The Primary School Equation: How do you choose?

Am I the only one who’s ever thought that old saying: ‘Your school days are the best of your life’ is a little bit glib? Or at least too black and white?

I have many very happy memories of my own school days but I was also bullied at various points so making sure mini-me ends up somewhere she feels loved, happy and accepted is hugely important to me.

Plus to be honest I can’t quite believe that we’ve actually got to the stage of picking a primary school for my beautiful baby girl – evidently not so small anymore! It all feels like a huge responsibility.

Where we live there’s one main village school that mini-me should automatically get into, which makes things easier and also harder in equal measure. Less stress over choice but more pressure to like it if you see what I mean.

Well last week hubby and I joined a big group of other potential parents on a tour of the school led by the headmistress about who we’d heard great things. First impressions were that she was quietly assured and trendy and reminded me of a ‘PR type’ who might work in Soho (not that you stereotype when you work in the media!)

Hubby was already stressed as I’d forgotten to book blue-eyed boy in for an earlier start at nursery so he was accompanying us in his sling complete with the hacking cough he has yet to shake off.

‘What if he starts screaming? What am I supposed to do, walk off and do a circuit of the school building? How’s that going to look?’ he asked indignantly.

It got the stock response. ‘Um, it’ll be fine.’

Fortunately I was saved by blue-eyed boy’s famous good nature and a few other parents who’d also accessorised with their under-ones. Plus the youngest was working his cuteness to our advantage – trendy headmistress even commented on how lovely he was!

Also BFF was there and both offspring prefer her to us anyway. Mini-me is frequently asking when she can move in…

Anyway us and the other parents were taken on a loop of the school umming and ahhing over the music room and the new library, trying to filter ‘quietly’ into various classrooms where we were followed by many pairs of small eyes as if animals in the zoo.

Quite freaky to think that hopefully next year mini-me will be one of them.

It also, and hopefully I’m not the only one to admit to this, got my competitive hackles up a bit. I found myself commenting to hubby that mini-me is ‘very musical’ so the school would be perfect for her.

Also I was quite pleased with myself for asking a semi-intelligent question about whether parents can get involved with school life, helping with reading etc.

Silly really, but I suppose as a parent you want to be accepted too just like you did when you were at school.

It’s all coming back to me now. My mum running the book stall every year at my school’s autumn fair and dad helping out with various things.

Waiting nervously for them to return from parents’ evenings to see what my teacher had to say about me.

That’s going to be me and hubby soon. Scarily grown up, for both us and mini-me…

Nice toes and naughty toes

Ah ballet class, the place where all parenting life meets looking slightly harassed on a Saturday morning.

Since mini-me has been prancing around pretty much since the day she could stand (actually from memory she sported a mean bottom wiggle before this too…) hubby and I reasoned that turning three was probably a good time for her to start a proper dance class.

We’ve heard from friends with slightly older children about the ‘joys’ of ferrying various offspring to football, drama, choir, gymnastics etc. etc. after school or on a weekend morning, a la an unpaid taxi firm.

Fortunately for us this is still ahead – which is just as well as weekly one of us still ends up careering into the village hall car park just after the one class we have to make it to has started. But we’re never alone thankfully, which I find nicely reassuring.

In fact sitting outside mini-me’s beginners’ ballet half-hour is a really good way to remind yourself we’re all in this parenting malarkey together. And you don’t even have to talk to anyone to draw this conclusion – merely pretend to read your book while actually eavesdropping.

(Am I the only one who does this?!)

There’s always at least one of us with ‘mum flu’, that is spluttering into a tissue trying to convince yourself and others that you’re not ill, just a bit grumpy.

There’s the usual array of children hanging off parents’ legs and demanding snacks, the ‘dulcet’ tones of Peppa and her pals playing on a loop on someone’s iPad and the sound of someone coaxing a small person to ‘please do a wee.’

Last week one of the dads was loudly telling his friend how glad he was that his son hadn’t yet professed a desire to start ballet with his sister, as it could have been quite awkward having the only boy in the class.

A mum was picking out tiles from a catalogue while discussing the merits of various colour options, and several of us were gazing with amazement at the pint-sized ballerina with hair her mother had clearly slaved over for the best part of half an hour.

We’re talking not one solitary hair out of place, a curled ponytail, colour-co-ordinating ribbon in exactly the right hue of purple and feathers for crying out loud.

I’ll bet I wasn’t the only one thinking I really must allow time for more than just brushing mini-me’s hair next week.

But the other thing we all have in common, and this to me is the sheer joy of my lovely girl’s ballet class, is the visible pride in watching our offspring practise ‘nice toes and naughty toes’, waiting patiently in line to show the teacher their butterfly run and tippy-toeing around the hall to classics such as ‘I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside.’

I love watching mini-me twirl and whirl with a delighted smile on her face as her little tutu floats behind her. I love her teeny yet perfect ballet slippers, and I love her uniform that has Royal Academy of Dance embroidered on the label.

Do I think she’ll grow up to be the next Darcey Bussell? Of course not, but it’s still nice to daydream for a few minutes.

Along with the other parents that is.