Grace Jong Il

The girls are now well into the swing of things, school-wise. They started After-School Club this week (for the 3 days I’m in the office) and their teachers tell us they’re doing really well.

Except…

G. Oh my goodness. We went through a tricky phase with her earlier in the year and in the summer thought we had cracked it as her behaviour was markedly better. How wrong we were. She’s putting so much into school in terms of learning, making friends, etc that she’s being an absolute monster at home. The moment we pick her up she turns. One minute she’s a smiling, bright, sociable, chatty little thing and the next second, once we get home and close the front door, she turns into a screaming, hysterical monster.

A example: I picked the girls up from After School Club for the first time on Monday. Their carers told me how lovely they had been, how they had eaten all of their food and were playing nicely with the other children. I went over to R and G to say hello. G looked at me and said ‘I’m only coming home with you if you let me watch telly’. I said no because it was very late and it was almost bedtime. G kept repeating the TV request, turning up the volume each time. I ignored her. I chatted to R (who was, thankfully, much more amenable) and we made it home despite G’s mulishness.

G launched a full-on attack the moment she took her book bag off. She screamed I WANT TO WATCH TELLY, sank to her knees in the hallway and let out a scream that would have shattered crystal if we had any. It’s tempting to go into uber militant parent at this point and frogmarch her to her bedroom for time-out. We have done this. Instead I went into the dining room, poured the girls a cup of milk each and pulled G onto my lap. I gave her a huge cuddle, stroked her hair, rocked her gently and made soothing noises until she calmed down.

She is actually, properly, stressed. She’s the lone wolf on her class (which she relishes as she gets to boss everyone around) and her efforts to befriend every single one of the 29 other children in her class are clearly wearing her out. I thought she might be telling a little fib about the number of friends she’d made but we took the girls to the school disco on Friday night and lost count of the number of children that came running up to us screeching GRAAAAAACE and hugging her. (R also has quite a few friends but doesn’t make them quite as easily as G.)

It’s hard to get a handle on what they’re up to school-wise and they aren’t exactly forthcoming with details. They’re obviously learning letters and sounds and all the other stuff that Reception class kids do. If I ask, they tell me nothing but G’s letter recognition has come on leaps and bounds and R surprised us both by writing out a whole stream of well-formed letter yesterday. The learning is obviously lodging in there somewhere.

I think we have to be patient with G, which is bloody hard at times. I’ve been warned that it may take a few weeks for her to settle down. There’s definitely a pattern though. Every time G has done something new, or gone through a developmental stage, we’ve suffered. When she was a baby it used to manifest itself as difficulty sleeping, or getting to sleep. Now she takes it out on us. She’s going to be a complete and utter joy when she’s doing exams.

I’m buying a one-way ticket to Peru.

First day at school

R and G started primary school today

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(R on the left, G on the right)

Their start time was 9.25am. Dh was on a rest day today and I am on annual leave at the moment so we were able to take them in together. I took G into her classroom and she looked really frightened as she doesn’t know anyone in her class. I gave her a quick kiss and hug. G’s teacher took her hand and I left. I waited for Dh to finish dropping R off (who leapt into the classroom shouting the name of her nursery BFF at the top of her voice) and we walked away from the school together.

Dh asked if I was ok. I broke down in big, heaving sobby tears and he gave me a hug. We walked past our friends’ house and she popped her head out of her bedroom window. I think she had been keeping an eye out for us! She invited us in for a quick coffee/water and I calmed down pretty quickly. It was G’s face as I left her…

The children are only doing mornings to start with so we picked up the girls up at 12pm. G told us very proudly that she had already made a ‘school friend’ whereas R had ‘only played with her old friends’ (the Reception classes are separate but they share an outdoor space). They also told us a long and involved tale about someone who punched someone else and had to sit on the ‘thinking chair’…

Basically, they loved it. R was a little bit quiet this afternoon. G was her usual self. They didn’t want to take their uniforms off and they are excited about going back to school tomorrow.

I think we can call their first day at school a success.

Am I ready for school?

We’re taking the girls to meet their Reception teachers tomorrow, as we missed the proper welcome tea party and parents evening last week. The one week of the year we go on holiday…

I have filled out the school forms (endless paperwork and I had to do two sets of course) and Dh has double-checked them. The school sent through two welcome packs last week which included the various blank forms, information about the Early Years Foundation Stage, letters from older children to R and G welcoming them to the school (one of them told R not to be scared and I started crying as i read it out to her) and a booklet of self-portraits by all of the girls’ new classmates (as they’re in separate classes we now know the names of every child in the Reception year), which made me fret approximately 98% less than I had been as the girls can actually write their names and some of their classmates can’t. Naturally, there are some that have better handwriting than me, so you can’t have everything.

