The end of May brought a lot of changes for parents. Those with teenagers learned of the cancellation of the leaving cert, those with children in primary and secondary school learned of the school closures extending until September and those like us with children in preschool and Montessori learned that creches will remain closed until the 20 of July at the earliest as such preschool and Montessori were finished for the year.
As a parent I really struggled with this news, more so for the impact that it will have on our four-year-old than the impact it will have on me.
Olivia found it hard at the start when the creches were closed, back at the beginning of lock down and we all felt her pain and she spent most of her day talking about stuff she would do when “my crèche is back” and how she needed to marry her friends so that she could stay with them like mummy and daddy because we are married.
There was some regression in her behaviour too, an indication that no matter how ‘normal’ she seemed and how much we tried to help her adjust, this change in her little world was having a profound impact on her. We tried not to place much emphasis on her getting back to Monti, but her eye was firmly on that prize.
When the news broke about the schools not reopening before the summer holidays, we sat on it for a little while as we wanted to figure out how to tell her. It might seem trivial but Montessori and all that it entails, plays a huge role in her small world.
When we told her a few days later I won’t lie, she was upset, there were a lot of questions around why. Promises of big school helped, talking about how she will be going to the Educate Together with some of her pals from Montessori and she will get to make new friends. However, I can’t help but feel sad for the friendships she has with those not in full daycare going to different schools. No little graduation to mark the next big step. Her little class will be split amongst the various primary schools in and around Skerries, something that was always going to be the case but under normal circumstances it would be happening very different. Those in her education setting would already be laying the ground work to help with the gradual transition. Now it all is very sudden. Very rushed.
And very rushed and sudden for us too. Our next big step was the end of Montessori, a stepping stone before primary school. And now that’s been taken. With that stepping stone gone there seems to be a huge leap now. Even more so considering the world in which we currently live in. Her world, while not exactly huge, has shrunken dramatically to exist within the four walls of our home, her immediate family members.
The upheaval of losing Montessori and going into lockdown was hard, staying away from family and friends has been so difficult but now I worry about the upheaval of going from a lockdown scenario into her first year in school as a Junior Infant. Our little ones are so resilient but this must be the equivalent of their world being in a tumble dryer. For all children it must be hard but for those missing their ‘lasts’ it must be that little bit harder.
For the time being we are turning our attention to try and get her ready for school in whatever way we can. She is a little social butterfly so that should help! In fact, I can envisage the letters that no doubt will be sent home to us on the topic of her constant chatter. A friend who is a teacher has given us some great advice and tips on what we can do with her at home with the emphasis on ensuring she is socially ready rather than making her learn letters and numbers.
That involves building resilience- practicing solving problems for herself and learning how to react in situations where she will have to share, or she can’t get her way.
Ensuring that Olivia is able to communicate her needs is so important. Having the awareness of what she is feeling and also the words to vocalise it. Patience in getting what she wants is a big ask at her age but something we can be working on.
In practical terms she needs to be able to recognise her own name on labels, put on and take off her coat (zips are tricky but that’s what practice is for), and be able to recognise her own coat. Over the summer we are going to practice opening and closing lunch items and her drink bottle. She advised that toileting can be stressful for little ones outside of their normal space so to make sure we do plenty of practice using the toilet independently.
We will make sure to take a good few walks past the school and have a good gawk in the gates!
For now, we are trying not to make too big a deal of it, she has had enough to process in the last few weeks. The reality is it given everything she has gone through in the last few months, no matter how ready we think she is, come September it can go either way. The focus now is to take it as it comes and not to let my own worries become hers.