If your first day at school is akin to getting into a bath, The Girl has been gently, gingerly one-toe-at-a-time carefully placed into a warm bubbly tub with dolphin taps and fluffy towels. I’ve met her kind, wise, down to earth teacher who asked me if she had any phobias, or particular likes or dislikes. The Girl goes to school for a few hours a day to get her used to it. Of course she’s having a ball. Drawing, painting, water splashing on tap! Friends with names like ‘Rocky’ and ‘Gabriel’ and ‘Tylen’! Really good food with carrots cut into sticks!
But walking into the playground brought back a load of memories for me; a not uncommon occurrence. Suddenly your sophisticated adult self is wearing clothes that are too big, sucking your thumb and clinging onto mum’s leg. The powerful feelings of fear, anxiety, desperation to fit in. My first day at school in comparison was like being thrown into a freezing bath. In fact my primary school did have an outdoor swimming pool which I later suspected was used by Scotland Yard for breaking the spirits of stubborn suspects. That pool was fucking ICY! And I learned to swim in it! You had no choice – it was either swim or calcify with cold and die. And for all this effort I received a small piece of white felt in Assembly. “Congratulations Jane, you’re still alive. Have some felt.”
Ah – the first day of school. For some reason my father dropped me off very early. I stood in this giant, empty playground feeling utterly abandoned. Now when I look at photos of the school, it seems very small. But then, age five, it loomed like some Gothic ghost house in Scooby Doo. Nervously I crept in, and stood in a long long corridor that smelled of sick and disinfectant. A very tall person suddenly appeared in front of me. It had droopy clothes and long grey hair, and resembled Gandalph in drag. “What are you doing?” he/she boomed. It was our Headmistress. “Go outside and play!” Terrified, I fled and hid behind the school bins.
Of course I survived and got used to it. But I remember feeling anxious most of the time; afraid of getting it wrong, being found out. It’s not good for a child to teeter in a state of anxiety. If you can’t mentally relax, you can’t think or play freely either. A lot of that may just have been how I was made. But I look at the way The Girl rushes into school and sees it as an adventure and it pleases me that her teacher wants to understand her little quirks and respect her individuality.