20 August 2013
Day 1 of the New School and new school year and all did not go well: Maxi Minx summed up her day as 4/10 and Midi assessed hers as 2/10. What went wrong?
We arrived at the school in plenty of time because I needed to give the lovely, efficient Administrator more details for the 3,557 forms I filled in last week (we now have a landline and a GP) and pay her the money for Maxi’s school uniform. Luckily I had it all ready in a sealed envelope as the poor woman was busy with lots of other new arrivals: the school roll jumped by around 12% in the holidays, if my counting is right. I asked where we should go to start the day. She assured me that the Head would go outside and tell everyone where to line up. I was strongly discouraged from coming into the school, too. So I shuttled the girls outside and waited for the bell.
Oh right, the bell… they don’t have one. Or at least, one that I could hear. I saw the Head appear. He looked at 3 rough lines and started filing one line of kids in. Maxi, Midi and I huddled at the back of the playground looking lost. He filed in another line. Hmmm… I ushered the girls into the back of the last line and told them to remind him that they were new and where was their classroom, please? The door was slammed shut right behind them. So my last sight of my little 5 and 7 year olds was of them being ignored as they asked questions. I shushed my inner dragon who wanted to march round to Reception and sort it all out, and I walked away with an upset Mini, who was already missing her sisters. Her sisters are confident, resourceful little girls; their teacher knew they were new; they’d be just fine.
Except they weren’t. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled going to unusually supportive schools as a pupil 100 years ago and a parent, so I just expected that 2 new pupils would be introduced to the rest of the class by the teacher. I assumed that they would have a named coat peg and tray. I assumed that they’d be allocated a buddy who’d show them round for the first few days, or at least be given a named person they could ask things of. Nope. Nothing like that. Maxi claims to have spoken to 3 of her classmates all day; Midi to 4. They spent the whole day feeling confused and just following what everyone else was doing.
I asked about playtime – didn’t they talk to people then? Maxi was too horrified at some little boy legging it off to pee in the bushes. I wonder how many playground supervisors there are? Maxi also spent most of her playtime trying to find the toilet and find her way back again. She claimed to have asked other people, but not really gotten much help. I say ‘claim’ – she’s pretty reticent about speaking to strangers for any reason.
When I picked them up at 3.15, they were left till almost last, at 3.30. Even though Midi was pointing out that she could see me in the playground, she was ignored. Perhaps because there was a big mix-up with Maxi being on the school transport or not (her teacher was adamant that she was; she insisted that she wouldn’t go on without her sister. Either way, the school got it wrong, because the Council say that because we live 1.8 miles away from school, it’s ok for the kids to walk to school along a busy 70mph dual carriageway and we’re not entitled to transport).
Anyway, the girls barrelled out of school looking sad, fretful and upset. We had a long chat about it and I tried not be critical within their earshot. Apparently their teacher forgot to do their name tags and promised to do them tonight if she remembered. I reminded the girls how I’d found out where to buy their dinner tickets and where the office was (“Hi, I’m new around here. Please can you tell me…?”) and coached them to do the exact same. I explained that self-reliance and resilience were really important lessons for them to learn, but privately I didn’t really envisage them having to do this kind of thing till they were a fair bit older. Perhaps I’m babying them too much?
So while the elder 2 minxes were feeling vulnerable, lonely and like misfits (their words), me and the youngest minx had a boring old day hanging around waiting on an Ikea delivery – a new bed for me and The Boss! Ahhhh, no more sleeping in the softest, dustiest mattress in the world! (Yes, ‘in’, not on: it sank down that much…). Mini moped around a lot missing her sisters and her Daddy, but perked up when we played outside with the football, the Frisbee and the seesaw. She helped me do some cleaning and tidying (I can’t miss a single day – it’s too big a job. I stopped counting the number of Dyson-containers of dust emptied after the 7th one went, by Day 4) and happily helped me do a big shopping at the ASDA near The Boss’s work. I’d texted him to suggest we meet for lunch, but he didn’t get the text till too late. He said he’d arrived to see us turn down the slip road. Funnily enough, I was off on a quick drive-past of his work – I’d seen a fire engine head that way towards a plume of black smoke. It was the unit next to his work. And I’m not paranoid. Or a stress monkey. Oh no.