At the beginning of January Lucia turned five, which in my head seems much older than four and a lifetime away from three, she is now actually a proper bona fide walking talking little girl. I admit that it must be a bit crappy to have a birthday so near to Christmas, people trying to amalgamate gifts etc but so far this hasn’t happened to Lu which is good. She was meant to be born on my birthday in April which I was furious about as I’m not good at sharing (might be the whole only child thing) but as things turned out she was a January baby. The other thing that is a little rubbish about winter birthdays is that the weather is always shit and so out doors stuff is never a option but who am I kidding, even if her birthday was in July there is no guarantee of sunshine.
Last year was the first time idid a ‘proper’ party for her. I rented the village hall, made sandwiches and played pass the parcel and all her nursery friends came, I had loads of super kind friends who helped me do it all and a wonderful time was had by all.
This year was a tad different. Let talk about school party politics. Lucias’ Reception class has 60 children in it, they are then split onto four sets of about 15 and each set pairs up with one other, so really she spends most of her school time with 30 kids. We were all given the names of these children at christmas time, I think with the aim of knowing who we needed to write christmas cards to so I had my invite template. I asked Lucia who out of the list she wanted to come and then added a few others that she had left out as they are nice children and she had been invited to their parties. Phew. I also invited some of her friends from nursery who she is still in touch with. I gave the invites to the teacher to put into the bags and then waited for the RSVPs – which never came. Why? So frustrating. By the morning of the party I was expecing anything between six and 30 children based on the number of RSVPs I had received. Friends with older children who’ve ‘been there done that’ assure me that this is totally normal, for me it was totally frustrating. So i erred on the side of caution and catered for 30, in the end i think it was about 12 children but they included Lucia’s most favourite friends so she didn’t notice how few children there were. It was only looking back on the photos that I noticed as most parents stay for coffee and made then hall look fuller than it actually was.
What a potential emotional nightmare? As adults we fret that no one will turn to our parties , imagine how a five year old would feel if no one showed up?
So to cut a long story short it all worked out fine in the end. My super friend S, who is also a chef, bought and made all the party food and drove it over and set it up, she also made the requested unicorn cake. R, my other super friend, came early and helped set up the tables and C & D, Lu’s god parents helped decorate. I put the older children to good use and had them blow up the 40 balloons – twith the aid of a hand pump – I’m not Cruella de Vil you know.
I also found this amazing company online called Boxed up Party, you choose from a number of themes on offer, rainbow unicorn was perfect for me, and then choose how many children and they send you a box containing all that is needed, cups, napkins, table clothes, plates etc, I also ordered the ready made party bags, it was fantastic, great quality stuff and really cost affective, believe me I shopped around for ages and they still came in as the best value. I orders additional mini bubble bottles for the party bags but they had leaked when they arrived so I couldn’t use them but the company gave me an immediate refund and a apology which was fantastic. I cannot recommend them highly enough. Ps they haven’t paid me to say this, I’ve never come across them before but I do love a one stop good qulity shop and thought I’d pass the info on.
Is there a secret amount of competitiveness going on re children parties and entailment? I’m not sure, Lu has been to parties where parents have hired people who do the whole shebang, entertainment, bouncy castle, games and food, I think its sensible considering how much it costs to do all the parts separately. But I had not arranged any entertainment, I have no excuse, illness, pooryliness blah bah blah. Three days before the party I was in the midst of starting to accept that I would have to do all the party games ever to keep five year olds entertained I contacted a parent at Lu’s school who does entertainment at parties and begged for help, she was booked for the day but put me in touch with a colleague who could help and snap, it all fell into place. She did a neon disco games theme, the children loved it, they danced, ate, ran round, made a mess and then all went home. Horray.
In our bath that evening I asked Lu if she had enjoyed her party, waiting to bask in the glow of parental victory but she said no, it was boring and where was the teacup roundabout? I shall explain. The village hall, where Lu had her party, is also where the Summer Fete is held and on the green in front of the hall there is usually a teacup roundabout ride Lu clearly imagined it would be there for her birthday too – ooops. I think I need to up my game next year. After her comment I did actually look up hiring teacup roundabouts for next year but at an average £750 plus it is not going to happen!!!
I didn’t want to do a ‘review’ of 2015 as, whilst looking back is interesting in some respects, for me over analysis is not always helpful. I am always mindful that ‘the past is a nice place to visit, but certainly not a good place to stay.’ So, I have chosen 12 photos that illustrate my 2015, there isn’t one from each month but one from each of the significant significant events that happened.
12 photos, 12 months
1.We got a Puppy
2.Lulu started school
3.I was off work and in ALL the hospitals
4.I fractured my wrist
5.I went to New York for the first time
6.I went to Suffolk (twice)
7.My Decree Nisi was granted
9.I saw my mum, alot
10.I planted and harvested from my allotment
11.I got offered a place for my Phd at Oxford Brookes
12. I turned 41
Last night Lulu sat in her bed weeping, begging me not to send her to school in the morning because she hated everything about it, and more specifically because she was lonely at school. Lonely? How could my gorgeous, kind, vivacious baby even know the existence of such a word let alone have a concept of what it means? and so there, sat on her bed holding her hand and wiping away her tears my heart fell out of my chest and shattered all over the floor. Which is where it remains.
