And we finally say goodbye to school, and look forward to eight weeks of holiday. The bright clean shoes the children wore to their overwhelming first day have worn thin — indeed, only our youngest’s shoes made it through the whole year. They remind me of combat boots, full of honest wear, reflecting a long struggle both physical and mental.
Overwrought? Maybe. This year of school has been relentless, in some ways. For the kids, and for me.
What we learned in the first year of English school:
1. “A” is “ants on your arm“. And don’t forget it.
2. Being “told off” is the worst fate in the school world. My children are motivated to avoid this at all costs.
3. Per son, re: the school lunches: “If you are American, avoid all hot foods except pasta.” No comment.
4. Per daughter #1: “You can make lots of friends if you just go up and say hi.” (Note this does not work with English mothers, but apparently it still works on their children.)
5. Per son, re: the playground: “Learn to play soccer, or if you can’t do that try “bulldog” or tag.”
6. If you fail to note/read/remember the important notice sent home once — and once only — you are SOL. It will never be mentioned again, until the moment you drop the kids off and find out there is a super important parent assembly right then, which you absolutely must attend. This will happen at least once, I guarantee it.
7. Always keep a few pounds in your pocket for random poppy/pudsey/mufti/ice cream/olympic/charity of the moment fundraisers. Like daisies, you never know when or where school fundraisers will pop up.
8. Keep an umbrella in the car. If it is going to rain, it will always rain during pick-up from school.
9. The school has its own smell. It’s a smell so strong it has become sentient. Redolent of cooked corn, old socks, wet carpet, stacks of paper, and zombie. I keep a stash of tea tree oil by the door to neutralize it. (Because — PS — England has cooties.)
10. Everything is exactly the same as in the US, except for being totally different.
The kids have handled themselves well in school — they’ve managed to make friends, to adapt to their new situation, to learn, and to take pride in their achievements. They have new accents, new jokes, new games, new interests, new tastes. They’re thrilled to finally begin their summer break, but are already looking forward to school in the fall. That’s the good news.
Me? I found myself running in to an invisible wall separating some English parents from outsiders. I don’t know if it is that English reserve, a bit of small-town thinking, a feeling against Americans generally, or if I’m just doing something wrong. The English school mom social scene has not been a happy place for me this year. (With some bright, shinning, wonderful exceptions — if you’re reading this, you know who you are.) I’m happy to leave that struggle behind for a few months.