We felt a lot of trepidation before my son started school. He had no idea what was coming, but his mum and I contemplated all sorts of challenges that he might face: the difficulty of making friends, the stress of homework, the phenomenal adjustment required to step on to the five-day-a-week treadmill. But so far he has adapted very well. This is probably a lot to do with his teacher, who I am beginning to suspect is the most brilliant person in the world.
We expected the extreme fatigue. The overwhelming newness of everything whacks him out. And with the overtiredness naturally comes the rage. His anger is not directed at school but at his parents and our tiresome insistence on bathing and sleeping. And feeding him watermelon. And the usual paradox is at work: the more sleep a child needs they less they want it. But this is all to be anticipated.
There are elements of his school experience that have surprised us all however. He managed to get lost within the confines of a single climbing frame for instance. He was retrieved by a kindly classmate who was rewarded with a sticker for his efforts. He’s also perplexed by the manner in which the children are allowed to go to the toilet; they appear to be kept in some kind of holding pattern. Which would seem bizarre to me too.
Stuffing caught him unawares also. As a family we don’t really do stuffing. It only really makes an appearance on our dinner table at Christmas, along with hot ham and dessert wine. Stuffing has passed my son by. So when he was served it for his lunch, he was confused. Which is fair enough, it just looks like squidgy meat. He described it as ‘yucky sausage’, in case any stuffing advertisers are looking for some copy.
I have been learning too. I have learnt that I need to take my glasses when I pick my sons from school. To prevent me waving enthusiastically at the wrong child and scaring the shit out of them. If you’re reading, little boy on the trike, I am profoundly sorry.
Last week I picked up my younger son from nursery at lunchtime while his brother was halfway through his school slog. I am not sure what I thought would happen, perhaps that the youngest would be presented to me through a hatch. Instead I was invited to wander through the school grounds to fetch him from his classroom. My concern was that his brother would glimpse me, mistake the situation for his extraction and an unseemly kerfuffle would ensue.
So I turned up the collar of my coat, edged along with my back against any wall and made my way furtively to the rendez-vous by the mud kitchen. Which is not a good luck for a lone adult man in a primary school. I eventually had to explain myself to a suspicious janitor. Once he was satisfied by my explanation I reached the nursery.
Happily I arrived undetected. My older son was nowhere to be seen, possibly at that moment missing within the vast climbing frame. Of course the first thing my youngest wanted to do once I’d picked him up was to seek out his brother. He suggested that I use a pair of binoculars.
We all have a lot to learn.