‘Oh Hi’, said the New Parent

Oh hi, I thought I’d come over and introduce myself. 

Why yes, I am new. 

What was it that gave it away? Maybe the fact that you’ve never seen me in the four and a half years your child has been at this campus, is a good start….or was it the fact that I am always super early to pick up?wondering how my kids’ days have been…..making room in my day to be open to get to know people and staff and procedures….

Tell me about your kids!  Have you had a good day? How do you fill your days? Yes we are getting used to the school thank you, although I did have to interpret the word ‘mufti’ for my twelve year old the other day…(freestyle in Australia, and well….every day in most American schools is mufti. Yes every school does have a different culture, and I’m learning as we go too. 

Yeah questions about ‘the kids’ are always good ice-breakers when it comes to starting up a conversation for the first time, especially at a setting like a school. I will always have my preschooler with me, until he starts school. So feel free to ask him his name, his age, about what he’s been doing today…..he’s most likely covered in paint from his morning kindy session, so ask me about that.

Other conversation starters with new parents at school could be:

Where did you move from? What do you think of this area? How are your kids settling in? Do you have any other children? And here’s a great one for a Friday…..what are your plans for the weekend? Why is this so great? Because come Monday……..’how was the concert/ soccer final/ party/ movie/ shopping trip?’

It’s all about finding some point of connection, and having your kids at the same school is a huge plus to begin with.

I get it, totally get it, starting up a conversation with a stranger is weird. It is hard. It can be awkward for both parties. But if that parent Is going to be at that very same school pick up for five days a week, however many weeks a year…..that’s potential for some one to not be a stranger. Potential for many shared moments. Ten minutes a day…..a wealth of shared knowledge over the course of a school year……and who knows…possibly your next second best friend…..

As a new school year starts in certain parts of the world, as parents let’s keep an eye out for new parents in our school yards. They are the new kids on the block too.

I’ll smile and return your greeting, don’t you worry about that. And I’ll ask you about your day, but go on, ask me about my paint splattered four year old, I dare Ya.

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To you, on this ‘first’.

First day of daycare. First day of preschool. First day of school. First day of University. First major treatment/ medical procedures/ operation. First major misunderstanding. First broken heart.

Life with children is full of these firsts.

They don’t get easier. Just ask the parent who is in the middle of packing up their kid for their first year of university. And they don’t become any less significant when you have to revisit these firsts with other children. But maybe, just maybe, the stretching that your heart does with these firsts, make the stretch for the next time, just a little more comfortable. Maybe your heart, although it aches just the same, maybe it moulds into slightly familiar territory and knows that this is what must happen.

Because this is the stuff in parenting, that shapes us and defines us, and helps to make our little people into healthy, bigger people, who are prepared to make good and wise decisions, all by their big selves.

If your child needs an operation as terrifying as it is seeing them go under a general anaesthetic, and as horrible as it is dealing with wounds and follow up treatments and all that goes along with that, you’re not going to deny your child of something that is ultimately going to benefit them.

I’ll never forget the ache that came with handing over our middle boy to a nurse for an operation when he was a chubby one year old. That was probably the longest day of my life. And the tears did flow – even in the trusting and the knowing that he was safe and was going to be fine – the tears they did flow.

We’re about to send our youngest child off to preschool for the very first time. I still remember that anxiousness that came with sending our eldest off to kindy and then school.  That desire to be a fly on the wall. To see and know that all is ok. To not only see that your kid is handling things ok, but to see how the teachers and other children respond to your child.  I’ve come to learn that the ache is normal. The longing to know all and see all is not helicopter parenting, but getting used to a new phase of parenting. The ache dissolves over time, and with it grows the ability to see that other people in your kids’ lives can care for your children pretty well. You’re not alone in this endeavor. No one will know and understand your child as well as you, that’s a given, but if you let others into your circle….and let the professionals do what they were trained and love to do, and keep your lines of communication very open…then this new first can be extremely successful.

Firsts can be hard work, tough work. And for the most part firsts do not have to be walked through alone. There’s a certain kinship that can be found in walking similar roads together. But it takes reaching out and seeing others above your own concerns and worries. If you have to spend any amount of time in a hospital with a child, as a first you’re facing, can I encourage you to ask about support groups and suchlike. Sometimes people only know how you’re feeling from experiencing a very similar situation. And at times like that we all crave true and genuine empathy.