The girls and I went to the school fete a couple of weeks ago and picked up some second-hand school uniform. The school colours are yellow and blue, so R is going to wear yellow tops, gingham summer dresses and sweatshirts and G is going to wear the corresponding items in blue. In Winter they’ll swap the summer dresses for grey pinafore dresses. The PE kit is non-branded and consists of white tops and dark shorts or jogging bottoms.

The girls are very excited about meeting their teachers tomorrow. As Dh and I are both on leave until next week, we’re both able to attend. I’m really pleased as we’ll be sharing the pick ups and drop offs as we do now. Dh is keen on becoming a parent helper and reading with the children, so he’s going to ask about doing that. I think he’d be great as he’s extremely patient (let’s face it, in this house he has to be) and it’ll be good for the boys to have a man helping them with their reading as often it’s the mums that go in.

After-school club is sorted, for this year at least. I have already filled in forms to get the logoed bits of the school uniform and will be raiding M&S for the other clothing. Dh and I have bashed diaries and are able to juggle the staggered start dates and finish dates for the first two weeks of term between us (lots of people are complaining about this. I have lost count of the number of times someone has said ‘Just chuck ’em in!!’. It’s certainly a pain in the arse for us working parents.)

The girls are ready. Dh is fine about it all. Me? I feel oddly bereft already and they don’t start until September. That’s the thing with this one-shot parenting lark – once the girls are at school that’s it. They don’t have younger siblings to follow in their footsteps.

So, one phase of the girls’ life is ending and another one is about to begin. I think I’m scared because I didn’t have the easiest time at school. Some of it was of my own making, some of it was just…horrible and even now, 20-odd years later I find it hard to revisit. I can’t bear the thought of R or G going through some of the things that I did. They are their own people of course and they are a million times more confident than I was at their age. It’s that twin thing again…it seems to protect them from certain things but may yet cause other issues. They have also been at nursery since they were 5 months old, so they’re used to interacting and socialising with children of their own age. They won’t be daunted by the other children.

We don’t quite know what the next months and years will bring, but from September life is going to get that little bit more different again.

Class separation – the saga continues

I have been putting off posting this for a couple of days, but I have to do it.

Dh went into the girls’ school on Monday and they had already juggled the classes around so that G is staying put and R is moving to the other Reception class. This means that we have got what we wanted and they will be in separate classes from September.

Over the weekend, and indeed, on this very blog, a lot of people (including close family and friends) commented that it was perhaps best that the girls were in the same class. I have to confess, I started to waver too.  R and G have been together forever. Should we really interfere and socially engineer a separation?

Dh phoned me to let me know and I felt quite wobbly for a moment or two. We’d got what we wanted (and the school listened to us and acted, which bodes well) but were we deliberately being obtuse and defying everyone else just because we could?

As we chatted, my resolve hardened. They’ve put R into the class with the other children from nursery. She is the less confident and more sensitive of the two. She needs G around to give her confidence, but the familiar faces from nursery will give her security. Being apart from G for a few hours a day will – hopefully – give her more confidence and allow her to develop academically in a way that she may not have done had she been in the same class as her sister. G has a tendency to boss R around mother R and act as her mouthpiece. We know that R is bright but she tends to internalise things and will only demonstrate that she can do something when she can do it perfectly. Otherwise she relies on G to do it for her.

G is a Monica. She is the child that will sit at the front of the class, hand shooting up in the air shouting I KNOW! I KNOW! to every single question. She is extremely confident and nothing phases her. She would treat the Pope and a passing tramp in exactly the same manner. She has absolutely no fear of getting something wrong. She doesn’t care what other people think of her. In short, she’s extremely resilient and I’m confident that she will make new friends very quickly.

In any case, it’s not like they’ll be apart for 6-7 hours a day. The two Reception classes share a playground (separated from the older children) and they’ll spend plenty of time together at break and lunch time. If it isn’t working after a term or a year, we’ll work with the school to review the separation.

Hopefully the therapy bills won’t be too large when they grow up.

I hate it when I’m wrong

Reader, I am an enormous arse. I also HATE being wrong.

It is not the end of the world that the girls are going to be in the same class. In fact, it may turn out to be a blessing in disguise:

1. Their Reception class teacher is, apparently, amazing and the parents in the other class would kill for their children to be in her class
2. The other children from nursery are in the other class. If we insisted on a split now, we would upset whichever twin was in the other class, by leaving them on their own.

