Monday, 16 July 2012

Mum's First Day at "Big School!"

Today my Butterfly started “big School!” She overflowed with anticipation and expectation. She could not sit still she was so excited and she was far too nervous to eat.  I spend the morning desperately trying to swallow the lump in my throat and smile through this immense sadness that seemed to have engulfed me.

In the shower this morning, I gave myself a good talking to and told myself off for my silliness. Our Butterfly is more than ready for school and everything that comes with it. She has the strength of character that will serve her well during those tough school days. She is a friendly and caring child who people seem drawn to and she makes friends easily. She is respectful and unafraid of authority and she communicates well. She is eager, enthusiastic and more then up for the challenge. Our Butterfly is more than “school ready” she is “school eager!” Then why am I so sad and nervous?

I remember the delight I felt watching the Butterfly learn as a baby, the fascination that went with the discovery of her hands. The triumph and celebration when she finally worked out how to climb onto the couch, the glee when she got the shape into the right place; it is all still so fresh in my memory. So many smiles, laughs, tantrums and tears so many learning moments, so many lessons learnt. I believe that the ones that learnt the most in these past five years are the Butterfly’s parents; we have done so much growing up. Children are the best life coaches! Why then do I find this next step in her learning so intimidating?

 When the Butterfly started at Kindy I looked forward everyday to hearing about the new things she had learnt. It was a relief when she went so eagerly and didn’t need me there. I was grateful for the ease with which she embraced her new environment. Letting her go then was so much easier, why when I know this is just the next step is it so hard to let her go? Why, when now is when the real learning starts, when every word she learns to read or write will be a triumph unparalleled in her short life, do I feel so heartbroken and sad? Why does the inevitable hurt so much? How is it possible that while preparing my Butterfly for her school career I forgot to prepare myself? I was unprepared for the knot in my stomach as I marked her stationary and bags. I was taken by surprise by the intensity of emotion that overwhelmed me as I sat and watched her sleeping last night. I totally over packed her lunch box and woke her up far too early, so early that she opened one eye and said, “Mum, my feet don’t wanna get up!” For me everything was new for the Butterfly it was all the same: Get up, drink tea, and eat breakfast sort of, toilet, teeth, get dressed, socks and shoes, brush hair, lunch box in bag and bag on back! Time to go! Well no actually, we’ll be far too early mums a little ahead of herself!

Eventually it was time to go, the Lollipop was loaded in her pushchair, we climbed into our raincoats and we began our short walk to Central Primary School. It was the longest journey of my life! The Butterfly greeted all the kids and parents with her usual enthusiasm as I walked slightly ahead of her trying to smile.  We walked through the main entrance and the Butterfly was off, removing her bag and coat as she went, I caught up to her as she was hanging everything up. Thinking she was hanging her bag on someone else's hook, I told her to not: “But Mum look that’s my name!” Oh gosh, she was right there is was how did I miss that? While I was trying to pull myself together the Butterfly opened, her backpack took out her water bottle and book bag and headed into the classroom and put them, yes you guessed it, where her name was. Then she went up to her teacher and with much aplomb said: “Hello Sarah, I’m here!” No, they do not address the teachers by their first names here, but the children are aware of them. My Butterfly, I think, forgot her teacher’s surname but remembered they shared a first name. I was so impressed by her teacher’s warm welcome and how she gently corrected the Butterfly about how she is addressed.

So now, all that remained was for me to say goodbye and trying desperately to hold back the tears I said goodbye to my Butterfly, wished her luck and a good day and she said, “I will Mum and I promise when I get back from school I’ll know everything and I’ll read you a story at bedtime!”

I sobbed all the way home!

Saturday, 7 July 2012

The Month of Butterfly

We are one week into July and after spending a beautiful winter Saturday out walking in the park teaching the Butterfly to ride her bike and attending to some of the many tasks at home I am finally able to sit quietly and reflect over the past four weeks or so.

