Just when I thought we had survived the worst of all nightmares a P1-to-be parent might face (i.e. the balloting), I realised how naive it was of me to think that we could breeze through the start of P1 with our eyes shut.
Part procrastination and part reluctance on my part to see our 6-year old start formal schooling system so soon, I practically did zero preparation for ‘D-day’. All we did was to turn up for the Primary One Orientation in November, ordered her textbooks online and used an hour from our Sunday afternoon to buy her school uniform at Bibi & Baba. With that, I assumed we were all set. Little did I know there were many other details I had overlooked.
After we returned from our family vacation in December, the daughter reminded me that she needed a school bag so I picked the most reasonably priced one (on offer) while doing my Christmas shopping. The week before school reopened, I decided it was finally time to shop for new school shoes (didn’t want to buy them any earlier as her feet grow so quickly!) only to discover to my horror that most of the outlets had run out of stock for the models and sizes we wanted. In the end, I had to buy it off a good friend who had a spare pair. I then spent most of New Year’s Day evening labelling stationery, putting books into their plastic sleeves, and packing her bag according to the list issued by the school. I almost had a heart attack when I couldn’t remember where I had kept the school badge. I also panicked slightly when I found that almost all of her hair accessories couldn’t be used as they are not the school colours so we had to make do with a black rubber band. I was also smitten with guilt when I scrolled through Facebook posts of bentos and lunchbox creations which other Moms had lovingly prepared for their P1-going kids. Me? I had conveniently packed nothing as my daughter had made her preference known that she would like to be given the choice to buy her own food from the canteen. That night, as the girl drifted blissfully into dreamland, eagerly anticipating the dawn of the new era, ironically, it was I, her Mommy, who was tossing and turning in bed. Friends who know me were in disbelief that I could be so unprepared, for a big milestone as such.
It struck me that when I was a student, I was never half as anxious or flabbergasted about school opening. But now as a Mother, there was so much to fret…Bottom line, I was not ready to let go. That evening, we set aside time for a leisurely family dinner; we talked about how a typical school day would be like, how she should behave and what she can expect etc. Daddy also drove us to the school compound where we prayed over her. At nightfall, I made some photo tags to slot into her wallet as a surprise. Daddy and I each wrote a short message behind. We want her to know that though she’s eager to grow up and go to big girl’s school, she will forever be a baby in our eyes…I always thought I was the decisive, practical, no-nonsensical parent but on the eve of the P1 commencement, sentimentality hit me brutally like an iron rod.
Thankfully, I redeemed myself when the first day of P1 started and ended on a good note. It was a beautiful sunny morning. The girl bounced out of bed extra chirpy, got dressed in record time and we took a pleasant ride to school in Aunty Grace’s car. I was very thankful that the school adopted an ‘open-door’ policy where parents were allowed to accompany their children right into the classrooms to meet the form teacher and other classmates. We were also able to linger around outside the canteen to catch a glimpse of our children during the 30minute recess. Every P1 child was assigned a P5 buddy who eased their separation anxiety and sped up the assimilation to the big school. The buddies took their roles seriously and were extremely caring. The few glances I caught of the girl, she was all smiles, happily chatting to her buddy. The class parents I met all seemed very helpful and kind. We’ve even got a whats-app chat group and a FB page started within the first 2 days, thanks to the pro-activeness of a few fellow Moms. Most importantly, the Form Teacher and Co-Form Teacher seemed approachable.
I am beginning to be convinced that she would thrive in this school God has placed her. As a parent, we wouldn’t be able to shield our kids from the world forever…so it’s high time time I let go and let God. It is my prayer that here, she’ll learn to be accountable for her own actions and decisions; she’ll learn to pick between right and wrong; to mediate arguments, stand up for the weak, be a peacemaker, a servant leader, a faithful friend and grow into a godly young lady.
With the hindsight I’ve gleaned, here are some useful tips for my readers and friends.
Tips for Future P1 Parents: The Essential Shopping List
1. School Bag: Get a light-weight ergonomic school bag early when the malls are running promotional discounts (you get to save as much as 20% or more). Some good brands are Lego, Deuter, ErgoBag, Impact. Check out our friends’ blog posts on how to choose a suitable school bag. I bought Dana’s from Robinsons while a girl friend bought a LEGO bag for her daughter from Takashimaya during its member sale.
2. School Shoes: Determine which brand and model of school shoe you’ll like to buy for your kid. Then buy one size up in early November to prevent getting caught in a OOS situation like we did. Some good brands are Bata, Adidas and New Balance. IMM is a good mall to go for shoes with all 3 outlets under one roof.
3. Name Labels: Order your Name Stickers early during sale. You’ll need them, loads of them. Order some thin ones for labelling colouring pencils, markers, crayons and some iron-ons for labelling your child’s school unform and PE attire and shoes. We buy ours from Bright Star Labels, Child Labels and Stuck on You.
4. Wallet, Pencil Case: Smiggle is a good one-stop store for wallet/ water bottle/ stationery case shopping. The colours are bright, designs funky and prices affordable. Dana’s desk sharpener is from Smiggle and we love it!
5. Watch: Buy a cheap digital watch so that the child can learn to read the class time-table. This is a good life skill which is important in P1. We bought a Casio one at about S$35 from a shop in Parkway Parade.
6. Pocket Money / Allowance: Our friend Jiahui from MumseWord introduced this ingenious way to apportion kids’ allowances for school. Refer to her post here. I liked her system of using this to teach our kids the importance of setting aside money for tithing and savings.
7. Hair Accessories: Mommy Lyn from Little Blue Bottle alerted me to a good range of Black and Dark Blue Hair Ties and Ribbons under the brand ‘Schoolies’ at selected Guardian Pharmacy outlets. Go check them out. We found ours from JEM.
8. School Books: Order online if your child’s school bookshop provides that service. Otherwise, order from Popular Bookstore. I ordered plastic sleeves for the books to save time from wrapping them from scratch.
9. School Uniform: Find out in advance which supplier the school uses and bring your child for fitting before the Primary One Orientation to avoid queues. Many parents we know buy 1 size up to get more ‘mileage’ out of the uniforms.
10. A Nice Plastic A4-sized File: For your child to bring home any administrative forms which require your attention and/or signature so that it can be returned neat and tidy.
I can’t tell you how relieved I am that the first 2 days of the P1 school did not botch up due to my lack of readiness and preparation. To all the Primary 1 students and their families, here’s wishing all a most fulfilling year of fun learning and exciting adventure!
P.S. From French – laissez faire (“leave it be”, literally “let do”).