So another milestone has gone by. I brought our eldest bairn to primary school for the first time this morning, and she was very excited.
Wearing her new Charlie and Lola T-Shirt especially for the occasion we made the short trip with her up on the little saddle on my cross bar as I walked her on the bike to school. She talked non-stop on the way but I knew as soon as she got in she wouldn’t utter a word.
We met other parents with their children as we went through the gate and I noticed up ahead that a bit of a crowd had gathered at the front door of the school, where the headmaster greeted the new arrivals and talked to those parents he knew.
Having taken his directions we still managed to make a wrong turn and went in to an older class and although I realised the error pretty quickly H already had her coat off and was hanging it and her bag on a hook by the door before I could turn her around and guide her to the right class. I was surprised by her speed and confidence, but then she’s used to it from Montessori school.
Her room was a hubbub of kids and their parents, jostling between the objects of a typical junior infant classroom: small knee high tables and chairs, bookcases, boxes of toys, a small chalk board and at the back, an item that certainly wasn’t in the classroom of my childhood, a desktop computer.
Some of the parents kneeled down next to their quiet child at the desk where they would be sitting, but most of them talked to other parents, or the teacher, while their unperturbed offspring pulled the boxes of toys out and got to work. H, with eyes fixed on all around her, started exploring immediately, shifting through each of the items quickly.
I tried to do the things I thought a parent with their first child going to primary school for the first time should do.
We looked for the desk where she would be sitting and suggested we talk to those children she’d be sitting beside. There was one child already sitting at the table called Sophie, who seemed confident and happy, but like H wasn’t interested in talking for the moment.
Both her parents were beside her and they asked her to say hello. She smiled up at her parents but again wouldn’t turn around. H on the other hand squeezed out a half smile, probably because I was hounding her a bit, but said nothing.
She was too eager to move off again and look around. At this stage parents were starting to filter out, so I had to go too. H wasn’t going have a problem with me going. I even had to attract her attention to say that I was leaving.
It was all too quick I thought. I was reluctant to leave, finding all sorts of reasons for turning back and saying goodbye again. For me, the situation was weighing heavily; for her it was the lightest moment, thrilling and new but only of feather weight significance. I know what the long years of education means. She was just looking at another day in a play room.
Outside I passed a mother wiping tears from her eyes and looking in the window of her classroom I could see H sitting on the ground and sharing a box of lego with Sophie.
Back on the bike, making my way to work I noticed that a strong autumn wind was blowing. The summer is over and the bluster of the air slowed me down. But I felt leaden and heavy even as I cycled downhill, still weighed down, despite the fact that another milestone had just been shed.