First Days….

It seems the last post I wrote on here was about Elsa turning four. And now, here we are. First day of school. Just enough time to mark the major milestones these days then….

Pretty much. Since Elsa turned four, the twins have turned one, and started crawling and cruising and shrieking and – tentatively – sleeping better. It’s been one hell of a summer – ‘hell’ sometimes being the actual, operative word – but here we are. September, back to school, new term, new shoes, new routine.

“I’ve always loved the first day of school better than the last day of school. Firsts are best because they are beginnings.”

Jenny Han

It’s felt very, very strange and emotional. I don’t for one second presume that this is unique to me. Of course it isn’t. Every single mother of a child starting school this week or next is feeling something similar. And it’s good that we are. Rites of passage are important. It’s important that we acknowledge both the passage of time and the passage from one phase of life into another. The last few days have been a mix of trying on uniform and name-taping, along with trying to spend some of the last holiday days together, enjoying the freedom to do what we want. We’ve taken train and bus rides, been to safari parks and soft play, gone raspberry picking, swimming and shopping, had ice cream, stayed up late for teddy bear picnics and made pizza. It’s been fun – being in the moment of girlhood with her, while knowing that school is coming and times are a changing.

And, at the same time, we’ve tried to keep things normal, to talk about school in a calm way, to make sure it just becomes part of our conversations, part of our day. One of the best bits of advice I was given was to try not to over-hype ‘big school’. There’s a tendency with parents to talk about new things in an over-excited way: “And tomorrow, BIG SCHOOL!!!” (insert jazz hands and gaspy voice) – I can see this heaps a lot of expectation on it, and makes it seem like a special event. When of course, it isn’t. It will soon be very, very ordinary.

And so. The big day rolled around, and despite all of the above, when I dropped her off at the gates of her village school this morning, I felt a chunk twist in my stomach, but she wandered off happily, holding her teacher’s hand, looking about her with interest. In fact, she basically walked me through it like a total pro. Confident, excited, happy, determined.

It was only when the teacher stopped her at the door to get her water bottle out of her brand new school bag, and I watched her wrestling with this huge, green, foreign bag, which was nearly as big as she was, that I felt my heart thunder in my chest. It took everything in me not to run and help her, calling out helpful instructions. She suddenly seemed so little in the moment, so in need of my help.

And, on the one hand, I am sure she will always seem this way. But on the other hand, I am constantly surprised by how much she has changed in the last six weeks. The girl who finished nursery in July is not the girl that walked into school this morning. And in fact, when I picked her up from school, six hours later, it took me a couple of seconds to notice the confident, smiley little girl standing in the playground waving at me, brandishing that big. green school bag easily on her arm as if it had always been there.

And so, we walked to the car, all the while her admonishing me for forgetting her snack for the car, gabbling about the naughty boys in the playground and how much sweetcorn she had for lunch. And, it all just seemed so normal. We got home, amid requests for ice cream and My Little Pony,  and it felt, at least for today, like an easy transition to a new way of doing things. 

I know we will have wobbles down the line, the day in, day out of school – of any routine – takes some getting used to. But, it has been a good start. And that is quite enough for me.

“You’re off to great to great places. Today is your first day! Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way!”

Dr Seuss

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