Welcome to the Jungle

This week we’re back to school after the Easter break. The whole ‘back to school’ thing is still new to us but any pangs of sadness I felt on Monday morning were considerably lessened by the sight of Jack in a big hug with his teacher and then being bundled on top of in a mass hug from his little buddies. If there is that much love, joy and hugs in the classroom then it can’t be all bad. Forget Ofsted reports, for now I’m happy with a simple Hug-o-meter.

That said, I was just thinking how if a film was ever made about our little life here (I’m expecting to hear from Hollywood any day now, obvs ūüėČ ) then the soundtrack would most likely be some delightful pastoral melodies (think: la-la-la, tinkly, tinkly, tinkly) right up until mid-September last year, when Jack started school. At this point there would be an almightily loud and dissonant scratch and an abrupt dive into ‘Welcome to the Jungle,’ Guns and Roses style. (Melodramatic, moi?)

While I had previously expressed my reservations about Jack starting school so young (he wasn’t even 3 until the end of October for heavens’ sake!) I now realise that I actually didn’t have a clue about the impact that school would have on us and our lives. And, no, I don’t just mean the early mornings. Although those still do hurt. (Pathetic, but true.)

Of course in reality I totally suppressed the thought of failed to grasp how hard the initial wrench would be for me: the giving up of absolute control over his environment 24/7. Ok, now I sound like a scary control freak. But I’m not. I’m far too lazy to ever be a control freak, trust me. WAY too much effort. No, I’m just a mother who was used to spending all day with my baby almost every day. Being there to protect him, to feed him¬† to hold him, to love him. As a result, for the first week or two of school I was a highly-strung, snappy, neurotic wreck tad overwrought.

My state of mind wasn’t helped on Day 2 when, aimlessly wandering up the road seeking diversion from the constant gnawing questions in my mind (‘what will he be doing right now? is he okay? is he scared? is he happy? HAVE I DONE THE RIGHT THING?’), I bumped into my neighbour. Not unusual, nor usually a bad thing. Then she told me that her daughter-in-law had just been called down to the school to take her son to the doctors. Why? Because Jack had poked him in the eye.

FAN-flipping-tastic. Day 2 of school and my son was already a juvenile delinquent having sent someone to hospital. And not just any someone but the much beloved and cosseted son of the Arse-iest Lady in the Village, as I fondly thought of her. And I don’t mean the size of her backside but rather the size of her attitude. By now I was feeling even sicker than I had been before. You know the feeling, that nausea that comes from the constant pressure on your kidneys as adrenalin steadily courses through your system, stopping you from sleeping, eating or being in the least bit reasonable.

It wasn’t a great time for another neighbour to pick to question my refusal to send Jack in the school transport. First, let me clarify. I had always intended to drive him to school myself for the first week or so. The thought of abandoning my tiny boy at a bus stop and sending him off into the unknown on his own at 8.15 one random morning was more than my heart could bear. I also had concerns over safety as I was unhappy about sending him in a car or bus with no car seat. Like I said, he was tiny. I had visions of him, at best, sliding off the seat as the people carrier rounded one of the many tight bends on the hill down to school. Let’s not even go to the ‘at worst’ scenarios.

I didn’t think it was particularly unreasonable of me to want to personally check out the transport provision before consigning my most precious cargo to it. My friend, mother to another school child from the village, thought differently. Pooh-poohing my concerns didn’t make me feel any better about any of it. And when she made the classic statement: ‘But P’s the same age as Jack and his mother is sending him in the taxi without making a big fuss about it,’ I’ll admit I saw red. All that adrenalin coursing through my system and nowhere to go. Until now.

Turns out it’s not all that easy to think of the Spanish for ‘Well if P’s mum jumped off a cliff does that mean I should too?’ off the top of your head when the top of your head is actually blowing steam. I think I got my meaning across pretty thoroughly however, despite garbled grammar, mangled pronunciation and generalised high-pitched, squeaking.

