What do you call someone you feel you know but that you have never met? Such is the case with María whose blog I read from time to time and who reads mine from time to time as well. There’s a whole host of people I stop and talk to casually while I am out and about but whose names I have no idea of. Nodding acquaintances is the rather old-fashioned term for them, going back to the time when polite society people out walking around fashionable city squares would simply nod an acknowledgement to a person they saw on a regular basis but to whom they had never been introduced. Maybe people you sort of know through social media could be called on-line acquaintances.
Anyway, María has been commenting on the difficulty she is having organising her timetable of English classes because so many of her young pupils have such a range of activities: every sport going, including kayaking, music lessons, drama and goodness knows what else. When I was a child it used to be ballet classes and piano lessons - both of which I would have liked to do but never had the opportunity. A few posh children also went to elocution classes, probably the same ones who had extra tuition for the 11-plus exam and the entrance exam to selective private schools. Our own children went to playgroup and to swimming lessons and never seemed the worse for not doing more activities. I had a friend, however, whose child was permanently exhausted from so many activities. My friend was similarly exhausted from running her child around on her busy schedule.
Nowadays it seems even worse with all sorts of “classes” for babies almost as soon as they can sit up: sensory development, wet play, baby music classes, baby gym. Much of it is really a chance for mothers to socialise and compare notes and for babies to get used to being around others. Our now 5-year-old granddaughter, when smaller, went to “forest school”, a kind of outdoor playgroup, even in the rain with waterproof suits on. None of this has been happening during lockdown of course and mothers and babies are trying hard to catch up. Since things opened up our small granddaughter has been going to drama classes, even though being dramatic and striking a pose is not something she needs much help with. And my daughter-in-law, whose 7-year-old has just moved from infant school to junior school, tells me that many of her little schoolmates are already being organised into extra tuition ready for the 11-plus exam (in 4 years time for that cohort) as their district still has grammar schools and “it’s never too soon to start!” She and my son don’t seem to have signed up their little girl for extra lessons … as yet. We shall see.
Our now 5-year-old granddaughter starts school on Monday. My daughter is a little emotional at this milestone, especially as she can’t actually accompany her little one to school on that first day. The school where she works has staff training on Monday and she was hoping for some flexibility. Her headteacher, usually quite demanding of his staff but often quite understanding where staff’s small children are concerned, is insisting that she must attend on time from the start of the morning as this training gives staff a certificate which would be invalidated if she missed the first half hour, for example. So my services are required. It’s a good job the small person is used to spending time with me.
We don’t anticipate any problems. She has been used to going to nursery for what feels like forever, as will have most of her small classmates. The school has decided to “stagger” entry of the new intake this year, dividing the class into two groups who will attend on different half days throughout the first week. It’s a nice idea, giving children time to get acclimatised and staff a chance to get to know their new charges. But it plays havoc with working mums’ lives. Our little one will go to school on the mornings of Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, when I will take her to school and collect her at lunchtime, and on the afternoons of Thursday and Friday, when her mother can take charge as it coincides with the free time of her part-time work.
Is this staggered start really necessary, nice idea though it is? Most of the little ones will have been used to being dropped off at nursery before 8.00 am and being collected at 6.00 pm. And the following week, many of them will be adapting to breakfast clubs and after-school clubs. Such is modern life.
Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!