Wednesday 28 August 2013

Back to School Costs

Two down. Two to go.

Irish Parenting Bloggers are at it again.  This time we are “marching” about back to school and the inevitable costs involved.  Today it is my turn.

 “Wait till they start secondary school.” 

I have heard this more than once over the last month since Back to School preparations 
began in earnest.

At the moment two of our four boys attend the local Gaelscoil and before summer holidays even commenced, booklists plus details of school requisites were sent home in school bags.

Hit with it straight away.

School books were bought on line the first week of July when Child Benefit came through.  I bought the same books our oldest used for the five and a half year old as they use workbooks in the school, therefore cannot be passed down.  The cost of that list came to €123.  This included delivery and having the books covered. 

I still had to buy bits and pieces like colouring pencils, scrapbooks, erasers, glue sticks and an art folder.

The school requisites, by the way, amounts to €131.

They needed school bags and these were €20 each.  Yes, I could have gotten cheaper but they would have been smaller therefore not suitable.  School bags have an annoying habit of remaining perfectly intact body wise, but not bottom wise.  I could see the ground through the threadbare ends of theirs.

Last year I made the decision to drive the boys to school.  Their bus tickets would have set me back €200.  This went instead towards their books.  The bus does not stop at or near our house and I would have to drive them to the bus stop which seemed to defeat the purpose.  Also that collection point does not have anywhere to park safely and is on a main and busy road. 

Not worth it. 

I also noticed last year, instead of keeping the children inside the bus until the school gate opened, they were all released and left to their own devices.

A decision that was already made became cemented.  

Our boys wear a crested jumper and tracksuit top.  These are compulsory as is the case in many schools.  Both of these can set you back €23 per item.

I made a few savings in this area.  The joys of hand me downs and an older cousin who attended the same school.

I needed to buy two trousers for Oldest Boy.  I always spend extra on trousers for the very reason they have to be durable in order to survive inevitable wear and tear to be passed along the next year.  I am also strict about changing their uniform as soon as they come home from school in the evenings.

Footwear next.  Nothing wrong with checking out department stores for footwear over a well-known brand name.  I managed to save €139 this way.  One thing bugged me greatly however; I thought the selection of girl’s shoes was by far superior to the health board selection on offer for the boys. 

Do your homework first and check prices on line.  I did this for both Dunnes Stores and Marks and Spencer.  Prices start at €12.

My one real bargain was spotting a John Rocha raincoat for Oldest Boy, reduced from a shocking original price of €48 down to under €15.

That’s the usual stuff dealt with.  How about the hidden extras?

Voluntary contributions for one.  I have heard parents say they feel guilted and pressured into paying.  At present ours is €7 for the two boys each week.

I, hand on heart, don’t mind paying this.  I am not available at the moment to participate in flag days for the school.  Nor am I free in the morning to assist with extra reading practice in the school so, for me, this is my way of contributing.  When I can.

Birthday parties.  Both a delight and a curse.  Oldest Boy has been known to receive up to ten invites for the month of October alone.  I generally put ten euros into an envelope for the birthday boy or girl. 

Call me mad but I feel birthday parties are an important part of school so I like my boys to go to them and extend the invitation when it’s their turn.

This year our third son will partake of the ECCE free preschool year which will garner him 15 hours of fun a week. I still have to drive him there, however, and collect him.

What about after school activities?  Maybe your child/children are musically inclined.  This brings us nicely to renting/buying musical instruments plus the paying for lessons.

Oldest Boy goes swimming with the school in November and this usually extends to five sessions.  

School trips are another hidden cost.

We have a First Holy Communicant next May.  Others will be celebrating their Confirmation. 

Before you know it, summer is upon us again and the kids come home from school with flyers for summer camps that take place; sports, drama, swimming, adventure camps. 

Our boys signed up for one such camp this August.  €110 euros for Monday through to Friday mornings, 10am till 1pm. 

What’s that you say?  Wait till they go to college?

I’d rather not, thanks all the same.  I have enough to be getting on with there, don’t you think?

Wednesday 21 August 2013

The First Day of The Rest of Their Lives

Every time I saw a magazine displaying the tag line “First Day at School – How to Make it Easier,” I bought it; utterly convinced I was going to read something of worth, hoping there would be a nugget of information within I hadn’t read before or thought of myself.  But it was yet another advice piece that didn’t deliver.

More common sense wrapped up as counsel about leaving out the child’s uniform the night before, getting everyone up a little bit early so there is no mad rush out the door at the last minute and giving your child a nice piece of fruit to ease them into their new experience.

Come on!   

I wanted information on how to deal with the child who makes like an ostrich and sticks his head firmly in the sand and blocks out the New Experience. I wanted guidance on how to discreetly and politely intercept people before they asked, “are you looking forward to big school?” when I know the thumb being shoved into his mouth is not only his way of self-soothing but it is also a stopper; his method of holding everything in. 

How do you prepare a child for going from just 10 people in his class to 30 when he won’t know any of them?  What about the playground?  There will be no swings and slides in this one.  How was I going to tell him and watch him deal with the disappointment of it? 

I knew he was stressed about Big School.  He hadn’t said as much but subconsciously he was fretting about it.   

I had done everything the magazine article was suggesting.  He’d been to his open afternoon.  He had not one but two school bags to choose from.  He also selected his own “easy open” lunch box. 

He was aware that his new school books would be arriving any day and he would get a chance to look at them. Then we would try on his uniform and get his very much coveted new runners and boring old black shoes. 

I wanted my money back! 

It’s almost a form of sensory over load and when it becomes too much for him, he removes himself from the situation.  He wouldn’t be able to do that in Big School.   I was dreading the inevitable day he would come home in the horrors because a class mate or even his teacher, commented on his thumb sucking.  He would be embarrassed and retire into himself.  He does not like it when people draw attention to him.

