New School Mk II

Argh, where to start? Well, we’ve been busy at Garrison Trout: we’ve moved house. Our lovely home on the beautiful Moray Firth coast finally sold, and we’ve bought fairly close to where we’ve been renting since August. I’ll give you the low-down on the new house and village another time, but in a nutshell: light, airy, warm, clean, functional, friendly neighbours, welcoming community, smiley people, hills and woods, rolling countryside, rural, happy, happy, happy.

It also meant a move to yet another new school for Maxi and Midi Minx. I didn’t take that decision lightly, remembering the full month that it took them to settle down in the last new school in August. And even then, we still had leg-clinging and tearful goodbyes for weeks afterwards. This time I went over to interview the headteacher first, to intercept any problems.

“[Maxi] doesn’t have Asperger Syndrome, but she shares an *awful lot* of traits with people who do”, I’d told him, knowingly. He looked a bit alarmed, but didn’t skip a beat. At the end of an hour’s chat, he’d worked out a plan to gently induct Maxi and Midi to the school. I’ve no idea if other kids get this kind of attention, but my word, what a star!

They first did a Friday afternoon at the beginning of February: just PE and Golden Time, so no pressure at all. The headteacher was in the playground waiting for them as we arrived, all 3 girls hiding behind my legs and clinging to each other. He called over a hello, introduced himself, and “Everyone knows you’re coming and they *can’t wait* to meet you”. Serious Maxi’s little face broke into a smile. I left them in his care and beetled off. I picked them 2 happy little girls a couple of hours later, full of tales of their new buddies (kids identified as caretakers for the newbies) and their new teacher.

Then they did the Wednesday afternoon before half-term. Like on their previous visit, I took them out the playground of their old school, with half a dozen of their friends sweetly waving goodbye to them (some really lovely kids there that the girls are now missing). Afterwards, they seemed just as happy and enthusiastic to start.

We had a long week at home for half-term immediately afterwards, where I reluctantly had to ignore them most days as I was packing up the house to move. Actually, that was quite a week: as well as packing and cleaning, and ignoring the lake in the middle of the living room (leaky window lintel), we celebrated The Boss’s 35th birthday and also celebrated Midi’s 6th birthday a day early so that she could open her presents on the last day of half-term when her Daddy was actually at home (he was heading back to Moray to supervise the removal men shifting from the old home).

So, the first day of the new term, on Midi’s actual birthday, and in shiny new uniforms – same colour as the last 2 schools, though! – they started school. I was more nervous than them, but I’m better at hiding it. I’d no need to worry – the head brought us all in early, showed the girls their named pegs, their trays, and talked them through the normal morning routine. Oh.My.Good.God… an organised induction! I swear I could see Maxi’s fret-lines disappear, and her little shoulders relaxed as The Scary Unknown disappeared in a puff of thoughtful explanation. At home time, the girls were full of tales of new buddies and yummy school dinners and everyone singing happy birthday to Midi.

The one thing that nearly reduced me to tears, though: I think I’ve said how long Maxi takes to eat. She’s linger over meals for hours if she could. She’s been like that since she was weaned. She just cuts and chews far slower than everyone. She likes to savour how her meals look and taste. I’ve tried all manner of bribes and scolds to speed her up, but realised that I’m on a hiding to nothing. At her last school, it felt like she was forever being punished for taking longer than 20 minutes to eat her lunch: she’d be made to bring her lunch tray to the foyer and finish it there, beside the toilets. And this was after receiving a scolding from the dinner lady. Contrast this with New School Mk II: Maxi was shovelling her lunch down as fast as she could, even though she was really enjoying it. The dinner lady said, “Oh don’t rush it – slow down and enjoy your food”. What a wonderful thing to say to that particular little girl! And even better: “Would you like me to stay and chat with you? Tell me about yourself?” I don’t think my little chatterbox could have been understood any better.

