Prior to becoming a stay-at-home mum, I never thought much about the first day back at school (other than “Thank god, my childcare bills will no longer hover around the $700-a-week mark.”). My husband usually deposited the kids in the playground while I drove to work. When I came home, they’d tell me all their news: who their teacher was, who their classmates were, how cool the monkey bars were. It was nice.
Last year wasn’t nice. Last year I lost my first-day-in-the-playground virginity and it was traumatic.
The kids didn’t seem particularly concerned, but I was beside myself with worry – would they be in the same class as their friends, would they get a good teacher? I insisted my husband go along and support the eldest while I supported the youngest. Noise levels in the playground were so high, I couldn’t even hear the teacher on the megaphone calling out kids’ names. I just stood on a picnic bench and craned my neck over the heads of hundreds of nervous parents. Just to really gee me up, they allocated the kids to their classes in alphabetical order.
My youngest was one of the last to be called, as her last name starts with a “W”. I watched her various classmates skip off with their new teachers while she remained crouched on the asphalt. My heart was in my mouth. I saw the last of her friends herded into Mrs W’s class. The class seemed awfully big, too big to support the addition of my little one. Around me, children were sobbing as their mothers tried desperately to comfort them. Angry toddlers were screaming that they wanted to GO, they were BORED. It was horrible. Finally, my daughter sprang to her feet and joined her friends. She clutched her desired classmate – The Blonde One Who Looks Freakishly Like Her – and grinned at me, pointing excitedly.
Afterwards, all the mums adjourned to the coffee shop across the street. The noise levels remained megaphone-required high while everyone compared classes and teachers and friends and slights and incomprehensible moves. And all the toddlers screamed that they were STILL BORED. It freaked me out. I just wanted some peace and a Diet Coke, but a friend took me by the hand and said I couldn’t, because yesterday was the day I said I’d stop doing all the bad stuff. The chemical-ladened drinks, the carbs, the sneaky chocolate. So I went for a walk instead.
When I finally got home it was 11.30am, only three hours before I had to turn around and deal with it all over again. I savoured the silence for a few moments, before realising the wind had blown the chook shed’s door open and the fluffy buggers were kicking every single wood chip from our garden onto the concrete. So I chased them about for a bit. Then I made some Bill Granger berry muffins.
And my nerves finally calmed.
This year, the first-day-back anxiety has fallen back on my husband’s shoulders. Because I’ve chosen today as first day of my new job. And you know what, I’m relieved. I can’t wait to hear how the kids’ days went, but I’m glad I wasn’t among the fray.
I don’t think our mums stood around in the playground worrying about what teacher we’d get when we were kids. Did they? And I suspect the school principals might have preferred it to stay that way.
Are your kids looking forward to their first day back? Do things get a bit out of control among the parents at your school?