• Shades of Black

She Walked Right In And Didn’t Look Back: First Weeks at School

So it’s officially been two weeks since my eldest started primary school.

The night before her first day, I had everything ready: uniform ironed and laid out, hair freshly washed, moisturised and twisted, husband ready to start work later in the morning so we could walk her to her new school as a family. She had spent the previous 12 months talking excitedly about starting ‘big school’; she would stare in admiration at uniform-clad children on their morning school run; she’d come home from nursery describing how she had helped feed the ‘babies’ (this is what she called the two-year olds!), and she’d reel off a list of the ‘babies’ who still wore nappies, still took naps and still cried at drop-off in the morning. I feel like the transition from ‘baby’ to big girl happened overnight. One day she was obsessed with obnoxious talking pigs and rabbits (i.e. #PeppaPig and #Bing), walking around in her own faeces (i.e. nappies) and then suddenly she’s having arguments with her friends about who the best #DC/ #Marvel superhero is and doing endless outfit changes a day to show off how stylish she is (and she actually really does have a good fashion sense!).

And all of this, all of this talk, all of this change, all of this growth had now culminated in this day – her first day at school. We got ready, speed-walked the 10 minutes to school, took quick photos outside of her class, and then we finally walked up to her classroom door where her teacher was stood waiting with a welcoming smile. And as if in a trance and being drawn in by an invisible string, my once-baby-toddler-now-child walked right on in and didn’t look back. Her excitement was palpable. She was clearly overwhelmed but she was ready for this new adventure, this opportunity to spend whole days finally interacting with people ‘on her level’. I always knew that I wouldn’t want to do any prolonged goodbyes – that would have had no benefit to her or to me, really – but I at least expected her not to have to be reminded to say bye to her family, by a teacher she had known all of five minutes! She immediately snapped out of her trance-like state and skipped back around, straight into my waiting arms. “Oops, sorry Mummy and Daddy!” I smiled. I kissed her. I held her tight for a moment. I was proud.

My husband gave her his own kiss and hug and she walked back into the class and sat on the carpet with the other children, as if she had always been in that room, sitting right in that space. The classroom door closed behind her, and half a step later, I had flashbacks of her being a tiny, helpless newborn sleeping on my chest; flashbacks of a happy, chubby gummy baby, refusing to crawl but sitting chattering away for hours; flashbacks of a sharp, caring toddler saying the funniest things and having the most adult ruminations. And now, this – a brilliant, confident, friendly child, ready to take on the world. I burst into tears.

Thankfully, it’s now going into week three of Reception and I’m finally no longer as emotional. My current challenges are making sure she’s getting her tea on time (never in my life had I thought a 5pm meal was needed, let alone called it ‘tea’, but now I totally get it!), establishing an after school routine, making sure she’s getting to bed on time and that her satin bonnet stays on all night. In three weeks our conversations have changed and have become so much more mature in a way I was not expecting – her account of her day is punctuated with quite interesting facts, her jokes are genuinely quite funny, and her attitude at times, really quite biting. I’ve been particularly impressed with how she’s told me she’s asserted herself in the playground: “M told me they didn’t want to play with me anymore so I went to find someone else to play with… X was playing rough and pushed me over. It was by accident but I told them I don’t like it and that they should stop!” My girl.

I thought the novelty would have worn off for her by now, but it hasn’t. She still enjoys school even as it becomes more familiar. I guess she understands that there is still so much more to learn and explore coming up in the next few years, and so she is patiently waiting. She has also started new extracurricular classes in ballet and gymnastics. Another anecdote of me clearly cramping my girl’s style: I walked her into her first gymnastics lesson and there was just one other parent present – that mother’s daughter was also having her first session. I stayed a few minutes to talk to one of the teachers and my daughter turned around, realised I was still there and shouted, “Mummy you need to go NOW, you’re not supposed to be here, go NOW Mummy. You can go!” whilst dramatically flailing her arms to help shoo me away. She’s four.

I am so proud of her, and even if she was different – more shy or reserved, or fearful, perhaps – I would be just as proud. Children are so resilient and brave, and encounter strange situations almost daily, and for the most part, they just adjust and take the opportunity to learn.

My prayer for all our children is that as they go further out into the world and explore and learn outside of us, may they thrive; may they become more compassionate and learned, more assertive and brilliant. And I pray that as parents, we will always provide that safe, stable, loving and predictable space for them to always come back to, so that they will grow into adults with unshakeable self-confidence.

We at #ShadesofBlackParenting wish all the new pupils and students a fantastic academic year, and well done to all the parents putting in that work.

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We desire to bequest two things to our children - the first one is roots; the other one is wings.

~Sudanese Proverb