My little Ev has started pre-school. He already attends nursery one day a week, so you’d think that his starting wouldn’t have bothered me. But oh how it did!
I’ve been lucky. For the last nine months I’ve been on maternity leave, so I have benefitted from having extra precious time with him. I’ve relished the chance to just enjoy being with him. To play, to go to groups, to have days out.
I’ve watched him grow. I’ve noticed his communication skills develop. I was able to be here to potty train him. To cheer the first time that he sat on the loo. To watch him conquer the climbing wall. To do the simple things that I might miss out on when I’m back at work.
I’ve also sometimes taken that time for granted. I’ve had sleepless nights with him and Harmie, and spent the next day in a daze. There have been days when he’s had tantrum after tantrum and I’ve thought that I’m doing it all wrong. He’s complained that he’d prefer Daddy. I’ve cried. I’ve wished away the last few minutes until bedtime.
Now, I’d do anything to have them back. Because suddenly, I’m carefully packing his lunch and organising his bag. I’m holding his hand and walking him to pre-school. I’m thinking how little that hand still feels, and wondering how much longer he’ll want to hold mine. His eyes are bright with excitement and he potters along beside me. He pulls a puzzled expression when I explain that I won’t be staying today. He looks hopeful as I talk about the new friends that he’ll make, the new toys to play with, all the things he’ll learn. Then before I know it, I’m stood in the playground biting my lip so he doesn’t see me upset. I’m stroking his hair and kissing his cheek, whispering “you go have fun darling” and watching as he cautiously walks inside. I’m craning my neck to see that he’s ok. I know he will be, I know this is his time.
He was ready to start pre-school. He’s loving every minute of it and runs in excitedly to see his new friends. But I wasn’t ready. Just like I don’t expect I’ll be ready for him to start school. Or university. Or to leave home. I suppose that’s the thing about being a parent; each time you want time to just stop, it helps you to cherish the everyday moments a little bit more. My time with him is even more precious now. The clock isn’t going to stop for us, and I don’t want it to really. Because each day I’m watching him change; seeing him grow. Each day I’m feeling proud of the little boy he’s become. And I know that feeling is only set to grow.
My top tips for starting pre-school
- Settling in sessions: if you’re given the opportunity to attend a settling in session or sessions with your little one then I’d definitely recommend it. It helps familiarise your little one with the layout and atmosphere, let’s you be there to reassure them, and enables you both to spend time getting to know the lovely people who’ll they’ll be spending so much time with. It will help put your mind at rest, and make the dreaded first day a little less daunting for you both.
- Clothes: I’m of the view that clothes for pre-school should be practical, comfortable and fuss free. I don’t want Ev to be worrying about keeping his clothes neat and tidy, and he needs to be able to take himself to the toilet, and take a layer off if he gets too warm. So we opted for packs of joggers, t-shirts, and zip up hoody’s to mix and match. Ev knows these are his ‘pre-school clothes’. He can run around in them, get in and out of them and cover them in paint – perfect in my book!
- Name tags: label EVERYTHING! From clothes to shoes to lunch bags to snack pots, I work on the principle that if it could be misplaced then it needs to be labelled. I absolutely love the Mr Men sticker tags from https://www.mynametags.com. They stick well onto clothes and Tupperware and wash well too. My Nametags also sell iron on versions, but my organisation skills prefer the stick it in on the hop version.
- Lunch bag: I wanted a bag that Ev would recognise as his own, and one that was colourful and easy for him to carry. He loves Disney so we opted for a gorgeous little Mickey Mouse one from https://www.lpnut.co.uk.
- Practice lunch: taking a packed lunch was new for Ev so we had a practice session at home. I packed his lunch bag and he excitedly unzipped it, I showed him the little pots containing his sandwich and his snack, and he practiced opening his new water bottle. It gave him a little more confidence for his first day as he already knew what to expect at lunchtime.
- Don’t forget you: The first day is bound to be daunting for both of you; it’s only natural to feel emotional as your little one sets off on a new adventure. On that first day, allow a little time for you. See a friend. Grab a cuppa. You’ll be picking up your little one before you know it but until then, eat some chocolate, and feel proud that your little one is taking one more step along the world with you supporting them every step of the way.