, and you know what, I STILL HATE IT. Whining that nobody told you what to do does not wash. You have become part of a vast, chuffing institution that rolls along, squashing those who are stupid enough to get in its way by not giving their dinner money in properly. A rather tortuous metaphor I give you. Anyway my friend Marj, whom I met in Prague when I briefly taught there in my other more carefree and generally less bothered life, reminded me (on Facebook where I had broadcast my chagrin) of how traumatic visits to the Post Office there used to be. There was a very definite system but it changed with every visit and if you put your parcel on the scales before you were supposed to or dallied for a second before taking your turn at the little communist window – which you always did – a torrent of angry and high-pitched Czech would be directed at you until you accidentally complied with what was demanded of you. My daughter’s lovely South East London primary school is admittedly not all that much like that ex-communist bureaucracy, but I felt far more glamorous when I told myself I was suffering a form of culture-shock rather than a dislike of getting done off Miss.
5. Don’t buy stuff for one kid when the other is at school. Or if you do, hide it. I have a sister. I don’t know why this one was not blindingly obvious to me.
6. The time before school really is short, just like everybody is always banging on about. I don’t include this in number 3 because it may be true – it does seem like two weeks ago that Ziggler was born – but I have to keep reminding myself that the time Before School was incredibly hard. Despite loving my girls more than anything I was miserable as sin for a lot of the time and it says something about how much better things are now that my memory of that misery is fading. To remind myself I revisit my moanier blog posts, like this one. I say this in case you are reading with two (or one, or seven) small children and think you are crap for not being happy all the time. You’re not.
7. Girls’ friendship politics start early. I knew this. But wow. Who is going to whose house to play and who plays with whom in the playground and whose hair is the nicest and who pinched whom and so on forever. I think Ziggler is good at making friends. I can only hope that she is kind about doing it, and make an immense effort to set a good example by never bitching about other people. In her earshot. I have told myself that other than that I really must keep out of it.
8. Human beings love routine. It’s amazing how quickly little kids learn to settle into a place if they know where their peg is, in what order things happen and where everything belongs. I was struck by this very forcefully in Ziggler’s first few school days. Then I realised that actually I’m quite happy if I know where my peg is and in what order things happen. And that everything we do – our school life, our work life, our family life, and our sex life revolves around knowing where our peg is and roughly what happens next. I was joking about the sex. I was. So anyway the model that the girls and I have followed for the last few years – of free-form days and not even bothering with pegs – that’s different from the usual. And Ziggler has loved discovering the usual.
9. Nine days is aaaages in the life of a four-year-old. And she has changed immeasurably in just those nine days. She’s chatting like a grown up lady. She’s getting jokes. She’s become a bit full of herself (I’m glad). She skipped down the road from school the other day swinging her book bag and singing ‘school girl school girl school girl’ and making passersby smile. She is obviously happy in her new role. And today, a real development. In the bath, giving her toy dinosaur a drink, she asked, ‘how does the seed get to the egg to make a baby?’ so I took a deep breath and began the story. Luckily we’ve recently inherited a book on the subject, with fabulous 70s illustrations to assist, so we can talk some more over the next few days, and months, and years. I won’t deny a sense of wistfulness. Is this the loss of innocence? I don’t know, but I always preferred experience anyway.
And number ten… who knows? Exciting times. I expect I’ll find out tomorrow.