School for beginners

Tomorrow is non-uniform day at my daughter’s school.   Aisha isn’t at proper big school yet but has started attending the school nursery, so we bought her a uniform and to all intents and purposes it does feel like she is at school.
We get a newsletter each week with school news and this week’s told us it is non-uniform day, for £1.    

I remember non-uniform days from my childhood and I remember the pressure to always wear something nice/cool/on trend.   I never quite got it right until my teenage years when my sister (who was nice/cool/on trend) started dressing me.   I didn’t think I would be thinking about or worrying about any of that sort of pressure with my daughter for a good few years, but it appears it starts as little as three these days.

This non-uniform day has a theme.    So instead of dressing her in her comfortable ‘at home’ clothes, we need to put our thinking caps on and come up with something for her to wear.

This got me thinking (regular readers will know I do a lot of thinking).    I started thinking about all of the times we are required to dress up our kids for nursery/school and how they seem to be under pressure to become more inventive every time.   Halloween, Christmas Party, fancy dress days for charity. It’s all well-intentioned but blimey it’s high pressure.   What if, like me, you don’t have much time in the week to think of much outside of your normal, routine ‘things that need to be done’ for the kids, and to add a fancy dress day just loads it on.    Or what if, like me, you’re not that creative when it comes to dressing up stuff.  

I suppose it’s all about me learning the new world of school.  Even though Aisha doesn’t officially start until next year, we’re there now really.  We are doing the drop off, the pick up, we’re waiting at the school gates, we’re scoping out the other parents.  I find myself not quite knowing how to conduct myself around the teachers.  I realise I’m supposed to appear as the grown up ‘mum’ but inside I’m regressing back to my school days and wanting to be on my best behaviour.

It almost feels like school is something you have to navigate; they should give you a handbook so that you don’t have to find your way by asking other parents or just by making plain old-fashioned mistakes.  I tend to do a lot of learning by making mistakes – wearing the wrong thing, going the wrong way.   That sort of thing.  And sometimes the person who witnesses this is nice and sympathetic but other times they look at me with a dead-pan expression.

Anyway, I think I need to create my own handbook for all the things I don’t know but should know, and hopefully by the time she leaves school at 16/18, I will know.  Never one to shy away from a list, I’ve listed below the things I think should be in my handbook:

School gate etiquette – is it acceptable to smile at every parent I see?  I do this, it isn’t always well received but I live by the mantra ‘do unto others’ or something like that.  I think it’s nice to smile at people.  Not everybody agrees.
Seeing the teacher etiquette – is it okay to make small talk with them?  How are you Teacher?  Saw you in Tesco the other day!  Nice top.  Or do you have to keep it purely to talk about the kids.  Or no talk at all?  Just a smile, a polite Good Morning, and in you go?
Other people’s kids – is it okay to smile at them when you see them outside the gate whilst you are waiting with your kids?  Or will their parents snarl at you?  
Lunchboxes – probably my longest chapter and will need to be carefully researched.   I am painfully aware that the contents of the lunchbox will come under much more scrutiny now than they ever did when I was a child.   I always had a sandwich, crisps, penguin biscuit, full sugar Ribena and a yoghurt.   But that was the eightees.  And people are much more health aware now.  So I’m always checking to make sure what I put in will pass muster and I won’t be the subject of a carefully worded letter or, worse, feature (nameless of course) in the weekly newsletter.
Uniform – Is it like the Army where every day the polo shirts have to be pristinely ironed or can you get away with the odd crease because you were too tired last night to iron them?  Do you have to make sure their shoes are always shiny and clean with polish or can you occasionally cut corners by colouring them in with black marker?
End of year teacher present giving – now I’ve been out of school for a looong time but is it really true that there is now a competitive edge to giving teachers presents?  I’ve seen the supermarket displays of things to buy the teachers to say thank you.   Jeez.   Talk about another pressure.  

I need to learn all this stuff and more.   I will begin my handbook soon, and ask everybody I know so I have the answers.  

Or, I could just navigate it the best I can, with my eyes open and make my mistakes and hope for the best.  After all, school isn’t just about the bits above. The main thing is my kids are happy there.  Whatever presents the teachers get, whatever is in their lunchbox; I just want them to be happy kids, have friends that love them, play lots and learn lots.    Here’s hoping.

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