The first day of June brought with it the realisation that it was birthday month and the endlessly repeated question: “Is it my birthday tomorrow yet?”  It was also one of the busiest since the Butterfly started Kindy. There was the Kindy Disco that was the talk of the week, especially since mum was determined, that she and the Lollipop would not miss it this year. Last year I remember thinking how novel it was for the kids to have a disco and was rather looking forward to getting out of the house after those four long cold weeks after the Lollipop was born. Unfortunately the Lollipop had other ideas and changed the plans. So a very disappointed Butterfly and her Papa went without us. So with that in mind I was not going to let anything get in the way this year. On the Butterfly’s instructions I went shopping and bought us all new clothes for our first family disco, we were all looking forward to the evening. We were not disappointed; the girls pranced around sporting matching purple outfits and funky flashing necklaces. They danced, run, shouted and played for three hours while the Mauritian and I were able to socialise and have some adult conversation about things other than kids and kids.

Then there was the art auction, which had the children at the Kindy working hard on “priceless” pieces of artwork from the beginning of the year.  Our enthusiastic Butterfly managed to complete eight masterpieces! Following the artwork theme, the children also went to one of the art galleries in town. I was very impressed with this and made a big thing out of it with the Butterfly, who I thought was really looking forward to the visit. Of course, the highlight for her was the bus trip back to Kindy; the Gallery was just where she had to go to be able to go on the bus ride. So the night of the auction arrives and the four of us were again dressed up to the nines and looking forward to another child friendly family outing. We got lost looking for the golf course; in fact, until the auction we did not even know that our little piece of earth had a golf course. Even so we arrived, a little harassed and late but there at least. The Butterfly, with her usual enthusiasm dragged me from picture to picture telling all about them and that I had to buy them all. Fortunately I was not required to bid on all eight paintings just one, the rest I could buy with a donation of my choice. There I was thinking the entire night would not cost us more than $10 plus drinks. How wrong I was! At the last minute before the silent action closed I went to write my bid down for our Butterfly’s masterpiece and got the shock of my life. Three other people had bid on her painting the highest bid was $18. I did not recognise the names so I asked one of the Kindy teachers who they were and discovered they were not connected to the Kindy at all. These people were there to bid on art work and they had put a bid down on my Butterfly’s painting. Now I was both amazed and proud all at the same time, but I was also now over budget because I had to bid $20 on the painting to make sure I got it. I was glad I had waited to the last minute to bid if I had done so earlier, I would have been out bid and very mad! Just before leaving I went to get the rest of the Butterflies paintings and pay my $5 donation for them and got caught out again! Pauline, one of the Kindy teachers, was in top form and hell bent on getting as much money as she could out of each gullible parent, she was offering donations higher than the parents were and having an auction within an auction. Those seven paintings cost me a further $10, twice as much as I offered originally. The Butterfly and the Lollipop were of course completely oblivious to the goings on as they ran about doing their thing while I blew the budget. We had a superb evening though, even the Mauritian enjoyed the idea of dressing smart and hob knobbing with some big wigs discussing artworks and drinking wine. All so very cultured and upper class if you ignored the kids running about causing havoc!

The next big event in the Butterfly’s Kindy career was a “Pyjama Party Breakfast!” That Wednesday morning I woke the Butterfly up and said it was time for her to take off her pj's and get dressed in her pj’s! She looked at me from under her duvet and said: “Mum you’re just a little bit crazy!” So, off she went in her pink flannel cow print pyjamas, wrapped in her pink nightgown with the hood up. Wearing her purple unicorn slippers clutching her butterfly blanket in one hand and her penguin pillow pet in the other! When the party was first planned I had told the Butterfly as a warning that she would have to walk up the hill to school in her pj’s, she wasn't very keen on the idea so she asked her father if he would take her. He thought this was an awesome idea so he took the day off work and I volunteered his services helping to cook the breakfast.

