The dread of school


Oh no. Schools back. Some parents might be jumping for joy at the idea of reintroducing routine to their kids lives, others are filled with dread.

Irish summers are long and expensive. Camp fees cost up to €200 per child per week, then there’s nannies on top of that- someone has to pick them up from Gaelic camp after all.

Other times children are at home, while you’re at home and it’s raining and you have work to do, but there’s a baby on your head and another one just poured milk into your pleather man bag.

It’s logistically trying and financially crippling, so it’s understandable that a lot of mums and dads will leave their kids at the gates of school, dancing on the inside.

The last few days leading up to the first day back are filled with shopping for school uniforms, packing bags, preparing school lunches and discussing the whole thing ad nauseam with other parents in the playground. Holidays are over and everything is back to normal. Great.

I have another year to go before my daughter starts school and I’m not fan. I walked out of the school gates, going ‘so long suckers,’ many years ago, not taking into account that I’d be at the mercy of these authoritarians again.

There are various things I’m piqued over. The early starts being at the forefront. Like many others, I don’t work nine to five. My daughter has never had to be rushed in the mornings and I fear we’ll have great difficulty getting used to this level of time commitment, especially in winter. I have friends who get up at 5.30am, to get ahead, have coffee in peace, do admin, get everything ready.  I applaud them, but I can’t do that.

I think proceedings should kick off at 10am. That way I could guarantee that my daughter would be finely turned out, and I won’t be in my dressing gown.

Instead there will be stress. People are always stressed at school gates. We live in a culture that fetishises and basks in stress. If you don’t have five million things to do, then you’re not living properly, especially if you’re a mother.

Being a modern Irish mother means packing so much into your day that you’re near death with exhaustion by the end of it. Then you have to tell people about it.

For some reason, it’s paramount to discuss the mundanities of your to-do list frantically with others who also have to-do lists. “Well we got Esme’s school uniform in Lidl this year,’ ‘I’m going to spend Sunday stockpiling vegan tuna and vegan eggs so and I can just throw them into a tubberware into Christopher Luak’s rucksack.’ Oh where did you get his rucksack?” Who cares?

You can do lots of boring, day to day stuff like washing, hanging up clothes, packing school bags and basically organising everything without announcing these finer intricacies of your admin to people you meet in public places. Not wanting to sound like a hippy living out of a VW Westfalia who makes things out of beads, but chill out.

There are lots of fun things that aren’t colossally platitudinous to talk about when you meet other adults. Everyone is so afraid of saying anything controversial or offensive. they stick to moronic stuff. But they seem to be obsessed with school.

After my daughter was born, people would ask me ‘have you put her down for school?’ I heard it a million times. Leave me alone. She’s four days old. “Well when my friend so-and-so left the house after having her baby for the first time, and it was to send her application for a school.’

In this current rental crisis, how are people expected to know where they’re going to live in four or five years time? In reaction people are putting their kids names down all over the place.

It’ll be grand. They’ll go to school and when they do, they can have ‘playdates.’ Can we not just say, meet up? It makes me squirm. I managed to get through childhood without it rearing its ugly head and we played a lot with other kids.

Anyway, when you have a child, there’s little alternative. Home schooling is not an option. I don’t have such a high opinion of myself that I think I can do a better job than teachers. Also, unless you’re a stay at home Jehovah’s Witness, where do people get the time or the inclination? My daughter would just ignore me and wander off  to make a sandwich or something. Who are these compliant kids anyway?

In the US, according to a survey conducted by the National Centre for Families Learning nearly half of parents admit to feeling uneasy as a new school year starts. I don’t blame them. I reckon single mums are more freaked. We have to do all the schools runs and parent teacher meets.

In Ireland, I couldn’t find a similar survey but 2,000 parents recently found that it costs more than €360 to send a senior infant child to school, and €765 for a first year pupil. That must have them feeling ‘uneasy.’

That’s money we could be spending on holidays. Which brings me to my most pertinent ire – no more going away in November or February. No off season breaks, no quiet times at the airport. No more cheap flights for us both. You’re at the airport queueing with all the other stressed out parents. The dread.

That reminds me, I must leave Ireland.