30 years ago I started secondary school. For me that meant the purchase of a hockey stick and a wicker basket with a plastic elasticated cover, which makes me sound like I went to Mallory Towers. In fact it was a grammar school in a country town and a world away from where my daughter starts tomorrow.
As a consequence when she asks me questions about what it will be like I’m struggling to imagine. There was no such thing as streaming at my school. No vertical forms, thumb print activated lunch purchases, online homework setting or even any boys. There was also no such thing as being sent to isolation for forgetting your PE kit (and no such thing as isolation at all). We just had to borrow some scratchy blue PE knickers and get on with it.
I do remember being scared on my first day, but most of the children I knew were heading to the same school and I certainly didn’t have to negotiate a bus at the crack of dawn so it’s not really comparable.
Moving from a primary school at the end of the road with only 60 pupils per year to a big comprehensive is bound to be daunting. She has to negotiate a bus pass and there are no such things as coat pegs anymore so lugging things around is the norm. I guess however much we are both worried, by this time tomorrow she’ll have her feet firmly on the next step of her journey.
I’ve found today emotional. I welled up watching a Youtube clip of a man not being allowed to buy a coffee for a homeless person. I cried when I read an article about North Korea, and again when I looked through some old school books.
This is one of those rites of passage that you can never imagine when they are toddling about in nappies. It seems so grown up while at the same time not grown up at all. She isn’t exactly independent – we haven’t mastered melting cheddar onto a crumpet yet without throwing cheese at the wall. Food technology (I nearly wrote Home Economics then) could be a challenge.
I want to write her a note and put it in her lunch box, but I suspect that’s not cool. I’ll just have to spend all day wondering what she’s up to and hanging out with my youngest daughter who I still frequently refer to as the “little one”, despite the fact that she’s extremely tall and a lot more capable with a crumpet. I expect the hours will trickle by a bit.
So for all the parents and children facing this big change tomorrow, I’m sending my love. It’s trite to say they grow up so fast, but they really do, and I’m guessing things might accelerate from now on. Onwards and upwards (figuratively and literally).
To my eldest daughter, and all her 11 year old friends starting secondary this week, you rock.