AS a parenting writer with many years’ experience I have written reams about helping children who lack confidence, who lack coping strategies and who are struggling in life, whether at school or daycare, with bullying or just making friends. This post is for parents, who, like me, have a different problem, almost the opposite problem. The problem of the confident kid. I have a daughter brimming with confidence. Her first words were, “Hey world, look at me!” and she’s been saying it ever since. My day is peppered with “Mum, look at me!” or “Mum, watch me!” or “Mum, see what I can do!”. Her weary Dad is forever traipsing off to watch her latest acrobatic handstand stunt in the backyard.
Miss Matilda is starting Prep in exactly 12 days, on January 29 and like lots of mothers all over Australia on that day, I’ll be worrying about her first experiences with school. Because as we all know, school can be great, and school can be crap. School can be fun, school can be a drag, school can be confidence building and school can be an exercise in confidence erosion. And at various times it will be all of those things.
Matilda knows the school, through years of dropping off her brothers and picking them up at 3 o’clock. For the past year, her favourite thing in the world has been drop-off and pick-up. She is bitterly disappointed if she gets left at home with a parent while the other does the school run. She loves seeing everyone, talking to everyone, and knows many teachers and the principal by name. And of course, they know her. You can’t forget a big personality like Matilda.
Right now, right this very minute, as I type this, at 6.30pm on a Thursday night, Matilda is wearing her school shoes and socks and has been pretending all day that she’s going off to school. These exercises in imagination are all similar in construction. She’s gathered around herself a group of adoring friends and they are all wonderfully loving and friendly. It almost breaks my heart. I see how certain she is that school is going to be a continuation of the positive kindy experience she had. And it could be.
But we live in a world, or perhaps in a country, that loves to cut down tall poppies. Confidence is seen as cocksure and someone is always around to try and bring the confident down a peg or two. Someone wants to knock the corners off those of us who are outgoing, happy and confident. Someone like Matilda. Yes, I agree, this is a small and trivial worry. But still I worry – that her classmates will retreat from her confidence, that her teacher will see her as a know-it-all and that children in the playground at lunchtime will not welcome her with open arms, will turn their backs and not play with her.
For parents nagivating the tricky waters of the first day of school, regardless of whether your child is a painfully shy wallflower, or an outgoing whirlwind of energy, every parent probably has a small fear or two.
For all the parents gearing up for the start of school in a little under two weeks, best of luck, and possibly a stiff drink in the morning will help get through first day nerves!