Growing up…

There is a scene near the end of Mary Poppins that always causes a lump in my throat. I have seen the movie many, many times, both as a child, and recently with my own children. In the scene, Mary is having a conversation with the children while she readies them to go and fly kites in the park with their parents. The children plead with her not to leave, and question whether she loves them. She replies “And what would happen to me, may I ask, if I loved all the children I had to say goodbye to?” Gets me every time.

I always wonder if school teachers feel a bit like this, as they say goodbye to their class each year. I think about how sad all the children are to say goodbye. Change is so hard when you are only little, but they manage to move on so quickly. I know it must be sad for the teachers to say goodbye too, despite their hard Mary Poppins-like exteriors.

Alex was very teary towards the end of grade R. The thought of going to “big school” frightened the life out of him. He kept telling me that he wasn’t ready. Grade R had gotten off to a rough start but ended up being a really wonderful year. His teacher, Georgia, was phenomenal; she had the right balance of toughness and nurturing to help Alex grow and thrive. She was absolutely amazing when he broke his arm and handled him so gently and kindly. Alex loved Georgia. So naturally, saying goodbye was very hard for Alex. He could not contain his tears when he hugged Georgia goodbye on the last day of school. A few days before Grade one started he pleaded with me to take him back to Grade R so he could be in Georgia’s class again. But saying goodbye and moving on is all part of growing up. (He still pops in to visit Georgia after school whenever he can!)

alex first day

We had many teary upsets during the December holiday, and anxiety about school starting. The first day of school arrived, and dressed in his brand new uniform, we joined the scores of parents seated in the hall with their little ones. Excitement at seeing all their friends after the long break helped soften the anxiety that everyone was feeling in their hearts. Lumps were in every parent’s throat as we waited for the classes to be announced.

hall

Once the excitement of the selection was over, the kids all settled down in their class-rooms, and it was time for the parents to leave. Alex looked up at me with his big blue eyes glistening. We were both fighting back tears. His eyes pleaded for me not to go. My heart broke for my baby boy, he suddenly looked so small in his over-sized uniform. But I left, and he was fine. The second day was worse, and he was fighting back tears on the way to school. But that too passed, and each day got easier.

A few months have passed now since that first day, and Alex has really become a big boy. He is physically taller, his hair is shorter, and his face has lost the toddler chubbiness. I’m not going to say that grade one has been a breeze so far, because it hasn’t been, but he has slowly found his way to feeling comfortable in his skin again. The school day is longer and the break periods are shorter, but he comes home happy most days, despite having homework to do when we get home. He is learning to read and do maths, and received full marks for his recent maths and spelling tests, so he is definitely coping with the workload and the new school routine. He loves bringing interesting things to Show and Tell  on Wednesdays and enjoys the days they have sport after school immensely. He still has some trouble making new friends, and just fitting in, in general, but I can see the confident boy inside him lurking much closer to the surface than it has ever been before.

His new teacher is nice, and Alex seems to like her, but gone are the days of the nurturing, loving pre-school teachers, who chat to you every day and end up being your friend by the end of the year. It’s different now, they are on the Big-School hamster wheel, that is spinning way too fast for my liking. Communication with the teacher is limited to a quick hello in the mornings, as Alex usually rushes out of the class by himself in the afternoons as soon as he sees me outside. It’s sad really, that the days of our children being little are so very short. It seems like just the other day that we were walking into the pre-school for the first time, and its already over three years ago!

Before I know it, Grade One will be over, and we will be dealing with the changes of the next phase of Alex’s school career. Play-dates and toys will make way for school sport matches and homework and assignments, and soon the short pants of primary school will become the long grey ones with blazers, preparing our baby boy for wearing suits to his jobs one day. I want to scream “Stop, this is all going too fast!”, knowing that nothing can stop time from marching along relentlessly.

I am enjoying watching Alex grow up and change as each new phase passes. I would be lying though if I said it wasn’t breaking my heart in the process.

 

 

On her first year of school… and moving on…

The first Year

I haven’t said much here about Caris’ first year of playschool, for no other reason than not particularly having much time (or inspiration) to blog at all. But now that the year is done and dusted, I feel the need to reflect on what was an incredible year.

On the one hand, I was more relaxed about sending her to school for the first time than I was when Alex was little, as I had been-there-done-that before. But on the other, I was nervous as hell, because Caris doesn’t really take to new people that easily, in fact she used to even be reluctant to stay with her own grandparents!

