I trudge through Woolworths, reassured by the portable plastic vomit bag tucked into my handbag a health nurse had so kindly given me, hoping desperately I wouldn’t need to use it in the middle of aisle three. I throw anything into my basket that could be shoved into a lunchbox without too much effort and settle on sushi rolls, veggie chips, and fruit. It’s not how I imagine the historic Day Before School Starts to have looked, but it was not the time to lament on how sloppy and scrappy life was right now – how far it was from “perfect storybook scene” of laid out uniforms and specially selected hair ribbons and little lunchbox notes tucked away, sending the message of: Big Amazing Momentous Day Alert! Huge Milestone Currently Happening!
I was upright and I was doing mum things and I just had to accept that that had to be enough for now.
She woke up early on Monday, like I knew she would. Put her shoes and socks straight on while still wearing her jammies, before I heard the clomp-clomp-clomp across the hall, a little door creaking, footsteps towards me.
“Mum, can we get ready now?”. A little hand on my arm. A soft stroke to motivate me up.
I’m not going to lie. It took everything I had to peel myself off the bed and make her first morning flow. Braided hair. Iron-on labels onto uniforms. Lunches packed. Bags packed and repacked and double, triple checked. Water bottles filled and photos taken and Uno games played waiting for the clock to hit eight o’clock. I’d run to the bathroom a couple of times to throw up before returning smiling, “I can’t believe you’re starting school!” and “I’m so excited for you!” and huge grins from my completely ready little girl.
Her excitement was palpable. I had not a single worry that today would be hard for her.
Billy, not so much.
He has spent a lot of the week shouting at Siri “Where’s Ella!”, which is so adorable I can’t stand it.
He simply hasn’t known life without her, and they have a bond I never even imagined they could have. So in many ways, Ella starting school brings with it growing pains for all of us as Billy adjusts to an identity away from being Ella’s shadow, and we get used to fitting into a school system which is foreign to all of us. (So what did you do at school today honey? I don’t know. Do you do music or dance or sing any songs? I can’t remember. Did you make any crafts? I can’t remember. Who did you sit next to at lunch? Um, Maddy I think. Do you have to walk to the toilet blocks on your own or do you go with a friend or teacher? Um, I’m not sure. DOES ANYBODY KNOW WHAT HAPPENS TO MY DAUGHTER WHEN I DROP HER OFF WITH A BUNCH OF PEOPLE I HARDLY KNOW FOR SIX HOURS EVERY DAY?)
Anyway, first day of school:
“Do you want to walk to school or drive, honey?” I ask.
“Walk”, she says.
And even though I vomit into my mouth a little at the thought of it, I push through, because your daughter will only ever have a First Day of School once in her lifetime, and this was it.
The verdict is out: Ella loves school. Ushered all her friends into the classroom on the first morning and held hands with the ones who were crying and worried. “It’s ok”, she said as she rubbed their hands. “I’ll play with you all day.”
And even though there was a lump in my throat most of the morning (why do they make them wear uniforms and look so grown up) all I could think was Shit, what a child. So confident. So kind. So ready to start paving her own course.
Our children grow and we grow with them, and that’s just the way life goes.
My beautiful girl, I’m so proud of you and I’m so excited to watch you fly.