I’d still like to understand the rationale behind the school’s decision keep the girls together when they had been specifically told that they were to be split up. If they’d contacted us beforehand to say that they appreciated our views but wanted to put the girls in the same class for X, Y and Z reasons, I would have understood. It was a shock to find out that our views had been completely ignored, with no explanation.

As it turns out, I’m one of the few people that thought splitting the girls was an absolute necessity. So many people have commented that it would be a shame to split them, that it wouldn’t feel right, that they work well as a team, that they both rely on each in different ways, that they are individuals with different personalities and approaches to life and won’t get mixed up after the inevitable initial confusion.

I sat the girls down individually on Friday and asked them what they thought. They both said, without prompting from the other, that they would rather be in the same class as each other than be with their friends. I can’t argue with that.

Dh is going to speak to the school tomorrow. I wasn’t exactly rational when I spoke to them on Friday so hopefully he’ll make more sense than I did!

School prep.

Time is really flying by. 3 months and 5 days until R and G start school. They had a visit at nursery (sorry, Big Stars as G now insists that we call it as she’s too GROWN UP to be at nursery now) from the school liaison lady last week. She asked the girls (and a couple of their classmates that will be attending the same school) to write their names, draw a picture of themselves (R refused to draw a nose on her self-portrait so G leaned over and did it for her, which will have told the school all they need to know about the dynamic here) and tell her what they liked doing. In July we’ll attend a tea party for the new Reception classes, where they’ll meet their classmates and be given a booklet with all of the other children’s pictures and information in. It all sounds rather lovely. I’m really impressed.

We have also sorted out After-School club for the girls. Their school doesn’t offer it to the Reception class, but they have a private day nursery on-site that offers ‘wraparound care’ for their age group. Inevitably it’s expensive (and of course for two children the cost doubles) but at least it’s guaranteed for a year and is only required during term-time. Luckily the nature of Dh’s shifts and my flexible working patterns (I thank my lucky stars every day that I work for an extremely family-friendly organisation) means that we don’t require breakfast club as well, which would really push the cost up. The girls are already on the waiting list for the ‘proper’ after school club which they can start from Year 1, although I have heard horror stories of a ridiculously small amount of places and an enormous waiting list but I’m not going to worry about that until I need to.

The girls are just so ready for school now. Prior to Easter I noticed a subtle shift in their attitude towards nursery (sorry BIG STARS) and they’re now talking about going to school, the people they’ll meet, the things they’ll learn, the uniform, etc.

I think Dh and I are also ready. It’s going to be a big change for us, too. We’re used to the girls going to nursery three days a week, me working at home the other two days and a potential 51 weeks a year of childcare. I have already planned my annual leave for the latter half of this year and the beginning of next, to coincide with the Christmas break and the start of Easter. I’m going to work at home during the half-term weeks. Hopefully Dh and I can manage the six week break next Summer between us. It’s not ideal, but we’re used to juggling and it’s a bit like levelling up on a computer game: we’ve had it relatively easy, childcare wise for the last four years. Now it gets a bit tricker.

Primary school offer day 2012

13.20pm. I submitted the girls’ eApplications back in October and today, sometime after 5pm, we find out which primary school they will attend in September. Before we started this process I thought I wouldn’t be too bothered about which primary school they went to. I’ve always had half an eye on the choices (or possible lack of) they’ll have to make when the move up to secondary school. However, with a number of the friends starting prep school last September (and already appearing to be way ahead of R and G both educationally and emotionally) and the horror stories about a shortfall of places in the area last year, coupled with all those bloody people that have said ‘What will you do if they end up getting in to different schools?’ means I’ve been like this for the last few months weeks.

We applied to three schools:

1. Uber School, 800 metres away (as the crow flies), massively oversubscribed, last child to get in last year lived 280 metres away. Not getting in there, then.

2. Good School, which recently got an Outstanding OFSTED report, 100 metres away. This is the one that Dh really, really likes. If he’d done the application he would have put this one first. He didn’t, so I stupidly put Uber school first

3. The Other School, currently graded by Ofsted as Satisfactory but rapidly improving, 300 metres away. I know lots of alternative parents that have chosen to send their children there over Good School and it wouldn’t be the end of the world if the girls went there, but I’m not sure it’s really me us right for the girls

I’ll be back here later with the results….

17.35pm As predicted, the girls (both) got into school no.2, so Dh looks a bit like this. I’m chuffed too, but it’s going to be a logistical nightmare as they don’t offer an after-school provision to under 6’s so we’re going to have to look at alternatives.