I have just survived my first full week as the parent of a primary school kid.
As far as survivals go, this is very first world but it is still up there with surviving being on holiday with an electric toothbrush and no charger, surviving a wedding seated next to your partners drunk and handsy Aunt and surviving a freak hail storm when wearing your linen suit and no bra. Though why any guy would need to wear a bra or a linen suit is a mystery.
The first day went better than expected, with our eager little learner up making his own breakfast (which never happens) and getting himself dressed (also never really happens) all before 7am.
He wasn't due in the classroom for another two hours, so he sat down to watch Transformer cartoons on Netflix (this always happens).
I haven't read anything like this yet, but I await the research findings that support watching of cartoons of gigantic alien robots in disguise before school dramatically improves the learning capacity of young boys aged 5-9 years old. Until then, I will continue to feel like a bad parent.
Before we headed off for school, there were the obligatory first day-of-prep photos. Arch has always been a perceptive and wise child for his age like there is a tiny ethnic grandpa stuck inside his head. He must have known that this moment is defining on the photo feed of one's life, destined to be shared with future girlfriends or displayed at significant birthdays and published in the supporting images of a biography written by Walter Isaacson about him.
He managed to pull a pose for the entire shoot that wouldn't look out of place on a 17-year-old girls Snapchat. Toe pointed, hand on hip, leaning against the wall with the other. Classic. Just letting the Bottle Green and Red school uniform do the rest.
Side note: as great as the school we are sending him to seems to be, I almost didn't enrol there as I didn't like the idea of my child’s school uniform making it look like it was permanently Christmas.
I had taken the week leading up to school, as I was conscious of it being a significant change in the dynamic of how our family all relates to each other…that is to say I was freaking out that I was old enough to have a kid at school! How’d this happen so quickly? Only five years earlier, the biggest interaction I’d have with a school was when driving by one and I’d have to slow down to 40km so I didn't run over anything. Now I had one of my own and was driving to the school to drop my kid off there!
I almost didn't take him as a protest to my life.
We arrived and all got the courage to open the car doors and walk into school. Arch had a pretty well-fitted uniform. We didn't want to be those parents who buy their kid a uniform that is two sizes too big and the kid ends up looking like a mini version of a Biggest Loser contestant trying on their old clothes.
From behind, he looked like his backpack was some sort of freakish mutation that had sprouted arms and legs but wasn't going to let that define its life, so was heading off to get an education.
I had been to the school a few times in the lead-up to the first day, and what struck was how similar everything looked, felt and even smelled to when I was at Primary school in the 90s. You’d think 25+ years on, things would change much more. Besides the furniture and the computers (no Macintosh SE’s here!) the only different thing I could see was an asbestos warning on the side of my kids classroom.
At least they acknowledge the fact it was there. In our day, they wouldn't have even known. I remember Michael K used to eat the walls in Grade 4 - wonder how he’s doing now?
Our little mutant backpack boy arrived at school with the other kids and the accompanying squadron of helicopter parents, all buzzing around emptying enough stationery out of the bags in such a way that Stanely Kubrick (well-renowned stationery enthusiast- watch the doco) would have had a seizure from excitement.
We stayed for a little while, but when he’d found his old kinder friends and settled at his desk we knew it was time to go. No tears, no worries, just a smile and a wave. I walked out of there feeling proud- proud that we had raised a confident and happy enough kid that something big like this didn’t phase him.
Sara ended up crying a bit. Part of me suspects that had more to do with the disappointment her only son didn't need the comfort of Mum on his first day of school.
To celebrate we went and enjoyed bulk catering coffee in polystyrene cups, served with day-old supermarket cakes and awkward conversations with other parents. We chatted for a little bit, then left to get a real coffee and some cake and conversation that was less stale.
We could do that now. We had just completed that premier middle-class activity; the school drop-off. If the crowd at the cafe is anything to go by, all I have to do is start wearing head-to-toe sports compression gear.