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16 truths about being a primary school parent at Christmas

Child making a Christmas card
'Tis the season to be jolly – but if you've got a child at primary school, the Christmas period can be a month-long feat of endurance. Good luck...

Christmas: it's the most wonderful time of the year, so it's no surprise that it's the focus of everything your child does at primary school for the last few weeks of term. From the Christmas fete to the Nativity play, every day is awash with festive sparkle. 

For us parents, though, the run-up to Christmas can be a little more, er, testing. We're not Grinches, honest, but sometimes it all feels a bit much. Especially when these kinds of things are going on every day... 

1. Christmas cards are the bane of your life

It's bad enough that you have to sit there night after flippin' night supervising your child as they moan their way through writing out cards for their classmates, but it gets even worse when they start bringing them home. Seriously, where are you supposed to put 30-odd extra Christmas cards? And when did it start to be a "rule" that you have to include chocolate coins in every card? The pain is only multiplied if you have more than one child...

2. The Nativity play will leave you baffled

Okay, so you appreciate that with so many people to find parts for, not everyone can be a shepherd or a king. But how exactly are you supposed to respond when your child comes home and tells you they've been cast as a bucket? More to the point, how are they expecting you to make a bucket costume?

3. The Christmas Fair will take over your life...

Along with the summer fair, the school Christmas fete is one of the big fundraising initiatives of the year, so it's not surprising that it needs a lot of man hours. But no one prepares you for the fact that, if you agree to help out for the odd hour, you'll be so busy wrapping presents for Santa's grotto, collecting tombola prizes, pinning posters up around your neighbourhood and filling Jazzy Jars that, by the time the fete comes around, you'll never want to see another raffle ticket in your life.

4. ...and leave you just about bankrupt

Yes, we know it's all for a good cause, and we're thrilled that the Christmas fete is such a great money-spinner for the school. But you never fail to be amazed by just how much money your child is capable of spending in the space of a short few hours. When you're stuck behind a stall and constantly replenishing your child's funds to keep them out of the way, there's no hope in hell of you going home with anything more than coppers in your purse.

5. Christmas play competitiveness gets out of hand

On the day when the roles for the school play are announced, your phone doesn't stop buzzing with messages from the class's most competitive mummies who are desperate to know what your child has been cast as (and how their child's part compares). Of course, if you announce that your child is Mary, they respond with gushing but backhanded compliments ('How lovely that the teacher is giving something else a chance to shine for once!') while silently fuming that their villager / narrator / dancer / sheep missed out... 

6. Your child's bookbag is full of glitter and tinsel

It's wonderful that your child is spending so much time being creative at school, and you really do appreciate all their lovingly-made festive crafts. But trying to extract their reading books from the depths of their bag unleashes a mushroom cloud of glitter that engulfs the entire house, and your heart secretly sinks when you're presented with yet another tatty paperchain or toilet roll snowman that absolutely HAS to have pride of place on the Christmas tree.

7. Every day, it gets harder to get out of bed

Dark skies, cold, wet weather and pre-Christmas tiredness mean that dragging yourself out of bed requires superhuman strength at this time of year. Who hasn't opened their eyes in a pitch black bedroom and convinced themselves that it must still be the middle of the night, only to end up in a complete panic when realising that, actually, it's 8.15am and everyone has to be out of the house in the next 15 minutes? We're all counting the days until the end of term...

8. Your diary is out of control

If you're a working parent – or, y'know, just have a life that doesn't completely revolve around school – the last few weeks of term can feel like one long juggling act. What with Christmas plays, carol singing, concerts, parties and pantomime trips, you'd better make sure you save at least half your annual leave to cover all those school commitments. And when exactly are you meant to get the Christmas shopping done?

9. You have a panic about teacher presents

Let's face it, your child's teacher deserves a decent thank-you gift for putting up with your child and 29 other little darlings for the past term, but what to get is always a dilemma. Do you play it safe with a bottle of wine (although what if they don't drink?), get your child to create something "beautifully" handmade or splash out on something lavish (but risk looking like you've tried too hard...)? Trust us, class collections are the way to go. Just don't volunteer to organise it...

10. Someone will shatter the Santa illusion

Nothing makes a primary-school parent's blood boil than a precocious Year 6 kid telling their little Reception child the "truth" about Father Christmas. Cue floods of tears (from you and your child) and a week spent scouring the internet for evidence that Santa IS real – after all, you can even see him fly past on Christmas Eve! 

11. Your child will change their Christmas list on a daily basis

Curse those playground conversations: your child has been adamant for months that what they really want for Christmas is a remote control car, but then they start comparing wishlists with their friends, and suddenly it all changes. One day it's the latest Lego set, the next it's an Xbox, then an iPhone (we think not!) – stop changing your mind already!

12. The Christmas party will give you the worst hangover ever

Most of us don't get out much now we're parents, so the school mums' Christmas night out is an excuse to really let your hair down. The problem is, your alcohol tolerance has decreased along with the frequency of your nights out, and whereas you used to be able to drink sambuca all night and still show up at work the next day, it's not quite so easy when you have to get your child up, dressed, breakfasted and into school by 8.50am. Pass the sick bowl, please...

13. You'll still feel like a big kid on the last day of term

The past few weeks may have been one long blur of parties, concerts and plays, with a liberal sprinkling of glitter on top, but for all that it's exhausting, we have to admit that Christmas with a primary-school child is a pretty exciting time. And when they bounce into school on the last day of term wearing their flashing Santa hat or a piece of tinsel wrapped around their ponytail, ready for a morning of board games, DVDs and sweets, it takes us right back to our own Christmas schooldays. Happy holidays – and bring on the festivities!

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