Firsts bring with them very powerful emotions, surprising emotions. Men, you’re probably going to bear the brunt of huge swings and sways of these emotions, and no doubt feel things in your own manly ways….and for the love of all things good and sweet, you don’t have to have all the answers, you don’t need to provide advice, you don’t need to do anything. Just be there for us emotional women as we lament about how unfair it is that they have to grow up, as we look at photos of the kids as babies and admire how fast they have grown, and as we go through the motions that all Mama Bears do.

Firsts are hard. There are no detours around this very truth because firsts must be undertaken. But firsts are made better by friends being there for each other. By families showing their love and support. And by remembering that firsts do stretch those hearts of ours, and we should all be looking to have bigger hearts, much bigger hearts.
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The Back to School Blues?

Well.   The time is fast approaching for bambinos all across the Southern Hemisphere is go back to school.  The shops are full of brand spanking new lunchboxes, school bags, stationery and enough pre-packaged snack sized marketed to the kids tiny meals to feed small armies for days.

Whether you love school holidays or really struggle through them – there’s always a certain little bit of trepidation with starting a new school year.  I’m talking about for the parents as much as the kiddos.  (And hey – I realize some of you homeschool, I’ve just done that for the last five months too, homeschoolers your steady presence and understanding is needed for your fellow parents experiencing the back to school blues.) (I’m all about personal choice here – this isn’t a pro ‘school’ school post at all).

So the internet is full of helpful advice to do with all things school – lunchbox ideas (the constant pressure to fill up those boxes with food that the kids will actually like – and for that food to be HEALTHY!), come on!  There’s also tons of useful hints around like label everything, and have a pre-arranged pick up spot (for older kids) etc.

But how about for those nerves of yours?  Those feelings of newness you’re experiencing?  Have you even been stalking your teachers online yet?  How are your private investigating skills coming along? (if I were a teacher I’d have all my privacy settings on Facebook set for sure!)

I’m pretty sure I’m not alone here – but I’ll admit to some nerves for our back to school adventures.  My boys have been out of ‘school’ school for seven months.  We’re entering a totally new curriculum to us – we’re not sure how their schooling in the past will match up with the new curriculum.  The boys don’t yet know any kids their year levels.  This is their first time in uniforms.

And I know a lot of my friends have children entering new schools too – intermediate/ middle school for the first time is a big deal.

There’s so much I don’t know about the whole back to school prep thing – but there are a few things I hope may help you as they are helping me…..

*  Yes I reckon do talk with your child about what to expect and the things you do know about the school – but don’t go on and on……I believe there is such a thing as over-preparing and then there’s the danger of what if things don’t go exactly as you have outlined for the kid?  What if the teacher changes things?  Also, the more you go on and on about things then the more the kid is going to pick up on your own nerves.  Let’s all just chillax a bit, yeah?

*  You have to be a friend, to make a friend.  As a parent the more you smile at other parents and ask them about their children, the more they will respond positively to you and maybe show you some reciprocation.  The same works for our kids too.

*  You and your child’s teacher are part of the same team.  You’re allies.  The more we see our teachers as that, the better.  The same works with any special needs teachers, teacher aide, any kind of extra assistance.  Allies.  Teamwork.  They all have the best interests of your child at heart.

And lastly – this is the one that I keep coming back to – whenever I think about the what ifs with making this transition – from American state school – to homeschooling and travelling and then settling – to private Christian College – this is their chance to soar.  One of the goals of parenting is to grow children into lovely, independent, mature, impactful young adults.  That ain’t gonna happen with Mama right by their side, every step of the way.  Yes my children might make mistakes and will disappoint, and my husband and I will be there waiting in the wings to encourage and get them back on track, but they are going to have to learn to soar by themselves – and this will happen faster and easier when I stop fretting and hovering and just let them be.

There’s no need for the back to school blues – this is the time for our kids to soar and shine!

Teacher friends and more experienced parent friends – what would you add to this??  Please leave a comment!

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