Big School

My four-year-old will be going to school in September. I am both dreading it and looking forward to it, and it has brought up a number of issues that I would have preferred to avoid.

Reluctantly, I recall the time, many moons ago when, shivering with fear and holding tightly onto my mother’s hand, I slowly made my way up the hill to my new primary school for the first time. I remember how my new shoes rubbed my heels, and with every step my fear of big scary teachers increased, along with the fear of the bigger, older children, fear of the new, bigger building with bigger furniture and fear of unfamiliar faces and routines. I felt as though my life would be forever as terrifying as that first day. I didn’t realise that I would get used to it, tolerate it and eventually come to love school.

I find it difficult to acknowledge that my son too, with his introverted nature will experience very similar thoughts and feelings and I wonder how I’m supposed to live with myself knowing he’ll be going through this. Why must I allow him to feel so disoriented and fearful? My only consolation is that, at the end of my first day I felt very proud of myself and grown up because I had homework for the first time. I’d also made many new friends, so school didn’t seem quite so scary anymore. I can only hope that Sam has a similar experience.

I have considered home schooling, contemplated its pros and cons. I know it’s becoming more and more popular due to the dwindling quality of schooling offered these days (as a result of the overtly bureaucratic nature of it, I might add, not the heroic efforts of the teachers involved). I have to be realistic; I have not the patience for it. And if I’m honest, I’m certain that Sam can benefit more from being in a class with friends; learning and interacting than being at home with me, muddling through a curriculum I know nothing about. Maybe I’m just making excuses for myself.

I feel that it’s the end of an era. The boys and I will no longer spend hours at home, wiling away the time on trivial activities – tickling, singing nursery rhymes, creating characters with whatever comes to hand. There’ll be no more playgroups. No more simple questions about everyday life – “where does porridge come from Mummy?” It brings a tear, it really does. It will be beyond my capacity of knowledge, the queries he will soon be putting to me.

My boy, a mewling, squalling baby not so long ago is growing up and I can do nothing to stop this acceleration of time. I can only look back, count my blessings that I was fortunate to be able to spend quality time with him; that I could be home with him every day until he was ready for preschool; that I experienced his first word (Dada), his first step, and yes, his first temper tantrum. I’m sure there are more tantrums to come, and not only from him, when his stubbornness, wilfulness and downright obstinacy reach their full potential.