Category Archives: School

The things I’ve seen and learned

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It was an intense week. I decided to go to every single meeting and event at Laura’s school and spent two days there, between World Book Day and the character’s parade, to PTA coffee morning, meeting with teacher, math talk, etc. Between now and the Easter break, there are at least another 4-5 events.

All good, I’m not complaining. I’m surprised though. Surprise on how much is expected from parents, grandparents, carers, to be part of the children’s school lives. It is not a bad thing, because it is not the school’s responsibility to raise the children. We are the parents, we are responsible for them, we need to be present, we need to know, we need to participate, but how the heck are we supposed to do that working long hours? I feel incredibly lucky to be able to take a break and go to all the school events, do homework at a decent time of the day when Laura is not exhausted or wanting to play, meet parents and teachers, but I do feel for parents that would love to be there and instead are stuck in a 9-to-5 job.

There should be a balance in life. I love working and I don’t see myself as a full time housewife for the longer term, but if I go back to the corporate world, I will want to work 4 days a week. It’s a 20% cut in salary, but it will be a much higher rate improve in life. And I don’t think this is something that only mothers should think about or fight for… A present and participative father can do wonders to a child’s life. At Laura’s school, the vast majority are mothers (it is still the norm, I guess), some grandparents (oh, the lucky ones that have them around) and some few fathers. On the day that we went to read with the kids, in Laura’s class, there were only women. Some took the morning off before heading back to work. Last year, hubby went, as his work was way more flexible than the actual one.

Interestingly, the main lesson I took from this was not that us, parents, should find a way to attend these events at school, but how important it is to have a solid and safe network in our community. I’ve seen mothers reading to 3, 4 kids because other parents couldn’t be there and it was alright. The kids were fine, they were happy to have an adult there – they were happy to have the parent of one of their friends there. They didn’t feel left out. So, yes, parents should try to be there, but the parents that can be there should carry on going the extra mile and supporting those who are not as “lucky”*. It takes a village to raise a child, right?

  She was soooo excited to see me at the parade (she didn’t know I was coming). Her happy face was priceless!

P.S.: I don’t know the situation of all parents; sometimes they are not lucky to be able to go to school. Sometimes they are unemployed and desperate to find a job and luck is not the right word.

Holidays mode on

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Last post was April, one month before Laura’s birthday and two before mine. We celebrated the girls’ birthday on a sunny Saturday of May, with lots of kids and adults, and as usual I was too busy making sure the food was out and warm and everyone was ok to enjoy the party myself. Elsa (from Frozen) came over, everyone had an amazing time, and this is what matters.

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My mum has been around since early May, helping out with the house and other stuff. I’m not sure how the garden will survive when she lives, how the clothes will be as clean as they are (she is better than Vanish), how the house will keep itself tidy during the week, and how the dinner will get made. Four months of help and comfort life, one can easily get used to it.

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Work… never mind work. I’m working and I’m grateful for it. No plans to move on just yet. Lots going on, the usual frustrations, the usual great things too. Unlike the previous job, I’m in this one for four year and it feels like 14. It just means that there are changes on a monthly basis, which is both exciting and unsettling.

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Holidays… now we are talking. Counting down for our two weeks in Italy, one of my favourite places in the world. I.cannot.wait. Is it too bad that all I can think of is pizza, spaghetti and ice cream? Well, this is a lie. I am actually looking forward to see the girls reaction to this trip. All Laura can talk about is… America. She wants to go to the US to… buy toys. We are trying to keep her excited about Italy with the prospect of eating ice cream every day. And going to the pool and beach too, but she is not so excited about these two. I am also hoping that we will be able to go on a gondola in Venice. We didn’t go the first time, but it’s one of those things that I really need to tick off the list.

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School holidays are flying. Another three weeks and it’s back to school. I dread it more than Laura.

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Both Laura and Beatrice are doing really well. I can’t believe they are 5 years (and 2 months) and 2 years (and 3 months) old already. This year is flying, and although I don’t want them to grow up too quickly (neither I want to get old), I just want this year to end. Such a weird one.

Every day conversation

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I drop Laura off and pick her up at school every Thursday. It’s a nice way to spend a few hours just the two of us , get to see other kids and parents (just see, I don’t talk to them) and have a five minute walk.

