The start of the school year feels like a fresh lap.
It's a new start, another beginning, an opportunity to remember all that great stuff that happened last year – and to build on it – but also to get a handle on the bits that didn't quite work. At least, that's how I like to think of it for our kids.
We've got three, two in high school and one in grade six.
It feels like we're such a long way from our oldest going to school for the very first time, but reminders are a short call to the grandparents away, of how it all goes by so fast. 'So fast. So very, very fast.'
First school days are different for the eldest kids. They're so intense and important, as if that very first crossing of the school threshold is the single most important moment in a child's life. It's heavy, you know? It probably is the most important moment, up there with first birthdays and immunisations and haircuts. And of course, you never get another shot at a first day.
It's the lead up, as well.
The emotional rollercoaster we're sent on as parents; wondering if it's the right school, or the best school or the smartest compromise? How do you choose between public or private school? Is the true cost financial or social? We can really afford to send them to public school, but can we afford not to send them to private? There's this war going on between logic and guilt and being at least as good as our own parents, and possibly, hopefully, in the deepest, darkest recesses all the way in the back of our minds, even better. I mean, the Johnsons are going private, the Hilderbergs, the Yangs and the Ngs as well. They're all smart, they've got good jobs, shouldn't we be in their networks, too? But then what about all the great families who aren't going private, the believers in the system and common sense and that the best friendships for kids come from community not economic ability.
Then there's the weekend dress ups in school uniform, the torture of school shoe shopping and negotiating the uniform shop opening hours. What about lunches? What will you make? She loves peanut slice but I know she shouldn't have it – or could I sneak one into the lunch box from time to time.
You've spent hours looking at lunchboxes, trying to find the perfect one. 'Will he look like a dork with a Spiderman lunchbox? Is it too soon to dump Barbie and The Ninja Turtles? Would a single colour be better? Or would that make him part of the crowd?' Because none of us really want our kids as an indefinable part of the herd, but then, what if they stick out too much?
And what about the other kids? What will they be like? What are they going to do to my perfect little precious pumpkin? Kids do terrible things to other kids, just because they're kids. They put them in headlocks, they swim faster, run further, read better. Some kids can count past one hundred and add up and actually divide. Other kids can't do anything. There may be kids with nits and worms and they'll pass them and I'm not sure as parents we're ready for that, not the first time, anyway. But then, we learn pretty quickly it's all very normal and treatable, thanks to the "special chocolate" that only comes out when they are showing signs of worms with that you-know-where-itch. The rest of the time, it's hidden away out of reach.
Did we overthink it?
Of course not. It's the first day of school. Every first day is massive, whether it be work or footy or cricket or prefect or Prime Minister; but that first day of school is off the charts. A good first day at school gets the synapses of the brain sparking in the right direction, it creates positive history and a happy place to be mined by parents forever. It sets a precedent.
There was a boy in my first day who had an unfortunate accident. It started in his pants but ended on the floor and despite Mrs MacLellan being incredibly discreet, she wasn't fast enough to stop Ben Story noticing the brown marble on the floor and asking whose it was. While it was a marble, it wasn't funny, but as soon as it wasn't a marble, it was hilarious, because poo is funny to every four-and five-year-old. It was funnier than farting in church. And it was probably the first time I remember being told to stop laughing by someone who wasn't Mum or Dad and that just made it even funnier.
I wish I could remember his name, because I'll bet I could find him on LinkedIn running some multinational company or touring the world giving talks on resilience and not being handcuffed by your history.
The first day is about being prepared. Being as ready as you can be because most kids will be as ready as they'll ever be. School! How cool! It's what the big kids do. They go off in the morning and come home in the afternoon and say they didn't do anything. But everyone knows they did. It's as exhausting as it is exhilarating, as fun as it is frightening.
School's cool! Hard that very first time, though, and maybe the last time, as well, but there's time to prepare for that.