I have written previously about Lulu’s difficulties settling into school, but I genuinely felt that things had improved. She doesn’t dawdle in the morning and scoots happily off to her class room, other children say ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ to her each day, when I drop her at her class room she goes off with out a backward glance to do her drawings at the communal table. She has never been sent home from school, apart from the time she had laryngitis. On Sunday night she indicated she didn’t want to go to school the next day because she had no friends and no one who she asks will play with her, that the only people she speaks to are teachers, that people play rough in the playground and she sometimes gets pushed. I have already spoken twice with her class teacher about my concerns but she assured me that Lu does have friends, does play with others and is never sad at school. I believe her so what to do?
I like Lulus school, it is academically good, the staff are nice, the parents and children are nice, the headmistress is lovely, the ethos is brilliant but not all children will fit into all schools and visa versa, neither of these things are necessarily anyones fault. Square peg, round hole. And this is the conclusion I am coming to regarding Lulu. There are 60 children in her reception class, split into four groups but at anyone time, including the children from nursery who come into play, there can be 80 plus small children in one room doing any number of activities that they choose, drawing, writing, craft, art etc. It is a vibrant place to be but I can see that it can also be potentially overwhelming. Lulu’s concept of having’friends’ may be different to the actual reality of it but she started full time nursery at 10 months and didn’t seem to have these issues. She isn’t a ‘I have one best friend’ type of child, she plays with lots of different children but is finding it hard when she asks someone to play and they say no. She doesn’t seem to grasp that it isn’t because they don’t like her but they that want to do something else.
I hung out in Lulus classroom this morning for an hour or so, just watching what was going on, parents are allowed to stay as long as they want, it isn’t sormething I have done before as I don’t think it is helpful for Lulu as it could prove to be a distraction but I needed to see what was going on. It was as I expected, a classroom of happy, loud, busy children. Playing in one area then moving on to other things as they wished, Lulu did the same.
The only conclusion I have come to is that the school may just ‘too much’ for her, that she may fit better in a smaller class, a smaller school but its not as if we can magic these things out of nowhere. I am a single parent with no family, save my mum, I can’t afford school fees for a private school, I could consider one of the small local village schools but how do I get her there and home. I work full time in London and my mum can’t drive. So what to do? I’ve decided to sit with it a while, and see how the next few months go, but I worry that she will feel I have ignored her fears, that I don’t care when she says she is unhappy, that I increase her sense of loneliness. I just want Lulu to be happy, that’s all, she is only four. That’s not too much to hope for is it?
Lulu started primary school last week, she was very excited and literally ran there on day one and two, on day three it wasn’t such a happy tale. I got home from work and asked her how her day had been, she didn’t want to talk but eventually told me that her teacher had been ‘cross with her’ because she had stood in the wrong line, that the class room and play ground were too big and full of lots of children and she kept getting bumped and then she started crying and told me that none of the other children wanted to play with her. My heart literally shattered. It was my very worst fear, I could write meal planners and timetables and label as many jumpers as possible but I couldn’t control the politics at school. My little girl had no friends and everyone did. Lulu was one of only eight other children joining in Reception that hadn’t been in the nursery attached to the school so everyone else did know each other pretty much, but she had come from a full time nursery and had always been chatty and made friends easily so I hadn’t been too concerned. I discussed the matter with my mum who drops her off and collects her and she spoke with Lulu’s from teacher the next morning who said Lu seemed to be settling in well but she would keep an eye on her.
I didn’t make too much of an issue about it that evening and she said school had been fine, but the next morning she said she felt poorly and didn’t want to go to school, the ‘parents dilemma’. Lulu is a very stoic child and not really a moaner or complainer but who hasn’t said they felt sick in order to get out of doing something they don’t like? She said her throat hurt but I convinced her to go to school and that if she still felt sick to tell the teacher who would call nanny to come and collect her. That was Friday morning.
Two hours late she was home with a very high temperature, by Sunday we were at the hospital and they diagnosed laryngitis, the next day we were back at the doctor due to dehydration and finally day, Wednesday, she is almost 100% better. I’ve had to take take two days off work and she has been stuck to be like a limpet, she lost her voice and sobbed in pain for three nights, she hasn’t eaten since Friday but she has asked to watch a film and will spend more than 5 minutes without me next to her so its looking positive.
I now worry that missing these days at school may have set back re the whole ‘making friends’ thing but, back to school she must go, even though she is already reminding me that she doesn’t like it. I am sure that it will all work out fine in the end but there is a tiny bit of me that really worries that it won’t, what can I do? I’m completely powerless, I can’t make the other children be her friends, I guess its just a waiting game. Something we all had to go through during our first days of school, which I remember clearly were rubbish. I started school two weeks later than everyone else and they had already all paired up when I arrived but eventually I made good friends. Maybe it’s my own experience that is making me more anxious than necessary about Lulu making friends, fitting in, I’m trying to be stoic too and can but hope that she starts to enjoy the whole ‘going to school’ experience soon.