Starting School: What I’ve learned from the Pre-School Years

My youngest starts school this September. She’s more than ready to go. As the youngest of three she’s been at the school gates practically since birth and because she’s little, cute and sociable everyone makes a huge fuss of her.

So Alessia is ready. She has tiny school dresses age 2-3, new school shoes and a PE kit. I’ve spent the summer clearing out her baby toys, books and little pink blankets to make space for school uniform.

Am I ready? I’m not sure. They say the years go quickly and that falls on deaf ears when you’ve been up all night and spent the days chasing toddlers. But yes, the old ladies are right- this September, after 10 years of having pre school children at home, they’re all in school. For one year all there will be in the same place before our eldest moves on to secondary school.

So for what is worth here’s what I’ve learned:

1 Get the balance.

If you are lucky enough to have a choice re working or not working make the right choice for you. This isn’t about what your mum or your best mate thinks, this choice is yours for your family. If you’re happy, your family will be happy too. For me I had to work but part time was the right choice for our family. I love being with my children but I also need mental stimulation, interaction the opportunity to grow and contribute. At one stage my earnings post childcare was £200 per month. It was barely worth being at work but it was the right choice for me.

2 It takes a village.

I’ve been incredibly lucky to have my parents close by. My mum has appeared like an angel on Friday afternoons so I can let my youngest sleep rather than being dragged out on the school run. When the kids have been sick, she’s been there. In the early days when my husband was working insane hours as a junior doctor, I couldn’t have done it without my mum’s support.
I’ve also had an amazing childminder who has had all three of my children, the younger two from babies. She’s has cared for my children in her own home, alongside her own children and they have been part of a family of children of all ages. The friendship and security they have had from this has been incredible.

3 Find your tribe.

I’m a huge fan of NCT. With mu eldest and my second we moved to a new area when I was pregnant and the NCT provided me with an instant support network which was invaluable in the early days when comparing how much sleep we’d all had and how the babies were feeding. Having a friend to grab a cuppa and take the babies for a walk was an invaluable source of support.
We are also incredibly fortunate to have great friends and to be part of a supportive community. There is no way I would choose to do this without daily contact without friends in the same boat to laugh, cry or share the everyday minutiae.

4 Focus on gratitude
Years ago when my boys were little a local blogger published a weekly post entitled It’s the little things. This focused on her recording weekly moments of joy with her tiny children and photographing and posting them. This inspired me to find joy in the little things and focus on the joy. For several years I have used my Happiness Planner and used this to record daily gratitude as well as encouraging my children to use a gratitude jar.

5 Don’t compare
There is so much pressure surrounding parenting and judgement of individual choices which didn’t exist a generation ago- breast feed vs bottle feed; home made puree vs jars etc. The most valuable lesson I’ve learned is to follow my instincts and to not compare. Boys are different from girls; each of my three children is different due to their position in the family. I’m not the same parent I was 10 years ago. So don’t compare. Give yourself credit for doing your best. Choose to be happy and you will have happy children.

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