We have three and a half weeks to go until my daughter and her 11 year old friends are unleashed on the world of secondary school with all its getting lost in corridors, being in trouble for forgetting your PE kit, having to get up at the crack of dawn, so much homework we need an app apparently, mayhem. Quite a lot of change to get your head around.
Of course we should have started thinking about independence earlier really in readiness. I did do her a chart which listed things she needed to be able to do before September. She readily embraced the challenge of making a sandwich and sending emails with attachments, less so loading the dishwasher and drying her own hair but it was a start.
It’s quite hard to give opportunities for independence in our circumstances, the first of which is that we live directly behind the junior school she’s attended since she was 5 and that her sister also goes to. It was pretty pointless telling her to walk to school on her own since the journey takes 90 seconds and I was always ten feet behind with her sister in tow.
And then there is the enthusiasm. I walked down to Tesco with her a few months ago, explaining how she could do this walk and go and buy me a pint of milk. The road crossings are straightforward, she knows how to count change. Her answer? “But why would I want to”. Clearly we have distance to travel in the independence department.
Today, with three weeks to go, I thought it would be a good idea to put her and her friend on a bus, follow it, then pick them up at their new school. Firstly I had to placate my nine year old (who actually wanted to travel independently) by bribing her with the front seat, sweets and her choice of tunes on the CD player.
We waited at the bus stop. I explained key points like:
- You have to stick your arm out but not wave it up and down like a lunatic
- That (as we waited twenty minutes instead of ten) buses are often late
- That bus drivers can be a little grumpy.
The bus eventually turned up. The two girls got on and my daughter said politely “Can I go to (insert name of new school here) please?” The bus driver looked at her like she was bonkers. She said it again a little more uncertainly this time. He grunted and took her 80p pointing at the ticket machine. I explained afterwards that he may have responded better if she’d been less polite. Seriously, now I have to undo all my good sodding parenting work.
The bus left and I couldn’t see them on it which was disconcerting, but it must have been an illusion because they did actually turn up at the school gates – hooray! Apparently they had been the only people on the bus. They will just have to learn to cope with the hoards of children and prolific swearing another time.
I’m frightened of course: that she will get run over (concentrating on the immediate world around her doesn’t seem to be a priority); that she’ll get lost or that she will lose her phone and her ability to use common sense at the same time. But she has to get on with it I suppose. I might get her to watch Charlie’s Angels but before that I have a letter she can go and post…