Thank God It's Friday

6th October 1995 at 01:00
Monday: Week three of my son's first year of secondary school. It's been a wrench leaving his primary where he's shone in the school play and the football team, but still looks vague when asked seven times eight and how to spell "science". After months of open days, league tables and endless discussions, we think we've found the right place. Unlike many of the schools we saw, it has energy, confidence and turns out well-educated children. Perfect. Apart from one thing. It's private.

Tuesday: His first day of travelling by bus alone. I know he won't want to get up, but at 7am he bounds downstairs, fully dressed. By 7.30am he's had his breakfast, packed his bag and he's off. I resist the desire to "trail" him to the bus stop.

At 4.30pm I'm hovering outside. He's back. No problem. Easy. His sister tells him his favourite TV programme is on.

He tells her he's too busy; he has to record a science experiment as a cartoon strip, then he wants to read some of his book for his English teacher. Is this the same boy who hasn't voluntarily picked up a book since the Liverpool Football Club annual?

Wednesday: Today he's enthusing about history, maths and geography. "Actually," he confides, "some of the subjects are quite boring but the teachers make them interesting." He loves his new bus pass, it makes him feel like an FBI agent. He throws himself into his homework, French conversation. Can this nonchalant adolescent European really be my little boy of just "onze ans"?

Thursday: Disaster at 8am. The doorbell rings. He's in tears. He's lost his bus pass and a group of boys on the bus from another school have made fun of him. He's had to get off and run home. I waver between a row for losing it, or a hug. I do both.

Drop his sister off at another parents' and drive him to school. Traffic is horrendous. It's a miserable journey with me giving him a lecture about responsibility, he is 11 after all. His only consolation is that he's been picked for the football team tonight.

At 7pm I'm pacing the street to look for him. When he finally makes it home, he's exhausted - they lost 14-1 and he was the goalie. I say nothing about the bus pass.

Friday: Pick him up from school as he wants to show his sister around. After she's seen the goat, the swings and the tree house, he introduces us to two of his teachers as though they were life-long friends. She's impressed. "When can I come here Mummy?" I've been wondering if we'll have enough money to pay for the one, never mind two. In the car he says "I can't wait for Monday. That school is brilliant. Thanks for sending me there." I look at them both. Better start saving now.

Dorothy Stiven lives in London

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