Sophie’s time at infant school has now come to a close. She’s said goodbye to the school she knew for the last three years and will be starting at a new school in September. It’s been a very different three years to what we anticipated but they’ve been three mostly happy ones in spite of the pandemic.
The pandemic has meant a lot of missed experiences – the time at school that has been missed; the class assemblies, school trips, end of term concerts etc. I’ve missed being able to drop her off and pick her up at the classroom door; the chats with other parents; being able to see Jessica’s butterfly in the playground. As a parent, I’m much more disconnected from the school world. But I can see that Sophie has been happy there and that’s what really matters.
Reception was the only year that was a ‘normal’ one although my memories are hazy thanks to the fog of grief. I remember Sophie’s joy at being cast as angel Gabriel in the reception nativity play; her confidence on stage and the collective ‘ahs’ as she stepped forward to deliver her lines. She did make a very cute angel! The class assemblies, dress-up days (particularly the one where her teacher came in wearing an inflatable dinosaur costume), the first time she came home with a reading book. The summer fayre and her delight at getting to ‘splat’ her teacher with wet sponges. Watching her make new friends.
Year 1 was unsettled from the start. Her class teacher left halfway through the first term. It felt like she’d only just settled in to having a new teacher when the pandemic started. Class assemblies and end-of-term concerts being cancelled as Covid cases began to rise. The anxiety as the Easter term came to an end. The weird realisation that neither of my girls got to return to Year 1 after the Easter holidays. Sophie overtaking Jessica. Home-schooling out in the garden, under the event shelter. I have to admit I enjoyed that extended time with Sophie and Thomas on the whole.
There was a lot of anxiety at the start of Year 2. Knowing that my attempts to keep my family safe from Covid were now limited; school life as we had known it having changed. No more chats at the classroom door with other parents; no more class assemblies or end-of-term concerts. But Sophie was thrilled to be back with her friends and settled in well. Much to our relief, our home-schooling attempts had kept her up to the learning levels expected of her in Year 2.
Home-schooling for a second time in the winter term was a very different experience though. More structured but also much more pressured. It was good that Sophie got to see her classmates each morning for online registration but Oak National Academy video lessons were not so much fun as creative lessons out in the garden had been and some of them (particularly English) were just dull and uninspiring. It was a relief for us all when Sophie was able to be back at school again.
We’ve been lucky this last term or so. Sophie’s Year 2 bubble stayed intact right up to the end of the school year. She got to enjoy her sports day and her Year 2 leavers party although I missed being able to be part of those experiences too. She was quite sad on her last day at saying goodbye to her infant school. She’s enjoyed her time there, in spite of all the disruption and lost experiences from living through a pandemic. I’m glad that her time there has been happy. It’s such a lovely school and they’ve been brilliant with both our girls. I shall miss our super-short school run (no more being able to leave the house at 8.50am and still be on time!)
I look at the photos of that little girl on her first day of Reception and realise just how much Sophie has grown in these last three years. She’s still the same outgoing, sweet-natured, confident girl she was back then, but she’s learned so much during her time at infant school. She’s more aware of the world around her now; questioning it, analysing it. She’s gained so many new skills in the last three years. I’m proud of the little girl she is and is becoming; her kindness, her caring nature, the way she soaks up new experiences and enjoys learning new things. I’m proud of all she has achieved and the way she has coped so well with all the uncertainty and upheaval.
It feels very strange and wrong that this whole period of Sophie’s life – her time at infant school – has happened without Jessica. That she was never a part of these milestone moments. I never got to experience my two girls going off to the same school together. Jessica would have been so excited to have her sister at school with her. One year together, then two years at different schools and reunited once more at the junior school. Life as it might have been. Another one of the secondary losses – that experience of having two children at the same school. Thomas and Sophie won’t overlap for school until they’re in Year 7 and 11, and chances are they won’t be at the same secondary school anyway.
It is what it is though. Nothing I can do to change it. All I can do is allow the sadness the space it needs whilst trying to celebrate these milestones for Sophie and enjoying the time I have with her and Thomas.
Sophie’s looking forward to starting junior school in September. The transition has had to be most virtual, although we have visited the school before for Christmas fayres so it isn’t completely unfamiliar. And although Jessica never went there, the teachers at the junior school do know about her. Jessica’s Reception teacher is now teaching at the junior school and will be Sophie’s teacher for Year 3. I have no doubt that the start of the school year will be an emotional time but knowing that Sophie has the best possible teacher will help hugely with that.
A new step ahead; a new chapter of family life to embrace. Bittersweet like all these milestones, but with many moments to celebrate and enjoy. And in the meantime, the summer holidays to enjoy together. Making the most of family time and making memories together. Soaking up each moment and trying to make the most of it because as one stage ends and another begins, it brings with it the reminder that childhood is fleeting and these moments are precious ones.