So I was thrilled when he asked me to tell him a story about school.   It was the perfect opportunity to describe everything to him. Big brother was present and all set to offer his two pence worth. 

When I stopped him he insisted he had something of great importance to impart, something I neglected to tell him on his big day. 

This was to wait until your teacher tells you it is time to eat and don’t just start eating your lunch yourself.    “Because you never told me that.”   See how they remember even the tiniest little thing? 

So for Ways to Ease Them into Big School, sometimes it can be as simple as talking about it.  Don’t assume they know what to expect. 

Make sure they know where the bathroom is.  What happens if there are three Spiderman bags?  Maybe stick a key-ring onto his.  What about their gorgeous new coat and shoes with the lovely laces?  It’s not a bad idea that they are able to manage their coat and maybe stick to the Velcro-ed shoes until they master the art of lace tying. 

Yogurts?  I can still remember spilling the contents of mine and was left sitting in it all day.  What if they are too shy to approach the person they will come to call Teacher when they can’t open their brand new cartoon character emblazoned lunch box?

I think one of the most important ones is plenty of reassurance that you will be back to collect them.   

And make sure you are not late. 

There are lots of different ways to help ease them into their new environment and very hard to remember it all.

Every child is different.  Our oldest boy had nary a problem or worry about his place of education and indeed has gone on to make a very wide and varied circle of friends. Looking back, I had similar concerns when he started.  
Like every other event I was apprehensive about, I found the reality of it easier than the perception and with a little dollop of luck, Big School for your child, won’t be any different.

Wednesday 14 August 2013

Temporarily Tuned Out

Anyone can give advice but not everybody has good advice. 

I have maybe half a dozen little gems that stayed with me over the years in relation to motherhood. 

My mother in law once told me to pick my battles.  At the time I was suffering from a severe case of first time mother-itis and mentally scoffed at that one.  I wanted and intended to win them all!

A doctor told me to never doubt myself as a mother; if I feel something isn’t right; always get it checked out.  He also said boys can be labelled as trouble makers in school when in actual fact, they are hard of hearing and cannot hear an instruction.

I took special note of that one, especially having four boys.  Two of which have had grommets already inserted for glue ear. 

Now we are going down the same road for a third time.

Lovely Liam has been hard of hearing for a while.  In the beginning it was funny and cute when he told the dog to “shit” when he meant sit. 

After a while our ears became attuned to his particular language and we translated for others.


Sometimes I hadn’t a clue what he was saying.  His words ran together without a beginning or an end, just a mad jumble of nonsense, making perfect sense to no-one except him.

I became frustrated at times as did he. 

This week I notice I seem to be talking to him like he is an overseas visitor who doesn’t speak the language.  Or a bit slow.  It’s not on.

He is such a jolly, sociable, trusting little soul he deserves not to be spoken to like that. It is not respectful.

I hate it.

But I like that he is not due to start school for another year so he will be “fixed” well before then.

Lovely Liam is booked in to get his “new ears” Wednesday week.  We have had a little chat about how he is not actually going to have his existing ones removed (chopped off) and new ones attached in their place.

I’d better stop threatening to Cut The Legs Off Them I think.

Wednesday 7 August 2013

Letter to Mother Nature

Dear Mother Nature (MN)

I am one of your biggest fans.  Sincerely, I am in awe of you.  I think you rock.  You are a force to be reckoned with and you sure know your shit.

I love how you arrange for our bodies to prepare for nurturing our child before we even suspect that we may be pregnant.

I love how, if left to your devices, our pregnancies will come to their own natural conclusion, be that 38 or 42 weeks and we go into labour.

I love how you hang around for a few days to ensure we stay on that natural high and enjoy all of those feel good endorphins you gift to us on the birth of our baby.

Not loving, however, the minute you leave to attend the next lady in waiting.  You bring with you your warm and fuzzy gift, leaving the new mother in a bit of a snotty snivelling mess.

Can you tell where I’m going with this?

I think you’re marvellous, I really do.  I love that you’ve given women the multi-tasking gene because god knows we need it.

I think it’s great how you have seen to it we are finely attuned to our baby’s needs; even the tiniest murmur will rouse us from sleep.

Not liking though how you seem to have failed to install that same alarm system in our menfolk.   Particularly at night time.  Just a little something to remember for future generations.  You know, for when it’s time to evolve again.

And as I have mentioned evolution, I think teething could be revisited too.  Surely if one child can sail through this, every child can.  A little tweaking there would be greatly appreciated down the line.  For everyone.

Staying on the pain issue.  Chicken pox.  Why?  Just why?

I acknowledge there are parents out there who would consider teething and chicken pox small fry compared to what their kids have gone through. 

But when it comes to the silly beggar stuff, maybe you could see to it that those kinds of things are eradicated altogether.

And what about this boundless energy thing?  It all seems a bit unfair to me.  I’d like it to be 50/50.  At the moment it seems to be 70/30.  To them.  If it must stay at 70/30, could the parents have the larger timeshare? Please.  At least until they are teenagers.

I know, in your infinite wisdom, there is a reason for all of the above.  Damned if I know what at the moment but I am looking forward to purchasing my very own pair of rose tinted spectacles in the future.

For now, whilst I am still stuck in the zone, I feel the need to question these things. 

I thank you from the bottom of my heart for my four gifts.  And I do realise they are my gifts.   
One day they will release their moorings and sail away from me; to drift towards and onto the next stage in their lives.    

Until this time, I ask for them to be kept safe.  And for me to get some uninterrupted sleep maybe twice a week.

That’s all.

For now.

Thanking you in advance.