Juniordwarf got up early and put his school uniform on straight away. Usually he lounges in bed with us for as long as he can get away with, especially on daycare days, but by the time I was out of the shower he was up and dressed.
I guess he was more excited than he let on! Up until this morning he’d been fairly blasé about the whole starting school thing, so this was a surprise.
I tried to take some photos, but he wasn’t interested. He said I could take photos when we got to school.
Other than that, it was a pretty normal start to the day. He poured way too much cereal into his bowl and said he was going to eat it all, and then left half of it.
I got him to help me pack his school bag. We’d made some biscuits on Monday for school snacks, and I spent yesterday explaining that he’d have a biscuit and some sultanas for morning tea (yes I forgot the fresh fruit . . . oops) and his sandwiches and the other biscuit for lunch. I was very careful to explain that his sandwiches were for lunch, and if he ate them at morning tea he wouldn’t have any lunch. (Sometimes our morning teas at home end up being sandwiches and that ends up being lunch. See, it’s complicated! This is what happens when you don’t live by a routine, apparently.)
Now we’re ready to go out to the car.
He’s half way out the door, having struggled to put his backpack on, when he turns around and heads back inside. He’s forgotten something.
He wants to take his bag of rocks with him. I’m about to say no, but stop myself just in time. That wouldn’t be helpful. OK, sure. They can go in the car, but you can’t take them to school. He’s happy with that.
I want to take a photo of him out the front of the house in his uniform before he gets in the car. Just one. I have a photo of me on my first day in our front yard. I’d like one of him too. You know – the ‘stand still and smile’ ones that I see in all those beautiful first day of school scrapbook layouts that the magazines publish at this time of the year.
But it’s not going to happen.
Into the car. He’s perfectly happy. Mummy is feeling a little sick. I don’t know why. Please someone explain why I’m so anxious, when it’s his first day, and he’s perfectly cool about it.
I really have to stop thinking so much and get on with things.
In the car we talk about what he might do at school today. We wonder if he’ll tell us what he did, or if he’ll say ‘nothing’ like he does when he comes home from daycare. He says he’ll tell us.
We arrive at his grandmother’s house. We can see the school from there. I think I might get a chance at the first day of school photo there, before we go.
I’m dreaming. I want something to remember the day by. I desperately want that photo, but it isn’t happening. Out of desperation I say, ‘well if I can’t take a photo of you, I’m going to take one of your bag’. Under my breath, ‘at least it will stay still’. I take a photo of his school bag. It tells a story too.
He starts to misbehave. Is he excited? Is he just letting off steam? Why won’t he sit down and talk to me? We’re trying to work out arrangements for what time we need to be at various places and who’s driving in on what days. He continues to be a noisy kid, roaring and squealing. Now he’s upset because I told him not to get onto his grandmother’s bed and shut the door to her bedroom because he said no. He’s banging on the door to be let back into her room.
I can’t concentrate. I start to feel tense and anxious again. I start to get teary. Until this point I’d been holding it together just fine.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. We were supposed to have a few quiet minutes to compose ourselves and take a couple of photos, then set off to school, Mum, Dad and the boy.
I’m at the point where I just want to get him there and go. This is too much.
So we go. I get what will possibly be the only decent picture of him on his first day, walking up the street towards the school almost hidden by his new backpack. It’s not what I wanted, but it’s a powerful shot.
We’re at the school gate. You can tell it’s the first day. Entire families are there to drop their little kids off. Tiny kids are swallowed up by huge backpacks and giant hats. Some of them look too small to be at school. My boy is one of them. (The official school uniform starts at size 4. His pants are size 2. We had to improvise.)
Two older girls are watching the new kids come in the gate, saying ‘kindy . . . kindy . . . kindy’, checking off each kid as they walk past, looking for faces they know.
There is a buzz in the classroom as we approach, the same classroom we went to once a week for playgroup last year. It’s filled with parents, kids, most I don’t know, a couple of familiar faces in amongst the throng.
Mrs L, his teacher, isn’t there. We know Mrs L. She took playgroup last year. She’s a familiar face, someone I am relying on to provide some sort of stability in this new environment. And she’s not there. The rules of the game have changed.
Mrs K comes over to us and introduces herself. She explains that Mrs L is off sick and won’t be here for the first two weeks. We met Mrs K once last year. She seems nice too. I’m hoping Juniordwarf won’t be disturbed by the change in personnel, especially since we’d built him up to seeing Mrs L today. He doesn’t seem to care at all. Maybe not having been there for two months has dimmed the memories of Mrs L a bit. I’m relieved.
Mrs K takes Juniordwarf over to find the peg for his bag. It’s got his name on it. He’s officially a school kid now. We hang up his bag and he takes off his hat to hang it up too.
‘I don’t need my hat on inside,’ he says.
No sweetie you don’t. But, mummy voice cautions, you’ll need it when you go outside.
Mrs K is onto that. We’re trying to keep them inside now that they’re here, she says. Understood. Getting a kinder class under control on the first day, with parents and family all over the place must be one of Life’s Great Challenges.
Parents are crowding the room. Some are taking photos. Everyone’s talking all at once. It’s chaos, only I seem to be the only one feeling it. Juniordwarf heads to a familiar place, the play dough table. I take one last shot at getting a photo of him on his first day. Please look at Mummy. That’s it, now smile. If only the little girl sitting next to him didn’t have her huge hat on and didn’t keep leaning in front of him . . .
The photo just isn’t going to happen. The beautiful layout I pictured is not going to be made.
I put the camera away.
Slabs asks if we should go.
I’m ready. Juniordwarf is quite happy doing his thing. We aren’t needed any more. We’ve done our bit. We’ve delivered him to school and into a new phase of his life. He knows this place and is about to get to know it a whole lot better. He’ll be here for the next seven years.
It’s time to go.
So I kiss him goodbye and tell him we’ll be there to pick him up at 3 o’clock (we are under strict instructions from Mrs K not to come inside).
He doesn’t even look up.
We walk away, out of the school, off to start our normal days.
It’s all happened so fast I don’t know how I feel.
I think I can hold it together for now. No, I don’t need a hug. That will tip me over the edge. Focus on practical things. Where am I going to get a coffee? What time do I need to be at work? What time do I need to leave work to pick him up?
The day has arrived, and I have survived.
[P.S. A big thank you to my Twitter friends for all your kind words and support throughout this morning, especially @sleeplessnights whose daughter also started Kinder today.]
[P.P.S. When we went to pick Juniordwarf up this afternoon we joined the throng of parents waiting outside the classroom. At 3:00 they opened the doors and there was a sea of children rushing out and parents rushing towards them.
Juniordwarf had abandoned his bag where he was sitting on the mat and Slabs had to fight his way into the classroom to retrieve it. We asked him what he did today and he replied, ‘I don’t know.’