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My First Day at School by Me, age 44 ¾

The Loneliness of the School Playground

The Loneliness of the School Playground

So much is written about a child’s first day at school, and rightly so, but it can be easily forgotten that it may also be mum and dad’s first day at school for a long time. Decades in our case (well, technically only a few months for me, but I’m not counting education as an adult because it’s so different).

And it can be just as nerve-wracking for us.

Children will have their own concerns. Will they see their friends? Will they make new ones? What if they’re the only ones struggling with the buttons on their coats or putting their wellies on the wrong feet? Will their teachers be nice to them or will they keep telling them off?

In Motormouth’s case he was, oddly, really worried about being bitten by one of the other children.

And it’s only right that we are there to reassure them, to give them a comforting cuddle before we say goodbye to them in the classroom doorway, or that wave to remind them they need to put their book bag away in their drawer so it won’t get lost.

But who is there to reassure us? Especially those of us who are, like me, a bit of an introvert?

I mentioned this to the Other Half, who struggled to understand why I was so worried, everyone was in the same boat weren’t they? This from the man who is on first name terms with half the parents already after just a week or so. I know two grandparents by sight, one mum and one dad. No names have been exchanged yet. This is even with the supposed advantage I have of having picked Motormouth up more often from school than the Other Half.

He’s not an introvert. The Other Half that is.

Or Motormouth, come to think of it.

I am.

I’m hoping I’m not the only one who pulls out my phone to answer imaginary texts that are so time-sensitive I have to ignore the world around me. I’m the one who stands in the corner towards the back of the playground so Motormouth knows where to look for me as he files obediently out of the classroom with 30 other children, all looking identical, with grins lighting up their faces as they see parent or grandparent waiting to hear all about their day. (What did you do today son? Nothing.)

I’m the one watching, with my hazel eyes just a bit greener than usual, as little knots of parents form, talking about their kids. I tell myself it’s just because their kids have been to the same playgroup or they live in the same road. I tell myself that it’s not a clique really, and I ought to be brave enough to say hello and join the group.

I’m not very good at listening to myself.

Perhaps it’s made worse by the fact that it’s a village school. Most of the children live in the village. We don’t. We chose it because it’s a good school with good inspection reports and the parents of children who have been there told us the school worked for them. That their children were happy there and learned a lot.

I’m telling myself to start just one conversation with somebody where I exchange names with someone. Hopefully it won’t be someone who is just doing the school drop off as a temporary measure, someone who will be absent from the playground forever in just a few weeks.

Then I look at Motormouth as he runs around the playground, part of an endlessly changing group of children who tag each other, stopping for a quick dinosaur impression here and there.

That’s when I think again, I’m not the one who matters. In the big picture, the one that’s a portrait of Motormouth, he’s the one who needs to feel comfortable coming to school. To feel that he has to make the most of those few minutes before the classroom doors open or we start to trail out of the gate towards home. To cram in as much as he can before he enters the more ordered world of the classroom.

In the meantime, I’ll stand there, one of maybe half a dozen parents who aren’t engrossed in conversation with other parents. One of those grown ups who switch their attention from their phone and whatever random question they’ve put into their search engine of choice, as the classroom door opens and children start to emerge, clutching their water bottles and book bags.

I’ll wait for him, for his face to light up when he sees me, just before he pulls a clown face and jumps around. I suspect he’s slightly embarrassed by the attention.

I should go now. I don’t want to lose my spot in the corner.

Fetch Boy!


Stick equals fetch.

Stick equals fetch.

We decided to take advantage of a really nice day and have a picnic in the nearby castle gardens.

I must admit it was pleasant, sprawling on the picnic blanket with Mini, who was intent on getting hold of all that tantalising grass she could see. As she is still at the stage where everything in the hand is straight in the mouth, it was a test of who had the most determination.

I won.

This time.

I don’t disagree with the philosophy that you have to eat a peck of dirt before you die (a bit daunting when someone pointed out to me that it was the equivalent volume to 16 dry pints) but I rather she didn’t do it where people walk their dogs or, just as bad, drop their cigarette ends. We found a nice clean space and let Motormouth run free. Well, more run wild.

Being the sociable little boy that he is (he takes after his father – the sociable part at least), he quickly made friends with a boy and girl around his age. He doesn’t lack confidence and soon had them playing Octonauts with him (his current obsession) even giving their poor mother a part.

They soon started playing catch and after realising none of them were actually catching the ball, moved to football. This also proved problematic, since they couldn’t quite equate the need to tackle for the ball rather than just pass it to each other. One third of them couldn’t at least.

Motormouth found a stick and decided that he would start a game of fetch.

Being the take charge kind if guy he is, he threw the stick and shouted “fetch” at his playmates, who promptly ignored him.

After another try or so he decided that he would change the roles, fetching the stick himself. There is something surreal in watching a small boy run around with a stick in his mouth trying to work out whose lap he was going to drop it in.

Still, there is one thing you can say about him – he goes all out for authenticity when he plays his games. It will be interesting to see what he comes up with next.

It does make me wonder.

Am I the only one whose child does these things?