It’s ‘back to school’ time and a loud collective sigh can be heard among all those brave mothers, myself included, who have survived the UAE summer sauna despite the garden and beach being off-limits and Fun City ceasing to live up to its name after the 90th visit.
But while school comes as a welcome relief by the time September rolls around, for those sending their little ones off for the first time, let me warn you that being the parent of a school-age child has its own fair share of anxieties – not least a whole new set of people to judge you. Up until now you’ve been getting away with sitting them in front of CBeebies for hours on end, feeding them nothing but Petit-Filous and crackers, with an interactive song about body parts on the Tweenies being the only educational thing they’ve encountered all day. Then they start school and suddenly you find yourself in a daunting world of competitive parenting, uniforms and packed lunches where everybody has an opinion on the curriculum.
Since my kids have little interest in consuming anything other than flavoured milk, I tend to prepare their packed lunch with the teacher in mind rather than the child, hoping to win brownie points for including fresh fruit and wholemeal bread.
Also, lateness is frowned upon, which is problematic for me since I suffer with terminal tardiness. My children are so used to arriving to find an empty playground they think something is wrong if other cars are around when we pull up in front of school in the morning.
Then there is homework. Getting them to finish it is an exercise in patience and vigilance on my part, otherwise they’ll wander off to watch something on Cartoon Network. And in the long term I realise that I’m not helping matters by doing it for them, scribbling away with my left hand while they slurp disinterestedly at their Cheerio’s.
Of course much depends on the teacher. Some are scarier than others. My son was blessed with an absolute gem last year who actually texted me reminders whenever there was an unsigned note to return or money to be sent in. But there are of course the other type of teachers who will approach you at the end of the day, tight-lipped and with a gravity reserved for an undertaker, to inform you that your five-year-olds’ reading book hasn’t been signed for two days running. Yes, going back to school is a big responsibility for all concerned, but after two months of Edutainment centres and kids’ TV, I’m definitely ready for the challenge.