All The Emotions You'll Feel When Your Kid Starts School
I dressed my son in his new school uniform, slipped him into his new school shoes and looked him dead in the eye. This was a big moment; one of those key father/son interactions that would permanently lodge in his brain and unveil itself in years to come whenever he thought of me.
“This is going to be OK,” I told him. “It’s your first day, and it’s going to be very different, and you might even find yourself feeling scared. But I promise you, I will always be here for you when it’s over. It’ll be OK. Do you understand?”
“WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF YOUR NOSE WAS ON YOUR BUM,” he shouted back, before frantically attempting to karate chop his own shadow.
Not to worry, I thought. Perhaps the big emotional moment will happen at the school gates. But nope. Instead, as I bent down to deliver a new heartfelt sermon about the nature of change, my son caught a glimpse of his teacher, shouted “OH NO IT’S YOU AGAIN,” hugged her tightly and ran into his new classroom without looking back.
The way I’d heard, a child’s first day of school is supposed to be a big deal; a MagiMix of emotion that turns you inside out and leaves you there. But it wasn’t that at all. He was fine. I was fine. Piece of cake.
But that was three weeks ago. Everyone’s always keen to talk about the first day of school, but nobody really says much about the 12th. And they should, because the 12th day of school is when that shit gets real. Day One is exciting. It’s all bright lights and dancing. It’s the start of a bold new journey. But by Day 12, all the excitement has worn off. It’s still a new journey, but you’ve started to realize how long you’ll be walking for. Day 12 is routine. Day 12 is mundane. Day 12 is, as it happens, when the reality of the situation kicks in.
And we’re all still getting used to it. My son has now realized that school is an ongoing thing rather than just a fun new interest that he can dabble in whenever the mood strikes, and he’s starting to act out in odd little ways. Apparently this is completely normal; according to his teacher most kids react strangely to being tricked into a decade of full-time education, and it tends to wear off after a couple of months.
Also, I have no idea what the boy does at school. None whatsoever. Literally every day since school started, I’ve had the exact same conversation with him on the way home.
Me: “What did you do today?”
Me: “Wow! That sounds amazing! What did you play?”
Me: “You’ve made friends! I’m so proud of you. What are your friends called?”
Him: “Don’t know.”
Me: “What else did you play with?”
Him: “Don’t know.”
Me: “What did you have for your lunch, then? Something delicious?”
Him: “Don’t know.”
It’s like this for the entire journey home, and I’m starting to worry that his school is just Men In Blacking his memory clean at the end of the day. One day, perhaps, I’ll get some satisfactory feedback from him. Not yet though.
A little more bittersweet, though, is all the extra space I have in my day. Previously, my son finished childcare at 1:30 p.m., so I had to frantically cram my full day’s work into a single morning, wolfing down breakfast and skipping lunch as I went. But now I don’t have to pick him up until ten past three. Imagine! Imagine the luxury of an extra '90 whole minutes a day! I’m still adapting to this—instead of spreading my workload out like a sensible person would, I tend to just race through it as normal and then fall asleep at my desk to an episode of Mad Men—but hopefully, I’ll figure it out soon.
The flipside, though, is that I miss him. I miss him like mad. The afternoons used to be our time, where we’d rush off to a park or a playground or a petting zoo while his mum worked, and just chase each other around until dinner.
It’s only now I’m realizing that the afternoons were my favorite part of the day. They were a little oasis where I could brush off the dreary chores of my day job and just concentrate on all the fun of being a dad. Cafe trips. Beach adventures. Time with his granddad. Little by little, those afternoons are fading into the distance.
It feels, just a tiny bit, like it isn’t us against the world anymore. It feels like he’s moved on without me. And, of course, that’s absolutely how it should be. But, still, I’m ever so slightly bereft. The first day of school is a piece of cake. But the 12th? Man, that’s a kicker.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.co.uk. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.