Age 3 was the age we had chosen as the year we would have Ose’s first birthday celebration as we didn’t believe in having the traditional first birthday party. A one-year-old, in our opinion, is too young to comprehend all that happens at a birthday party. Kids often get overwhelmed and spend most of the birthday party crying. We didn’t want that for Ose and chose age three as the perfect age to start birthday party traditions. Not only was age three the ideal age for our family to start birthday celebrations, but it was an ideal age to start school. This decision was based on the fact that age 3 came with independence, and Ose could communicate all her needs.

It so happened that this so-called perfect age coincided with a pandemic. The Covid-19 pandemic. Ose turned 3 in January 2021, and not only did she not get the much anticipated first birthday celebration, but she also didn’t get to start school, which she was excited about. I shared a lot on my Instagram and YouTube about how much she yearned to start school. We would’ve probably allowed her to begin school at about age 2.5 because she was already independent and could communicate well. She used to randomly carry her backpack and tell us that she’s going to school. She’s going to play with all her friends at school. The only thing that stood in our way of letting her start school was the pandemic, a pandemic we had no idea when would come to an end.

I’m quite the germophobe, and washing my hands as much as I need to now because of the pandemic isn’t something new to me. So you can imagine how difficult it was for someone who is not only a germophobe but also has underlying health conditions making her “high risk” during the pandemic is to let her three-year-old (who does not understand the protocols that need to be followed to protect one from contracting the Covid-19 virus) go to school.

My husband and I still viewed a couple of schools in our area, even though I still wasn’t 100% comfortable letting Ose start school. The school we were most interested in wasn’t allowing parents into their premises to view due to the pandemic. Another obstacle brought about by the pandemic. I used this as an excuse to my husband to stall the process of letting Ose starting school.

When we took Tlotjo to her one year check-up with their paediatrician, she asked if we had let Ose start school yet. She then told us that there isn’t anything currently showing that the pandemic might end soon and reassured us that it’s unlikely for kids to develop complications when contracting the virus. I was still left unsure because I could develop complications due to my health problems if I were to contract the virus from Ose.

One of my neighbours, who I met on Instagram, has a son the same age as Ose, and she told me about a school she had found for her son in February. This school is a franchise, so my family and I went to view a school in a different neighbourhood, which would be on my route to work. Upon getting there on the 9th of March, which happened to be Tlotjo’s first birthday, we met a very friendly principal and friendly staff who knew all the kids by name and knew their parents. We had gone to do the viewing late in the afternoon when some parents were collecting their kids. Ose immediately ran to the other kids to play with them, she fitted in. I liked everything about the school, and I was at peace with letting her start school in April 2021.

Ose has been at school for over a month now, she’s an amiable girl and is a social butterfly. I love all the stories she tells me when I collect her from school. She did catch a cold lasting the whole of April, which was stressful and resulted in a visit to the ER  at some point. I was comforted by my tribe of moms that this was normal when kids start school as their immune systems now get exposed to new germs or “creche germs”. Letting her finally start school was the best decision we could have made for her development, and she is at her happiest when around her peers.

About the Author: Dimpho Maponyane is a wife, mother to two beautiful girls aged 3 and 1, a Chemist by profession, and a superwoman who wants to share bits and pieces of her life with the world.  You can follow her parent journey on Instagram.