Youngest dancing at the Year 6 Leavers' party last night
Here we are limping to the end of the school term like walking wounded. Totally exhausted and strung out by school/work/home/family/social life.
But it's not just the end of the school year for us, it's the end of primary school forever, the end of 13 long - "Here's your book bag and your P.E. kit, not forgetting the packed lunch and oh my God why have lost your swimming kit again!" filled years.
All this has been well documented in this blog already, so here instead are my top tips to parents who are ABOUT to embark on the primary school years...
1.) When you arrive it's like freshers at uni. Don't rush into friendships you may later regret, bide your time, watch the lie of the land. Don't be tempted to talk to that extrovert mother with that crowd around her, she'll be the fruitcake (there's always one) or the sociopath. Or both. You will make lots of mum-friends in due course and they will be the very best ones you ever have.
2.) Don't be the one at the front of the queue in the morning always telling teacher little Johnny has a cold and might need some extra TLC. The other mums will hate you. And so will the teacher.
3.) Keep well clear of the PTA. Even if you only plan to volunteer for the first few years and then slip quietly back to work - or a life - they now have your email and your mobile phone number so you can NEVER ESCAPE.
4.) Make friends with the head teacher. If he is a man flirt like hell, flatter his ego, laugh at his jokes, buy him coffee, dance with him at the PTA disco. Up close. Those Golden Awards don't come out of thin air you know.
5.) School trips. Pick wisely. Some are all day long and involve taking public transport. They will give you five boys under six to supervise, two with behavioural difficulties, and one will pull the emergency cord on the Tube. When you finally get home you will be so traumatised you have to lie in a darkened room for the rest of the evening as your offspring jump up and down on top of you demanding fish fingers.
Some, however, are only for half a day, involve an air conditioned coach to whisk you there and back, you get to sit next to an adult (or even your own child!) and upon arrival you picnic on the lawn at the Dulwich Picture Gallery. Pick that one. And don't ever say, "Oh excuse me, I don't think you saw when my son had his hand up to answer that question."
6.) School projects. Do them yourself. I've experimented with both approaches over the years. Leave it all to him and he will fail - no accolade, no called-in-to-see-the-Head-for-a-sticker and no show in assembly. Do it yourself, stay up all night, slog your guts out and the stickers/accolades/shows in assembly will rain down upon him. The Head will say, "Wow you really worked hard on this one, Johnny," when both he and you and everyone else in the room knows full well Johnny was sound asleep last night while you were up slaving over a gold spray paint can, getting high on the fumes.
7.) Never complain. Your child isn't in the swimming team? The athletics team? The debating team? On the school website? Showing in assembly? The school play? Ever. Tough. Bury your bitterness and smile. No one likes a whinger and some teachers can be vindictive. You'll never get the Golden Award that way (did I say 'you'? Freudian slip there.)
8.) Book bags. Look in them. A lot. There is ALWAYS a crumpled letter at the bottom telling you that tomorrow is an inset day, or that your child should come dressed in pyjamas, or wearing a red nose, or walking on his hands (last one is a joke, others are not).
9.) Packed lunches. Try and avoid making them at all costs. School lunch might be slop but someone else does it and it doesn't sweat itself to death in a plastic container all day.
10.) Last but not least buy the teachers presents. Lots of them. God knows they can be a miserable lot at times, sending home endless missives and instructions at the drop of a hat so that you want to kill them, but really, it's a tough job for paltry pay and would you want to do it?
Would you heck.