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My 4 year old just started “proper” school and by pick up I can actually see her brain whirring, overloaded with the day’s newness.
Getting home and to bedtime feels like a high wire act … one teensy step wrong and we descend into meltdown and horridness.
And it’s not just the newbies.
Even our big kid friends struggle from the daily onslaught of classroom and playground.
I’ve been thinking hard about how I can pull off this latest trick in the motherhood circus. And this is my quick list of reminders I’ve made for myself to help keep after school fun.
Cadged from friends … and my mum 🙂 … most of them are stupidly simple!!
But they are the little things I’m so often bad at … and, I don’t know about you, but I find it’s usually the little things that make the big difference between a good day & a bad one.
1. A School Gate Snack & Drink … For Mummy Too!
By pick up time, my daughter’s lunch was an age ago & run off anyway in the playground and I’ve whizzed round like crazy to finish stuff before pick up.
So before low blood sugar descends into mutual meltdowns we need a school gate snack. Something low GI, like oat cookies … that will get us happily home .. still friends! … and keep us going til a 5.30ish supper without either a sugar spike or a ruined appetite.
And ‘cos we both stupidly forget to have one … a long, long drink.
2. Less Hurry Scurry … More Time to Go Slow
Like most kids, my daughter struggles with transitions.
And boy can she drag them out … it used to take an age to extract her from nursery. But my hectic, hurry scurry … worrying about “stuff” I need to “do” … makes things worse.
We do need to get home slightly faster than a slow snail but I have to try, try, try and cut out my constant chorus of hurry up, get a move on, come on …
She’s been hurried scurried non-stop at school. She needs the chance to dawdle, meander, muse on the world going by. To go slow.
3. Be Totally There … For A Bit … Then Leave Alone …
My daughter’s razor sharp atennae spot instantly if I’m mentally “absent”.
Sometimes, I just don’t listen properly.
Or I check my phone. Or my laptop. Or the newspaper. Or chat none stop to other mums. I do anything in fact, rather than be fully there in the moment with my daughter.
And then she’ll try and grab my attention any way she can … rudely, crossly, tearfully. Of course I don’t want to tolerate rude, impatient interuptions.
But for that golden hour after school, she needs me to be totally there for her, enjoying her company. Talking about her day if she wants. Or just messing around & talking nonsense.
And then she needs her own space. And freedom.
Freedom to relax away from adult eyes.
Freedom to create her own entertainment.
Freedom, if she wants, to be bored.
4. Declutter the Diary
It was so much easier when we were kids.
If we wanted someone to play with after school, we just went out on the street and joined in. When we’d had enough we came in. Our mums left us to get on with it.
With complicated childcare and busy roads, us mums can end up scheduling a zillion “play dates” months in advance with military precision. And supervising them to the nth degree.
But I am more and more convinced that my daughter needs more down time … unorganised, unpressured and increasingly adult free.
Day after day of cluttered diaries leads to exhaustion all round.
And yes of course, it’s a balancing act!
My daughter wants other kids to play with and that’s hard without silly scheduling but we are both happier … less prone to meltdowns in tired moments … if we just do less.
5. Get Everyone to Bed Early … Especially Mummy
It goes without saying that kids need sleep.
And their good behaviour goes out of the window when they’re exhausted.
But so does this mummy’s!!! If I’m grouching my way through the day on a jugful of caffeine my behaviour sucks. And too often it’s self inflicted because I didn’t go to bed when I had the chance.
I’ve got much better at prioritising my daughter’s bed time above all else … yep, hair needs washing but sleep is more important! … and she thrives on it.
But I still stay up messing about on my laptop until all hours.
And then unsurprisingly, after school, when she’s exhausted and she’s been simultaneously nagged and ignored by her mother, my daughter’s behaviour descends to my level. Hmmm!!!
What about you? What are your fave tips for avoiding after school meltdowns?
If you found these rambling thoughts helpful in any way do check out our other positive parenting posts …
Hello, I’m Luci, founder of Mums Make Lists (Est. 2011). Over the last decade or so, I have combined my experience as a mum, journalist and shopping editor to create useful guides and lists of ideas and inspiration to make it easier for busy parents to plan and host kids’ parties and find great gifts. Plus I create beautiful party printables, from invites to party games. Read more.