Little steps in a big, new environment!

Charli is well into her third week of school. She’s loving the school, her teacher and the environment. However, she’s extremely tired and quite emotional in the late afternoon. I’ve been really open with many parents and am reassured to hear that this is all very normal.

I’ve heard stories of children taking a year to fully settle in; a little girl who stopped speaking during school hours; a boy who became quite aggressive after school toward his younger sibling. Charli has had a few full on tantrums, where she’s just needed to let off steam and release the tension of the day. She’s also working hard to forge her independence and build on relationships with her peers – not an easy task! And I appreciate that she has spent the entire day trying to be ‘perfect’ and on best behaviour; so the need to release the stress of the day is only natural – but it’s my task to help her find a more moderate way to let go!

Charli letting go (in a nice way!) at Te Papa after school:

We all know how stressful it can be to start a new job – but we have some well learned tools to help us cope. Children have yet to develop the emotional maturity to handle the range of feelings they are experiencing.

Many parents I’ve spoken to say their child has cuddled up with them in the morning and asked to stay home: And, in response, there are many parents who would love to say, ‘Off course darling’ (I’m one of them!). At times, I have to force myself to comprise and encourage school attendance.

So… how are we coping?!

We are comprising and being flexible and patient. Charli might attend a full day at school one day and then be picked up early the next day (the school is quite supportive of this – also schooling isn’t compulsory till age 6 here – so we don’t feel like we’re breaking the law by playing hooky!).

We are building in treats and things to look forward to. Today, after a full day at school, Charli was really excited to be going swimming. She loves the water and it was the best way for her to be free to release any pent up tension (I’m going to do a lot more physically, free activities after school to enable this natural way of releasing tension).

We have a ‘money pot’ whereby she earns coins to reach a target and can then go out and buy that special something – this is working fabulously!

And Sophie, Charli’s little sister, is learning to be really patient with her big sister and to give Charli the space she sometimes needs when she comes home tired after school.

When we pick Charli up from school we really focus on a ‘group hug’ too – it sounds simple – but it helps us reconnect and remember our strong family unit. At times it can feel as though school is another person in our family unit – and we’re having to adjust to the new dynamics of having ‘school’ in our lives! We don’t want it to be something that divides us – but instead unites us. Thankfully, Charli’s school is very community orientated.

I’m also endeavoring to build in ‘one-on-one’ time with Charli. Ballet lessons on a Saturday morning are a ‘Mummy and Charli’ thing and she’s about to start regular swim tuition – which will be for ‘Daddy and Charli’. She’s incredible on the swimming front – or to be accurate – ‘back’! She hasn’t had swim lessons since she was two and after gaining great water confidence with baby swim classes she has gone on to teach herself how to swim… on her back! She’s been swimming under water for years – grabbing sinkers off the bottom of the pool like a pearl diver. At the weekend Dan and I glanced over to see her swimming an entire length on her back! Today she realised she’d mastered swimming on her tummy and was so delighted, shouting out, ‘I didn’t know I could do this!’. With some tuition on her strokes she’ll be swimming the Cook Strait in no time…. (well, maybe not!).

And a very special ‘one-on-one’ was Sunday evening – when Charli and I went to watch ‘Cinderella on Ice’, performed by The Imperial Ice Stars, at the St James Theatre in Wellington. This was a first for Charli and her eyes were popping out the entire performance. She absolutely loved the music and dancing. She was full of questions about how the ice was made too!

Her favourite part was when the skaters dramatically performed the workings of a clock, with each dancer signifying a number on the clock – they were dressed in gold with Roman numerals emblazoned on their leotards (which made for another interesting ‘Q & A’ about Roman numerals!). Another highlight was the clever formation of Cinderella’s coach – with each dancer carrying a piece before coming together in a blaze of lights as the curtain fell at the end of the first half. And… the ‘Prince’ looked over at Charli (he really did!) and gave her a huge, heart-warming smile! We were only four-rows from the front, so it was pretty special to be that close and see the expressions (and exhaustion near the end – some of the men were carrying two dancers at a time over their shoulders!). Encore!!!!

Anyway, thanks for joining us on this new direction on our parenting journey! Your supportive words and encouragement are so appreciated!