Our chat on the way home:

Laura: Mummy, imagine if you died…
Me: … hmmm…. I don’t think I want to imagine that.
Laura: It’s just pretend, mummy!
Me: Ok…
Laura: You died and someone took you to the hospital…
Me: errrrr… so, when you die, they don’t take you to the hospital.
Laura: Of course they do!
Me: No, you go to the hospital when you are ill. When you die, you go to the cemetery.
Laura: cenetewy?!
Me: Ce-Me-Te-Ry.
Laura: What’s that?!
Me: A place where they keep the bodies when they stop working; when they die. Remember when we went to say bye buy to vovô Mário? That was a cemetery.
Laura: No, vovô Mário is in the sky!
Me: … yes, he is. But his body is placed somewhere else.
Laura: hmmmm.
Me: It’s cold, isn’t it?

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2015/01/img_2678.jpg“Mummy, I’m gonna drive you crazy with my questions! huahuahuahua”

It’s just a phase, they say

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This morning, Laura had a “fit”. Screaming at us, being aggressive (as in punching me), grinding her teeth, etc. It was out of the blue – apparently she woke up fine but her mood changed like the weather in the UK.

We think it was a bit of jealousy because Beatrice was in our bed. It doesn’t make sense to me because Beatrice is ALWAYS in our bed when Laura comes in the mornings.

This terrible twos are lasting a couple of years now, but if on one hand it is a pain to deal with it, on the other it seems slightly easier as she is now a child that can communicate her feelings (even when screaming her lungs out) and expresses herself almost clearly. And maybe because of that, I find it even more frustrating to deal with these crisis. “For god’s sake, I am trying to talk to you, to give you options, to calm you down, to play with you so why the heck can’t you just stop and understand?!?” That’s the feeling.

In the last two, three weeks I found myself trying to convince two friends not to have kids. Yes, you read it correctly. The two are 35+ and although their biological clocks are not ticking, they have that mentality of “shit, if I don’t have kids now, I might regret in the future”. So, they DON’T want to have kids now. They are only scared they might be too old when they decide to have kids and then be too late. I don’t know about you but I think this is just wrong. Kids are not a walk in the park – and I can tell you that before having them, I thought it was and now I can see that it is a walk in the park when it’s pouring down with rain, dark and cold and very chaotic; it’s like when I went to Reading festival to see Pearl Jam: I absolutely loved the show, but all the previous bands, the mud, the weirdos and the travel to and from were so painful… Honestly, if you get to 42 and you decide that you want to have a kid and you are ready to have a kid, adopt one! Being a parent is not about giving birth (some women don’t even like the experience). And you might get to 42 and realise that you are happy without kids. Parents will probably say that they can’t imagine their lives without their children, and it’s true that it’s such a life changing experience and all the love that you feel for those little creatures cannot be put into words, yadda yadda, but you can’t miss what you don’t have, eh? If you are happy without kids, why would you miss having them at all? One of these friends I was talking about, spent two weeks with a friend who has a kid and she is now having second thoughts about having her own… it was too noisy for her.

Back to the tantrums… sometimes I just don’t know what to do. The manual says not to shout, not to slap,
not to punish, not to bribe, not to threaten, not to put in naughty corners, to put in naughty corners, to walk away and let the child be, not
to walk away… The manual says to be calm, talk softly but firmly (don’t even know what the heck it means), smile and be understanding, sing and twirl like a fairy, sing Let it go… there is a lot of dos and don’ts that not always make sense – or they always make sense but they contradict each other;
does it make sense?

But most of the time, the key is to be consistent. Apparently. Life with a child should be a repetition, on and on and on and on, the same thing. Same waking up times, bath time, meal times, sleep times… kids like to know what’s coming next, what to expect. And maybe this is where we are failing. We do try to keep things consistent but life hasn’t been that easy these days. Being on maternity leave, traveling to Brazil for 6 weeks, going back to work, family around for 8 months, one goes another one comes, Laura’s friends leaving pre-school, no ballet for a while… I have to say that it has been hard to keep a routine, for them and for us, and I wonder if this is playing its part in the sporadic tantrums. If it is, hopefully things will get better from September, when school starts.

Or maybe it’s just a phase and we will have to deal with it until they are 18.

Going back to work

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It happened before. I spent one year on maternity leave and when I get back, it’s all new. It happened in 2011 and it’s happening in 2014. My boss changed back then; I have a new boss now. The super big boss was gone by the time I got back in 2011; the super big boss (which is the same, by the way) is leaving 10 days after I return to work in June.

