Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The 5 stages of school run grief

This post was originally published on my Crud Dad blog on 17th January 2017

I had no idea the school run each morning would cause us so much grief.  Getting the girl to nursery on time wasn't nearly as stressful as getting her to school on time is.  If we were late for nursery it was more impolite than anything else.  Ultimately we were directly paying for our daughter to attend, so if she was late it was our money we were wasting.  Although we don't pay directly for a school place (our girl attends a 'free' education authority funded school) we pay for it with our taxes.

I appreciate that attendance figures contribute to the OFSTED ratings of primary schools.  I also acknowledge that a sense of order needs to be in place at schools for them to operate at all.  Unlike places of business there are hundreds of humans in attendance who did not make the decision to be there themselves.  The kids.  But since the wee one started school last September, just four months ago, we have only managed to get her to school with plenty of time to spare on a handful of occasions.  I have no issue with the fact that we have to get our lass to school on time, it's an entirely reasonable request.  But that doesn't make it any easier.

Like all schools our school (which we LOVE) made it clear from day 1 just how important prompt attendance is.  There have been multiple letters home explaining the penalties for untimely arrivals.  If you're five minutes late you're in some trouble, if you're ten minutes late you're in some more trouble.  Should some sort of time-keeping disaster befall you and you are a whole fifteen minutes late you're in more severe trouble.  If you arrive twenty minutes late then the amount of trouble you are in is more acute; your child will be marked absent.  If you're spawn is marked absent more than a few times then, yes, you guessed it - you're in real trouble.  The scale of woe continues to slide up until fines, visits from the truancy officer and ultimately time in jail are a possibility.

Before I proceed I need to make very clear indeed that I have no issue with the need to get to school on time.  That's all fine and logical.  No issue.  I get it.  But try as we might we're still having an issue getting to the school gates with time to spare.  We have tried going to bed earlier, we have tried getting out of bed earlier.  In fact we have tried many things, and I'm aware that these are early days with regards to our child's school career, but right now there's no getting away from the fact that the school run causes us grief.

Here's a run down of what happens in our house every morning.  This is from my perspective, my wife (of course) is a goddess of the school run..
  1. Denial
    The alarm clock goes off, gets switched off.  The alarm goes off again and gets snoozed.  The radio comes on and I try to ignore it.  It's warm and cozy in bed.  I'm happy here.  I know it's my turn to get the wee one to school on time but I am in denial.  Maybe I have the day wrong.  Maybe it's actually a Saturday.  Maybe it's a school holiday.  Could it be a teacher training day?  Might the school get closed due to some sort of environmental issue beyond anyone's control; could ten feet of snow fall between now and when we have to leave the house?  No.  I am in denial.
  2. Anger As I force myself out of bed I am a little angry.  It's a futile and useless anger.  I have to get out of bed just because education exists.  Ludicrous thoughts flitter through my mind, could we start home-schooling?  Fortunately this dumb anger never lasts more than a few seconds.  My daughter is just so cheerful when she first wakes up that being cross is just not possible.  She loves school and she wants to go.  Which is what makes the following stages of school run preparation so bewildering.
  3. Bargaining
    I know she wants to go to school.  She knows she loves school.  So why is it taking her so long to eat breakfast?  Why after breakfast does it take her ten minutes to get from the bottom step to the top of the stairs to clean her teeth?  Bargaining with a five year old is a clear sign that the situation is getting desperate.  The bargaining starts low key, with offers of post-school activities that both parties can enjoy.  But as the time we must leave the house in order to be on time gets nearer the bargaining becomes more desperate.
  4. Depression
    We should have left the house five minutes ago.  This can only be happening because I am a bad parent.  How do other parents manage to get their kids to school on time so effortlessly? I've tried everything in my arsenal to cajole, humour, bargain and plead with my daughter to get ready on time.  I have failed.  Again.  I know this type of thought is ultimately useless; it's not going to get us out of the door any faster if I turn into Eeore.  Nothing gets us out of the door on time, I'm not even sure a minor fire somewhere in the house could get us out of the door any faster.
  5. Acceptance
    As we walk to the school I can already see the last of the kids pouring through the gate.  We're going to be a little bit late.  Nothing can change our lateness.  We're not going to run, I'm not going to pick the girl up so we can walk faster.  I have accepted our lateness.  Tomorrow is another day and we'll try yet again to get to school with time to spare.  One day we'll find the magic formula and surprise ourselves by casually strolling up to the school gate with time to kill.  Maybe.

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