It wasn’t on the list!

The last few weeks have been incredibly busy while preparing for a new season for my daughter. I’ve made a number of bags and lunch mats to size, using tutorials I’ve found online in Japanese for lesson bags, shoe bags, gym clothes bags, school lunch bag (different than obento bags we made for preschool!)… lunch mats and many new masks.

I’ve done lots of shopping. A list of special items bought at specific stores, and other school supplies… somewhat different than what I would typically buy back in my home country.

And lots of reading. We got the handy dandy Local Elementary School Life Handbook about 6 weeks ago. About twice a week I sit down to browse through it (picking up on something new each time)— reading through topics of what kinds of routines are helpful to establish now before school, what happens in scenario A,B, C, the different schedules for the first few weeks, when they need certain items, measurements for items and samples of how to label things.

Labels. Now that’s the job I’m putting off. Everything needs to be labeled. Clothes, umbrellas (they need two with two labels each!), shoes, hats, pencils, crayons, scissors and case, disaster protection gear (my last thing I still need to purchase) and all masks.

When we bought my daughter’s very. expensive. standard. bookbag several months ago, it came with labels printed with her name on it so that should save me time.

But I feel like it’s going to be an all-night job, constantly referring back to the handbook and pictures I got on my phone of school material samples.

As we get closer and closer to the date, I have more and more questions I keep asking… well, anyone I can find.

The other day, my neighbor gave us a gift for my daughter entering elementary school. I pulled out some cute stamps and said “Oh! Thank you, they’re cute.”

She said- oh, they’re for the Renraku-cho. I said ok…. but nothing was computing why I would need stamps for the notebook. This was not in the handbook!

She explained a little, but as I had kids dragging me away by my hand, we couldn’t talk and so she later sent me samples of her kids homework in a text message.

Apparently, with one particular subject of homework, kids have to read words they’ve written in that book everyday to me. And I have to sign-off—- or stamp!—- the completion.

It’s no big deal but I had no idea. There’s a lot of things I have no idea about— different groups we are now a part of (and when to expect what from them), messaging lists to register to by certain dates, different paperwork they are handing me, different start/finish schedules for different days, when certain duties fall to me… when they won’t apply.

My neighbor said, “Oh, don’t worry. It’s a lot but whenever you have a question, please ask me anytime.”

But my concern is not so much for the times when I have a question.

My concern is for the times I don’t realize that I should have a question.

There are a lot of things that are intuitive to people here, but for me, this is all like a blank slate. For example, I went to the store with a friend looking for school materials. I told my daughter she didn’t need a particular item she was begging for. I turned to my friend to confirm and her daughter pulled out her own of the same item mine was begging for.

Oh. Well…. It wasn’t on the list!

They really stress parents making sure they get things right for their kids so their child isn’t “shocked” and distressed at school when everyone has what they need but he/she doesn’t.

While I’ll get some grace because I’m just the poor foreigner mom who has no idea what she’s doing, I’d rather not put my kid in that situation where’s she’s the foreigner in her class always getting something wrong.

Overall, my kid is pretty excited for this new season she’s been dreaming of. I’m sure she’ll do fine. But me… well, I think I’m more nervous than she is.


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