The schools are back and emotions are running high and are very mixed.
So they’re back to school amid a wash of mixed emotions, which can often change by the hour, if our house is anything to go by. Earlier in the week daughter three, who is entering lower sixth, didn’t even want to talk about school and spent all her time worrying about what to wear – a constant source of anxiety for her since being badly bullied in primary school. Only son, however, who is going into year 7, was so excited he tried on his school uniform and practised doing his tie several times. He is particularly impressed by the blazer and thinks he looks like a small-ish executive.
We had to go in to do Covid tests on Wednesday. Daughter three said she was shaking with nerves just being in a school building again. Only son has had his school bag and his PE kit packed for days. His Oyster card is in his blazer pocket. He has a house key, a true sign of maturity, and he is already on a whatsapp group with one of the boys he met on summer school. Only son has been ready for secondary school since around year 3. His time has come.
However, despite several tentative questions over the last few months about clothes, equipment and the homework set for the summer, daughter three decided to leave everything until the last minute – the very last minute. At around 4pm the day before school was back she announced that she needed paper, pens and folders. At around 10pm she was still choosing her outfit. When I went to bed she seemed to be writing something. “It’s the sociology homework,” she said. Plus ça change. Inevitably, she will be knackered by the end of the week. She says there is no point trying to get back to normal hours beforehand. She is a believer in the power of what I call early morning shock syndrome – getting up around five hours before her normal holiday timetable. With early morning shock syndrome, your body recalibrates immediately and you fall asleep at 10pm with no problems. That’s the theory…
Meanwhile, only son, having been so cool, calm and collected, dissolved into a bit of a meltdown. The pressure of living up to his own expectations of maturity had become a bit overwhelming. What he needed was reassurance that there is no need to be a 45-year-old man when you are 11.
The first day back was a bit of a shock…for me. Only son woke up at 6.30 for a shower and then woke up daughter three and me. I had told him that, under no circumstances, did I want to be woken before 7am, particularly as I had failed to take my own advice and go to bed earlier. Number one parent lesson – people will do as you do, not do as you say.
I had forgotten too just how much there is to do first thing – breakfast, feeding the pets, washing, doing packed lunch for daughter three [who, due to an administrative error, is not on the pay system yet so can’t enter the canteen or get a locker], getting all the gear ready and generally marshalling the troops.
By 20 past eight people were ready to get in the car, refusing point blank to have their photos taken. Only son looked very dapper. Daughter three looked artsy. All around in the spaces between them was daughter one, who would have been so very proud of only son and so encouraging of daughter three, finally making it to the sixth form which she enjoyed so much.
By 8.53 [two minutes early – this is a first], my partner and I were waving goodbye to the two of them from an agreed distance as they held hands, pretended they didn’t know us and disappeared through the school gates.