Let me tell you a story about a little boy named Jack. He has blondey-reddish hair, blue eyes, and a devilish grin. He is four years, nine months and 26 days old. He loves cars, motorbikes, trucks, trains and bikes. He loves music, and can pull the most amazing dance moves out of nowhere. And today, he had his first day at primary school.
Now, before I continue, let me just clarify one thing: yes, we realise that Jack is a very young Prep. The decision to send our boy to school this year took a very long time to make, and involved his kinder teachers, the Prep teachers at his school, ourselves, and our son. Being secondary school teachers ourselves, Christian and I thought about the ramifications of Jack being one of the younger ones in his year level during VCE. I have worried for months about my boy being ready for school - should I give him another year of play? Will he cope with the rigours of school? Is he too little for primary school?
Jack's new primary school offers a two-year Prep program for kids that are a bit too big for kinder, but still a bit too little for fully-fledged Prep. It's a fantastic opportunity for children to learn the ropes of school, wear the uniform, and be more challenged than kinder, while learning in an environment oriented around play. Jack will have a year of learning social skills and fun activities with like-minded kids, before completing another year of more structured Prep. It is perfect for him - and it made our decision so much easier. And seeing my son this morning made me realise that he was so ready for school. Regardless of my fears or concerns, regardless of a compelling desire to phone the authors of "What To Expect When You're Expecting" and complain (Seriously, I read that book cover-to-cover with each of my pregnancies, and not once did they mention having tugging sensations at the site of the placenta up to five years after the birth. How can they have missed that one?), Jack was ready to be a Prep.
So after very little sleep last night (no fault of my children, just my brain's inability to shut off), we were up this morning, packing lunchboxes, putting on school uniforms, taking photos. Jack and Phoebe had some lovely pictures taken on the front step, before Phoebs accidently pushed the school boy onto the concrete. He left quite a bit of knee-skin on the driveway, poor little man! After some magic cream, a few hundred Simpsons bandaids and some Mummy-cuddles, we were back on track. I managed to get the team into the car and on the road by 8:15, which I thought was quite a good effort. And then we arrived at school. (Deep breath...)
With school hat on, back pack on, shiny new shoes, dapper school uniform and a shy smile, my baby boy marched proudly into his new school. He was a bit impatient because we had to wait for his teacher to open the classroom, but all too soon we had hung his bag up and entered his new world...at which point I was left with Maisie on one hip, and a pram. Jack had disappeared into the chaos with his kinder mate Will, and Phoebe had seated herself to do a drawing. I managed to get him back long enough to pin his name tag on and kiss him goodbye, but that was about it - he was very keen to get on with his day, and Mummy hanging around wasn't part of the equation!
The girls and I did not stay for the morning tea in the staff room - although I was still dry-eyed at this point I wasn't sure how long it would last! Phoebalina and the Mouse both fell asleep in the car on the way home...long enough for me to flick through songs on the radio. Big mistake. If you listen to the lyrics of The Police's "Every Breath You Take" and apply it to leaving your first-born at school for the first time, you'll understand why I cried! Bloody Sting.
Anyway, thank goodness for Gertrude. My darling girl drove all the way to my place to keep me company for the day - and even though I thought about my boy often, the day went very quickly. I must say, I was exceptionally grateful to Gertrude, her two boys and my two girls for keeping me busy today. They managed to keep the ugly crier from rearing her awful head!! And then it was 3pm, and I was waiting impatiently outside the classroom for my baby to come out. And then there he was, sweaty, tired and covered in sand. He came straight to me, smiled and said, "I missed you today Mum. But I had fun. Did you bring me a drink?"
Oh, my sweet, sweet Jack. When he finally recovered enough to tell us about his day, it transpired that he had a great time. He had eaten all of his lunch, met lots of new people ("but I don't remember their names yet, Mum, only Will"), and had done sport ("I just did lots of running, Mum, but I didn't kick the ball"). Tomorrow, he has Art in the afternoon. His teacher told me he was terrific (so the tears were all mine, thankfully!) And it would seem after all the stressing, and the preparations, and the over-thinking, that my boy was ready for school after all (and exhale...)
So what now? Well, Jack is fast asleep. He had an enormous dinner, a nice warm shower, and cuddled into me while I read him a really long Dr. Suess (is there any other kind?) Tomorrow, we will do it all again - but with a slightly calmer demeanour. Well, cross fingers anyway! I can only hope that when it comes time to take Phoebe for her first day in Prep, I am as restrained as I was today...however, I have a sneaking suspicion that by the time Maisie's first day rolls around, the ugly crier could very well make a public appearance...what do you think?