The other day I was doing my usual scan of the bedrooms for errant washing before I put on the machine and I spotted that Brown Bear had forgotten his long trousers for forest school. I sent an email to Mr D (his teacher) to ask if I should drop them off at the office and I received an email back from Brown Bear himself. While he was at school. My five year old who we were told is a delight to teach (by his technology teacher - he loves technology of course) is now tech savvy enough to email me. I am torn between being inordinately proud and a little saddened that he will in future only talk to me via text or email - well that may be a way off, but you know what I mean.
It is a sign for me that his schooling here is just right and what we had hoped for him. Before he started I spoke to some parents whose children had been or still are pupils at the school. Every last one of them told me the same thing, "it's like a family." I wasn't entirely sure what that meant. As time has gone on I think I do now.
Families take care of each other: I've seen children run over to help when someone is hurt or crying in the playground. I know in my school they would have laughed. Older children are kind and caring to the younger ones and I have seen my boy take great pride in knowing older children in the school.
Families share our joy with us: when we knew that the adoption was going ahead we spoke to the staff at the school. They could not have been happier for us. Each step of the way we were supported. Whenever I saw the deputy head she asked how it was going and when we had good news she was genuinely delighted and hugged us.
Families keep giving us chances: I was convinced at one point that Brown Bear would be thrown out of the school. At the age of 4. Oh the shame ! Each day I would hang back when collecting him from nursery fearing that Ms W (nursery teacher) would have a list of misdemeanors from the day and often I was right. When I was talking to Mrs F (the deputy head) and told her my fears she gently said that it was not going to happen. That each day was a fresh start and they wanted to prepare him for the next year at school as best they could.
Families accept us at our worst: Nursery was a tough time for all of us. Brown Bear took time to settle and missed his old friends and often told Ms W that he didn't want to be there. She took it all in her stride and kept on supporting us to help him settle in. Then only one term in we found out that we would have a new family member and it threw us all into a tailspin.
Families carry us when we find it all too much: I have cried a lot. On the mums, in the nursery classroom and in the deputy head's office. The mums helped me to feel better about my worries about my son. Ms W reminded me that the adoption was a huge amount of emotional stuff to deal and it was understandable we would all find it difficult. Mrs F reassured me that of course they weren't going to ask Brown Bear to leave the school. I know, I really did think that !
In families we push each other and are a bit competitive: I was convinced that Ms W was being far too tough on my baby boy. I thought she disliked him. Then Mrs F spoke to me (as I sat crying in her office) and explained that if she didn't think he was capable of more she wouldn't be on him as much. It was her belief in my boy that made her expect more of him. I had never even though of that.
Families bring out the best in us: Brown Bear has flourished. His use of language, his table manners, his ability to write and read. He sets himself goals now. When he wanted a real tie for school, instead of one on elastic, Mr D said he would need to be able to do it himself. So Brown Bear learned and developed an obsession with ties as a result. When he asked to wear shoes with laces I said he would have to do them up himself as the teacher couldn't be doing up his shoes for him. So he has learned and now does up Blue Bear's shoes for him.
You see I never worried about his academic potential. I honestly thought that he'd get the basics in any school. I was more concerned about the social education. The capacity to collaborate, take risks, share and care for others. The school values that they learn from the start are: Be Kind, Be Safe, Do Your Best. We have adopted these in our home too.
Now he is sending me email and writing his own instructions for lego models. He uses brylcreem and inspects his image in the mirror many times a day. He sits across from me at the table and asks, "How was your day Mummy ?" and sometimes he will negotiate so effectively that I cannot believe I have given in to a 5 year old. Again. Then there are the acts of kindness. At the weekend we saw a man sitting on the ground holding a sign that read, 'please help me.'
Brown Bear: Mummy can we help that man ?
Me: Of course - what would you like to do ?
BB: Can we give him some money ?
Me: I think that would be kind.
Now I understand why the school is like a family. I owe Ms W, Mrs F (now Mrs B) and Mr D a debt of gratitude for their kindness toward my son and to me. There are so many others to thank including: Mrs V (the TA) Mrs J (in the school office) and the other Mrs J (swimming teacher) who have helped in so many ways.
When it's time for Blue Bear to go to the school I can feel confident that he will be received into a family that already cares for him as they do his brother.