So at two and a half, we packed her little butterfly bag and sent her to school.

butterfly bag

So let’s start at the beginning.

Her first day was an absolute disaster. I didn’t like her teacher. (It is customary at her playschool to spend the first day with them.) I do not say this lightly, as clearly one day is not enough to get to know someone. But I am pretty good at reading people, and I did not get a warm and fuzzy feeling. She was aloof and disinterested in my child, and considering that Caris started two weeks after the rest of the class as she was new, the teacher should have theoretically been able to give her a bit more one-on-one attention, which she did not do. I did not like the way the teacher handled disciplining a boy in the class that was having a meltdown and in general she just made me feel uncomfortable. Nobody even bothered to show my kid where the loo was, I had to take her. (She was newly potty trained and I was mortified at the thought of her having an accident.) And then about ten minutes after play-time, one of the kids in her class was brought in by the gardener bawling her eyes out, as she had been left outside; the teacher hadn’t even checked that everyone was back. I was not exactly filled with confidence that she would be the nurturing, caring teacher I had hoped for.

Needless to say, Caris spent the entire morning sitting on my lap, despite all my efforts to get her to mingle. I was devastated as Alex had been at the same playschool and his first day (and year) was amazing. (Albeit with a different teacher.) Another little girl had started on the same day, and I could see that her mom was feeling uncomfortable too, and I even assured her that it was a lovely school and that the class was clearly just experiencing teething problems that day.

I left the school with a heavy heart, and by the next morning I had decided she was not going back to school. I then requested a meeting with the principal and explained why my daughter had not returned, and what my issues with the teacher were. After pretty much refusing to take my child back to her allocated teacher, despite their “give it another chance, she really is an excellent teacher” pep-talk (and threatening to take both my kids out of the school), they agreed to move her to another class. And no, I am not normally a high-maintenance mom. (Incidentally, I met the other new mom in the parking lot the next morning and she was sitting in her car crying because she had left her daughter there that morning. As we got chatting, she had all the same issues as me, and wanted to take her daughter out of the school. Later I learned that she had taken her child to another school. I felt like I had dodged a bullet!)

So on the Thursday, we had a redo of the first day of school. Day one with her new teacher was amazing. I had intended to spend the day with her again, but within ten minutes, Teacher Tina had taken her outside to see the bunnies and I could go. I felt comfortable the minute I had walked into her class, and immediately knew that this was the teacher for my Caris! Little did I know that she would end up being the most amazing teacher I have ever met. (And also confirmed my belief that a child’s schooling experience is 100% related to the teachers they encounter along the way.) My little girlie blossomed and grew so much in Tina’s class over the course of the year.(Daphne, the assistant teacher, and Irini, the Greek teacher were absolutely fantastic too.)

Tina not only looked after and taught our little people, but she loved them and nurtured them as if they were her own. And as parents, she became our friend. Each Friday, she shared photos of our little ones in the class whatsapp group, allowing us glimpses into the daily activities of our little ones.We all became very attached to Teacher Tina.

One of my favourite images from the Teddy-bear picnic day:

CarisTeddyI could not have asked for a better start to my baby’s school career. At the end of year group ring, Tina’s palpable emotions let us all know how special our little ones had been to her too. And I know that all the other moms in the class felt the way I did too, we were all very emotionally charged as we said our goodbyes on the last day of school.

As a parting thank-you, I wrote Tina the following note that conveyed how much she had meant to us during the year. I can only hope the remainder of Caris’ school career is filled with other such amazing teachers.

letter

Moving on…

The end of playschool has left a heavy burden in my heart. Change is never easy, and the transition has been very hard on Caris. And me. The pre-school is so much bigger, and more hectic, and being separated from her original class and Tina has been very stressful. (Luckily she is in the same class as her friend Ciana, who is walking with her in the photo above!) She has pretty much broken my heart every day at drop-off, by clinging to me and crying inconsolably, and refusing to go to her new teacher. (Something she has never done before.) I know in my head that it will get better (and already she is less reluctant) but that doesn’t stop my heart from aching. I miss the days of dropping her with Tina, easily. I have some solace in the fact that the other little ones are also struggling to adjust, and it is completely normal for her to be experiencing some anxiety.

So hence we start the next chapter of Caris’s school career.

I can only hope that it will be even half as happy and wonderful as her first…

caris first day of grade 000