Off she went, skipping away without a care in the world, proudly holding her new school bag and her head high because she was finally doing what her older brothers did.
I thought I wouldn’t be bothered when she started school; she was only going to go for a few hours and then she’d be home again. In fact, for the past few years, I couldn’t wait to have SIX glorious kid-free hours a day after a full nine years without a break.
But I looked at my daughter that morning, in her fresh new school uniform, and suddenly she didn’t look like a little four-year-old. My heart skipped a beat. She didn’t look like the baby of our family. She looked like a big girl who had, somehow, grown up all of a sudden and stood there looking, well, big. Then it sadly dawned on me…life would never be the same again.
Now, when I drop my daughter off each day, I will hand her over to someone else. A surrogate parent, almost. Someone other than me will pick her up when she falls, wipe away her tears and reassure her that everything is going to be OK. When she is afraid to walk into the assembly hall, which looks ginormous to any small child, it will be her teacher’s hand she will hold, not mine.
When she reads her first Oxford Reading Tree book, it will be her teacher who applauds and praises her, no matter how much reading we may have done back at home. There will be milestones that I will be told about, that I will want to read or wish to see, but will have to wait until I can meet her teacher to discuss. She will pick up different words from other children, learn about different cultures and customs; that there is a whole new way of doing things and that is no bad thing (except, of course, when she comes home and asks for her own TV in her bedroom because Bethany has one!).
School to me is what the big, diverse, Amazon rainforest is to an explorer: full of new, exciting experiences, discoveries, tastes, sounds and even smells (oh...those icky toilets). The children who enter it, we hope, will survive what they endure. They may have to deal with a tropical disease or two – nits may even invade their heads – but they’ll leave the other side with knowledge they didn’t think existed. The children in the schoolyard jungle will learn what survival of the fittest is, how to evade predators and how to play with gentler, kinder beings. They may come out each day with scrapes, bruises and bumps (hopefully no broken limbs), but one thing I know school will have that the Amazon certainly doesn’t is plenty of attention from dedicated teachers.
It still frightens me to think that my children are now all in school and well on their way to growing up. Who and what they will become, only time will tell. But one thing I hope they will always know is that I will always be in their corner, waiting patiently to help them along their way. And I know their teachers will be too.
A Dassu is a mother of three children, a magistrate and a school governor. She can be found tweeting at @a_reflective