My little boy just started school last week, so I’ve been through the usual: going all mushy about how tiny he looks in his school uniform, standing at the school gate in tears, worrying about him being bullied, lonely, upset or overlooked by some crabby teacher. Will he get lost in the big school building and will other kids talk to him at break times? So I made some excuse to go into the school on day two, said I wanted to pay for some scheme or other that isn’t really due until Christmas, and I managed to catch hold of the school principal in the corridor. She knows me, I already have a child in the school, so I just mentioned that she should keep an eye on my little fella and be nice to him and all that.
I did feel a tad upset when she more or less told me to get over myself, but I suppose she has a point considering that this is his first day of secondary school, and he is thirteen after all. Thing is though, I never really had a cry when any of them started primary. They were four years old, which meant that my life had become preoccupied with an animated train engine, a loopy purple dinosaur surrounded by a bunch of very clean and Christian looking kids with big smiles and great singing voices, jigsaw puzzles, Lego, sturdily built books that could be thrown at you to read over again and again and again, and endless nursery rhymes about ten bloody sausages sizzling on a pan. The toilet always had a poo in it and every room in the house was destroyed with scribbly writing and strewn with toys. Yes, at age four I was damn happy to see those kids off to school. I think I stayed just long enough to shove him into the teacher’s arms and assure her he would stop screaming once I left. Then I went for coffee with real grown ups, watched a movie with real people doing grown up things and looked at the clean toilet a few times before going back to the school at 2pm to pick him up, pretending that I didn’t realise they got off at noon during the first week.
But secondary school, well its serious isn’t it? This is about your kid growing up, and the scary thing is that when they stop leaving poo in the toilet they also stop crying and telling you what’s wrong. Secondary school will determine their attitude towards the grown up world. Other grown ups will influence them and so will other kids.
What do you do when you’re sending your child to a place where all the things you’ve protected him from will be on offer? From religion classes to drug dealing, school can be a dangerous place.
I decided that the principal was right though, I’d have to get over myself, after all, isn’t this what I wanted, for my kid to grow up? On the way out I almost ran into a brand new VW Golf racing into the school grounds. The driver was wearing a school uniform and didn’t look much older than my son. I wondered should I go back into the school and tell him to be careful with his driving in case any of the first years are out in the car park, but I decided it mightn’t look great and I’d been warned by my little fella to behave myself so I went home instead and reminisced about the good old days of nursery rhymes and dinosaurs and poo, and yeah, I did, I had a little cry.