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We’re now starting Week 3 at the new school, and both girls have made lots of friends. From Day 3 they’ve zoomed off in the playground and not wanted to pause to kiss their Mummy and little sister goodbye. They like their teachers, they’ve started making close friends, and the brilliant thing about living in the village: playdates! And another thing: being able to walk to school in 4 minutes flat. And a final thing: last week we had our first ever home-lunch. I picked the minxes up, raced them home to a house that was reeking of my own take of stovies, they demolished it happily (first time ever…) and walked back in plenty of time for afternoon school. There’ll be lots of home-lunches now that I need to be on a serious economy drive, and now that we can actually walk to and from school and eat leisurely in time.

Yippee!! Happy, happy, happy!

Mother Knows Best

After settling into her new school quickly and well, around about October 5-year-old Midi Minx had a big wobble. She suddenly didn’t want to go to school in the mornings, and clung pouting or sometimes sobbing to my leg. As Maxi generally clung to the other leg, wailing, this was not a good look. We did not look like a coping, happy Family Unit. I asked Midi what the problem was. Eventually she confessed:

Would you taunt this innocent little face?

Would you taunt this innocent little face?

“There’s this boy in my class called J…”, she wobbled.

Maintaining a Mummy Poker Face on the outside, I inwardly raged: I don’t need to hear anymore. He’d so dead. Whatever it is, how dare he hurt my baby?!

“Yes? What about J?” I asked lightly.

“He calls me a Poo-poo Head”. Sobs. “And everyone laughs!” Breaks her little heart.

I hugged her tighter still, kissed her wet eyes and thought for a second.

“Does he only say it in front of his friends?” Nods. “When he’s on his own?” Shakes head. “Well, Midi, what you have to know is that all little boys are stupid. And really easy to trick. Here’s what you need to do: when J calls you a Poo-poo Head, instead of feeling hurt and crying, you have to smile.” She looked up at me like I’d turned into Julie Andrews. On an acid trip. “Yep, smile. And say loudly, ‘It’s OK, J, I understand: secretly you really like me. But you call me horrible names so that no-one else guesses that you like me. I get it. It’s OK. I won’t tell anyone’, then wink, smile and walk away”. Midi looked thoughtful. “And it’s really important that when he protests and shouts that he really, really hates you, just smile wider and say, ‘You’re not fooling me. That actually means that you really love me lots. But I only like you a little bit, as a friend. Sorry'”. Midi started to smile.

I went through a little dialogue role-play, me playing the parts of Midi and J, along with comedy pirate and princess voices, so that Midi could see how it might play out. I showed her how to use words to put that little boy back in his box, but without being nasty or horrible, and how it might make everyone else laugh *with* her, which would make them like her more. And he’d get frustrated and stop, because his friends would take over and tease him every time he called Midi a bad name. She really got it. Her eyes lit up. She sniggered. I kissed her, then got on with making dinner and promptly forgot all about it.

A few days later Midi skipped out of school, and trilled, “Mummy, you’re really clever”.

What?! Oh-oh. My children think I’m stupid and old-fashioned and strict. This doesn’t bode well, whatever it is…

“I did what you said about J”, she smirked.

J? J…? Oh! That J! Oh hell… But she’s smiling? “Uh-huh? What happened?” I asked.

See these brainzzzz? I eat them up for breakfast. Like you, if you cross me

See these brainzzzz? I eat them up for breakfast. Like you, if you cross me.

“Well, he called me a Poo-poo Head and I smiled and said everything you told me to. And all his friends laughed. And he got cross, like you said he would. And then…” she burbled. I winced. Oh no, what happened next? I’m too scared to listen. “And then he said ‘When we grow up I’m going to marry you!’ And I said ‘OK'”, she giggled.

What?! Oh no, this has totally back-fired! What have I done?

“Mummy, you are so smart and clever. J’s my best friend now”, she snuggled up to me. “Right, what’s for snack? I wanna biscuit. Or chocolate…”, and she scampered off.

Nice try, little daughter: it’ll be fruit as usual. You can’t swing your auld mother off-track that easily…