Thankfully my adrenal glands slowed down their fierce pumping action gradually over the next few days, as it became apparent that Jack was adjusting and that the classroom environment was warm and family-like. I loved that the teacher was happy to chat to parents at the start or end of any school day and that dropping him off in the morning I got to spend 5 or ten minutes chatting with her and some other parents at the classroom door and watching the children doing their thing and finding their feet in there. This rather relaxed, informal approach is a luxury that is possible in such a tiny school; with a total of less than 20 children in two classes.

At pick up one afternoon that first week I also had a chat with the taxi driver on the school run and managed to allay my fears in that respect. While the children did normally travel with just lap belts (the top strap of the seatbelt placed behind them) it was totally fine if I wanted to send Jack with a car seat so that he could be strapped in correctly.

And even Arsey Lady managed to surprise me over the eye-poking incident. ‘Bah….war wounds,’ she shrugged….and, Good Lord!, was that the whisper of a smile I saw round the edges of her mouth? Maybe she wasn’t such a battleaxe after all.

But just as my hormonal systems lowered the alert from red to peaceful green all hell broke loose again. This time it was my friend who thought I was making such a big fuss about the car seat. Her and her husband’s beef started off over the location of the bus stop in the village and ended one morning in a stand-up row with another set of parents over which of their children got to sit in the front of the taxi. Seriously.

Turns out that one of the things they ought to warn you about when your child starts school is that any parent can turn bat-shit crazy as over-protective of their young as a jungle big cat at the least provocation. Oh, and if your child happens to be starting school in Spain, whatever you do don’t provoke a parent in the morning. Spanish parents, on the whole, do not appreciate an early start. (Even less than I do, it would appear.)

 

 

 

Advertisements

Is It Really that Time Already?

The application period for admission into state schools is now open here in Asturias. It’s a snappy 10 days, 10th-20th April, so there’s no time to hang about if, like me, you’re planning to pack your little darling off to school here for the first time come September.

The Spanish government currently offers each child a place in school in the autumn of the year in which they turn 3. It is not actually compulsory to start in formal education until the age of 6 but most parents do take up the offer at the earliest opportunity. Apart from anything else, on a practical level, for working parents, it’s good, free childcare.

It’s a very generous provision, especially when you consider that children from rural areas are also provided with free transport and, in many schools, cooked lunches. Given the current economic situation here and with more cutbacks scheduled to be announced this week, one must wonder how long the Spanish government will continue to foot this particular bill. Already, cuts in nursery places have been announced.

But for now anyway, the admissions applications are being accepted and we’ve already collected our form to fill in and gathered all the requisite accompanying paperwork. All that remains to be done is some photocopying and the purchase of 2 passport sized photos of the would-be pupil. Oh, and some long, drawn-out parental soul-searching.

If Jack is to start school this year, he will be doing so two months before his third birthday. I mean, that’s clearly too young to be starting school, right? That’s practically still a baby. And good luck to anyone who thinks they can get him to sit still for hours on end. Or rather, no, bad luck to them. He is a vibrant bundle of energy that I really just don’t want to see tamed (for the sake of taming) too young.

Having said all that, while the under sixes may be starting at school they are not starting in ‘primaria’. They have their own ‘infantil’ (kindergarten/nursery) teacher and their days are much more play based and less rigidly structured. There is quite probably less ‘taming’ being practiced than I fear.

The school itself is small, with 15 pupils and 2 full time teachers (plus visiting teachers in English, music and P.E. – pretty amazing really!) and Jack already knows a lot of the children. Plus his three best buddies from the village here will all be there – Pelayo will be starting at the same time as him, while Cova and Alberto will be going into their first year of primaria – big kids already.

All of this should make the transition easier for him and, crucially, desired on his part. He is a hugely sociable little boy who just adores being with other children and really enjoys his current two days a week at nursery.

I guess the bottom line is that I still can’t help feeling a (not so) little pang at the thought of it all. Must remember, I’ve only got to hand the application over by the 20th of this month – not my child.