| Dubai, United Arab Emirates


Mum’s the word

Louise Emma Clarke will be at the school gates in September – if she makes it out the door on time, that is…

© ITP Images

When I picked up my son from nursery on his last day in June, I asked him how he felt to be moving up to big school in September. He looked at me with sad eyes and said, “I want to stay at nursery!” I felt tears prick the back of my eyes as I took his hand and lead him out the door for the last time, trying to commit the place to memory as we left. The pictures on the wall, the sweet library by reception, the friendly faces of staff as we passed, the sound of children laughing in a nearby classroom. The years my son had spent at this place had been happy years — and I was genuinely sad that we were saying goodbye.
As I lifted him into his car seat, I tried to explain that moving up to a big school was a part of life and something to look forward to over the summer. It was a big step, but one that he should be excited about.

As we drove away, I looked in the mirror and saw him gazing solemnly out the window. What had I done to my child? He was too young for school! I felt like marching back to nursery and telling them he was staying for another year. We didn’t have to do this! What had I been thinking?

But before I could put my reverse plan in action, he piped up: “I want hoola hoops! Can I have an ice cream? Where’s Daddy? What’s the time?

And when we stopped at a red traffic light: “This is rin-dinc-culous! Why are we not moving?”

And just like that, life moved on. He couldn’t give two hoots about nursery or school and I breathed a sigh of relief.

I didn’t think about the transition to school for a while after that day — until that is, I did some quick calculations in my head and realised we needed to leave the house by 7am every morning, which is a bit of a shock after our relaxed nursery drop-offs at 8.30am.

When that one dawned on me, I spent a few minutes trying to work out how we’d manage it, before nearly marching back to nursery to demand that place after all.

How exactly do mothers do it? At 7am, my children are usually still in their pyjamas, smothered in peanut butter or jam, and running away from me when it’s time to get dressed (does anyone else’s child do that? Or is it just mine that think it is hilarious to hide in the bathroom, wardrobe, laundry basket when I approach with pants and socks?)

I have no idea how we will manage to be up, fed, dressed and ready to leave the house by that time in the morning.

I might start practicing for good measure. Maybe just once or twice. Or perhaps just think it through a few times. At least once anyway. Maybe. Possibly.

Chances are, however, I will shut it out my mind until the day arrives and find myself in a blur of peanut butter, child hunting, and early morning tantrums on the first day of term.

There’s also the issue of school uniform, which makes me feel a little bit nervous given my three year old has decided his new school shoes are ‘yucky’ and that he would prefer to wear his bright green beach sandals, along with his swimming trunks, and yellow goggles on his first day at big school.

He also wants to take his bucket and spade, an old calculator, the saucepan from his play kitchen, and a skipping rope in his new school bag. He tells me that his new school teacher will think it’s all perfectly normal. I’m not quite convinced.

On the subject of his teacher, he has been calling her “Mrs Envelope” all summer. This was mildly amusing at first, given it has absolutely no similarity to her real name.

But now the weeks are ticking away, I have a very real fear that he will be addressing her as a piece of stationary once he’s in the classroom. First impressions count — and it’s not looking so good for my child, is it?

With just a few short weeks to go, all these fears will be on my mind as the day creeps closer.

So if you spot a half-asleep mum at the school gates, with a child in his swimming trunks and goggles, while smothered in peanut butter, and shouting “Mrs Envelope” at unsuspecting members of staff, it will probably be me.

But let’s look at the positives… At least we will have made it there on time.

By Louise Emma Clarke
Time Out Dubai,

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