Tiny grown-up girl, wrapped up in swathes of burgundy, you smile out, from deep inside. Oblivious to the over-size, just happy to finally be there. It’s a hand-me-down from your big sister, but you don’t mind. You’ve waited two long years to follow in her foot-steps; to follow in her uniform. Your smile – your face, your excitement – when I said “let’s try it on” – the slight shake as you picked up the skirt, and asked “Really? Do I really get to wear this now?”
Everything – socks, shoes, bag on back. Then a photo-shoot, your camera smile perfected. Pride from every pore. No nerves, no worries, no fear.
Two years ago, as we counted down to our very first first-day, I worried quietly. And your sister worried – not so quietly. Excited but anxious in equal measure. She put on a brave face that first morning, and so did I. We brought her to her class-room, and found her seat – her name already in place. Then following the strict instructions we’d all been given, I stoically held back my tears, until I had walked back out of the class-room. I cried because I was anxious for her – afraid she’d be lonely or lost; certain she’d be unsure and shy.
But with you, I have no such fears – maybe because we’ve done it all before. Or maybe because you’ve had two years of pre-school, with two different classes, and taken it all in your skipping stride. Maybe it’s because you’re a different little girl – quicker to join, less afraid, not shy.
And maybe I’m wrong – maybe I will worry about leaving you in your class-room, but right now, I don’t think so. Right now, I’m selfish – all I can think about is me. How will I manage without you? How have five years passed so quickly? Who will chat to me on the way home from the school-run? Who will help me in the shops? Who will ask me wise questions? Who will give me smart answers?
In time, your little brother will surely fill that void, but now, all I can think is “it’s over”. It will never be you again – this time we’ve had is gone forever. You’re excitedly rushing into the school-system, blissfully unaware that that’s it – you’re there for the next fifteen years; there’s no going back.
There’s never any going back, and that’s why I’ll have a quiet cry – maybe not in the corridor outside the class-room, maybe not even on the day you start. Maybe right now as I look at you dancing and smiling in your not-new uniform. But quietly, around the corner.
To see how the first day will probably go in our house, with my anxious first-classer and my excited junior-infant, you might like to read this article I wrote for eumom: Two little-school-girls