I’m going back to work mid-June. Am I ready? No. Am I excited? Yes. Scared? Yes. Depressed? Yes. Don’t try to understand, because I don’t either. In the ideal world, I would work part-time, I would have some time for myself – a couple of hours would do, and I would spend some time with my kids without being all rush-rush to bathe-feed-put to bed. But my world is not ideal yet, so I will go back to work, check what’s going on there and see if I can find some answers to questions that have been keeping me awake.

Sadly, Beatrice won’t attend the same nursery that Laura went to, which I loved. It’s close to work, I can get there in 5 minutes if needed. It might be a sign that I can change jobs easily if I want to. Or work from home once a week, like in the good old days. I’m sure there are positive sides to it, but at the moment I’m very sad because the alternatives don’t please me. And I don’t have much time to look for options; it’s only two months until I go back to work.

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On top of this dilemma of where to put Beatrice so I can go back to work, I’m also torturing myself with Laura’s new school schedule from September. She will have 6 weeks summer holidays, then another 5 weeks of half terms and an extra week between Christmas and New Year’s. Who has 12 weeks holidays a year?!?! Luckily, there are after school and summer clubs, but still…

 
I’m dreading to leave these two…
 

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Another big step for my big little girl (or little big girl?)

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I’m talking about Laura here, not Beatrice.

So my big girl is soon going to attend a “proper” school. The letter arrived last week and she has a place in our (not hers, she doesn’t care that much yet) preferred choice, which is less than 5 minutes walk from us (and was rated Outstanding by Ofsted).

I don’t know why, but I’m making a big deal out of it. It’s just a school, we all go through this. But part of me is so scared that she might not be happy there, she might not like it, she might not want to be a student…

Although I wasn’t a bad student, I wasn’t a keen student either. I didn’t like school that much, I was always dreaming about the day I would stop studying. I don’t think it has anything to do with studying and learning per se, but with the institution, with how things are taught and the subjects we are forced to learn. I was never a big fan of strict routines, like having to go to school five days a week – I’m still the same and it is a torture to have to work five days a week.

Going back to my fears, I’m also a bit worried I will fail as a mother. You know, not doing things right, like sitting down with her, talking to her about the stuff she is learning, checking her homework, reading any signs of trouble at school… Hopefully, this is just me being overly paranoid and overthinking life, as I usually do.

Laura is a smart girl, very curious and inquisitive, and quite sociable, so it might not be as hard as I am expecting.

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She is going to attend reception, which is like an extension of the nursery/pre-school, as kids are normally four years old at this point, far too young to attend proper school. I didn’t think about that until a few months ago, but if she was born in September, she would have to wait another year to go to school. Not that it is good or bad to the child, but I can’t imagine paying another year of nursery, now that I have two kids going to childcare.

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What was the most important decision of your life?

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Mine was having children. Before having children, my important decisions were university course, buying a flat, changing jobs, moving to the UK. All important, but nothing like having kids. There is no turning back, no “I don’t want to play anymore”. And it doesn’t get easy, as some might think.

The latest “most important decision of our lives” is deciding a school to Laura. I honestly didn’t think it was that hard. We have a good school near us, got Outstanding in their Ofstead report, has a nice outdoor space, etc. I thought that it was it – that’s the school Laura is going to attend; it was even the reason why we live in our house. But then we went to their Open Morning, a session to parents to get to know the school and decide if they want to apply for a place or not. My heart didn’t beat any stronger; in fact, I was rather disappointed during the visit. Then we had a session with the head master and I think I relaxed a little bit. I think it was the shock between nursery vs school, the number of staff at the nursery vs school, etc. At the school, each classroom has 30 students. And one teacher. It shouldn’t be a problem, right? I mean, the classrooms I were in when I was a kid had more than that and I studied in private schools.

Maybe I’m just not ready to see my little girl taking this (huge) step and growing up. I have one year to get used to the idea.

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I’m going to visit another two schools in the area. Then we need to send the application to the council (not the schools) with our 3 preferred schools, in order of preference, and wait to hear back with the school she got a place.

She will attend something called reception, which is for children between 3 and 4 years old (Early Years). Then comes Year 1 and Year 2 (5 to 7 years old). And then there is the Junior school, with years 3, 4, 5 and 6, for children 8 to 11 years old. After that, it’s secondary education and we will have to look for new schools and go through another “most important decision of our lives”.

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Being an adult sometimes sucks.