Of course with the prospect of turning five is the fact that the Butterfly also starts primary school. Here at the end of the world the aim is to make the child’s transition from Kindy to primary school with as little trauma as possible so the “new entrant” has a number of school visits. To make it easier on the parents they hold a meeting to explain what to expect, just as well because I was clueless. So we arrange for two school visits and the one that was nervous was mum! Unfortunately the Butterfly was struck down with influenza and was unable to go for her first school visit, she was so sick she didn’t mind at all. So the following week we were up early and popping with excitement and anticipation and she was not disappointed. As nervous as I was for the visit I realised the advantage of them immediately, the Butterfly is now aware of the procedures and knows who her teacher and classmates are and where her classroom is. I have not only met the teacher but have also had the opportunity to watch her teaching and I like her, thank goodness! The school day here is a long one they start at nine in the morning and they finish at three in the afternoon. But, the visit is only for three hours, and the Butterfly, true to form, was devastated that she had to go home. Can I ask for more reassurance that she is ready for school?

So now we come to the last week of June, her last week as a four year old and her last week at Kindy. Oh my goodness what a week! Monday was the school visit; Tuesday was present shopping, and baking for the party. Wednesday was the Butterfly’s last “bushwalk” at Kindy and they made a right royal fuss of her. Wednesday also meant fighting to get the Butterfly in bed and asleep at a decent time so that the present wrapping could be done, of course that didn’t happen and a little more party preparation. Thursday dawned wet, windy and cold and after opening all her presents the Butterfly said to her sister: “Don’t worry my darling soon it’ll be your turn for a birthday and you will also get lots of presents, just not as much as me 'cos I’m a big five not a little one!” At Kindy, with mum’s help while the children helped to look after the Lollipop the Butterfly made her birthday crown and “play dough” cake. She then chooses five special friends and they take her very last Kindy picture and mum is sent home with instructions to come back at mid day.  At mat time, the Butterfly is draped in the “memory” cape, adorned with her birthday crown and carrying her “play dough” cake she perches on the birthday chair and the ceremony begins. Candles are lit and birthday songs are sung, then the Butterfly talks to everyone about her time at “Kindy.” “I wasn't shy when I came to Kindergarten,” she says “because I liked it here!” then she adds with enthusiasm “I can’t wait to start at big school but I’ll miss my Kindy friends.” Then they ended off the whole ceremony with the Butterfly’s favourite song about an elephant that sits on everyone and they all went off to wash their hands and have lunch. Her day was topped off with supper at MacDonald’s and a SKYPE call from South Africa. Friday found me in the kitchen baking for the entire day, the only good thing about that was nothing flopped!

Saturday, the last day of June, dawned bringing with it the sun and the Butterfly’s first birthday party.  I have never been more grateful for the sun then I was that day, the prospect of having twelve five year olds in my living room scared the crap out of me! The four of us were up early and preparations for the day started right after breakfast. The fates remained on my side that morning because the Lollipop decided that it was a good idea to have a three-hour morning nap instead of just one. Luck remained on my side as I put the girls in the bath and left them there while I carried on getting things ready. Of course as the time drew near and the Mauritian finally arrived home from work my lifelong friend and our favourite Kiwis arrived to lend a helping hand. With my lifelong friend taking the pictures, Uncle B handling the music and Aunty Shell in the kitchen taking charge I was able to concentrate on the kids and the goings on. It seemed to me that the children had a wonderful time, and the Butterfly got some really awesome gifts. When the last people had left and everything was tidy once again I let out a sigh of relief that everything had gone off successfully.

As I put my now five year old to bed that night I offered up a prayer of thanks for a day without rain even though it was a little windy. For a birthday party that was a success despite the cold, for awesome reliable friends who I do not know what I would do without. For new acquaintances who are slowly becoming friends, my mum’s unfloppable chocolate cake recipe and butterfly shaped cookie cutters. But most of all I was thankful that in just a few more hours the busy month of June would finally be over and a calmer if colder new month would begin.