Starting School

Last September was the first time in four years that I haven’t had a child starting in Reception class – I did, however, go and stand by the door a couple of times!!

Four children starting Reception has seen me cover every possible emotion, from tears and trembling to joy, celebration and finally bewilderment; it is a roller-coaster ride that is unique to each child and parent. Having been both the Mum that sobs into the sink and the one that danced down the path, here’s what helped me with both extremes.

I have worked hard as a parent to be there to help my child, to instruct them, to mould them into an individual I might want to spend time with. I have been their main influence and protector. Now I am sending them into a big wide world of others; other children who might be mean, other adults who won’t share your values, people who won’t understand that he hates jelly, buttons, cress, cotton wool, or whatever else it is. It is a big step… but they are not the first to take it. As a parent I am not called to pull down the shutters and raise our children in a bubble, but to grow people who are ready to “go and make disciples of all nations,” going out into the world, to learn how to make friends, to understand differences, to feel our culture, to spell, to read and maybe even learn some maths too. They are little, and we are worried – but Jesus is with us! “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” So he is even with them until the end of the school day (which may feel like an age!)

So pray together. Talk about this exciting mission. Tell them to remember that even if Mummy or Daddy can’t be there: Jesus always is. Do they realise that they are safer with him than Mummy? Do you realise that? And if they need help with their trousers or lunch – ask!

Am I a terrible parent because I want to dance home? Well I could be – but probably not for that reason! Some children, often those with an older sibling, are ready to go; they know what’s ahead, they’ve been dragged up and down to the school gate often enough that they feel part of the furniture. They have independence and energy – this is how God has made them, and He doesn’t make mistakes. I am the parent He intended to channel their unique energy for good. This is the school that’s going to help them build structure and shape character, so I can pray for my child and for their teacher. I can think creatively about how to encourage my child’s gifts and personality to meet the commands of Jesus – to be in the world, with its structure and routine, but to win people to Jesus by being not like this world.

Who am I without them? I’ve longed for space, now I’ve got too much! I had this lovely child, now I pick up a whinging, hungry monster from school. They have picked up behaviour I don’t like. We’re all doomed!

Four things
1. Take snacks to pick up
2. Hang on in there until October half term
3. Talk to another parent on the playground (the quiet one is always a good bet)
4. Remember Jesus is still on the throne!

It’s alright to feel a bit lost, this is a big change – tell it to Jesus, he already knows! Talk to friends and wait for the dust to settle, remember you now have a mission field of other families in the playground. There’s a world of phonics and number bonds to get your head round. And your church could really use your help if you have some spare hours. Don’t forget, you are allowed to enjoy drinking a hot cup of tea and going to the toilet on your own.

And finally…

Things will go wrong, there will be something you haven’t thought of. My son was the one who went for a wee behind the tree in the playground at playtime and had to be told to use the toilets. My daughter cried that there was no ice cream in the ICT suite. Uniform will get lost. Party invitations won’t get given. There will be fall outs and bumps and heart ache. The way we handle it all is the gospel with skin on.

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

from Amy Smith, the Children’s Worker at GraceChurch, Halewood