**This is the first chapter of the story of Megan, a newbie mum trying to survive the school playground**
“Would anyone say “hello”? “Would anyone smile?”; “Would anyone extend a hand?”; “Would anyone care?”; “Would anyone notice?”
I’m sure these are legitimate fears most new-ish Primary school mums have when registering their first born for Year One.
Okay, okay, when I asked the Principal those questions during enrolment, it was 5% about my child and 95% about me, being the new mum in school.
These fears have consumed me since we registered Ethan for primary school the week before. We had dragged the two children on so many boring mundane errands that they were actually thrilled when we told them that they would be starting Year 1 and Kindy the following week.
They had fun picking out school bags and stationery while Sean and I had our fun picking out job prospects and permanent housing. But I knew jobs and housing would be a cinch compared to Year 1, the big school. I had never thought starting Primary school could be so scary. I was having hot flushes and cold perspiration, just thinking of my child entering those big doors. With most things sorted except a job and a home, Year 1 had suddenly crept up on us. I was getting teary just packing his lunch bag at 7.14am.
“Saannnnddwwiccc…..orr…..biscccuuiiiitss….” I was wailing.
“Get a grip!” Sean barked.
“But…but…,” I moaned, “He’ll be alone…he’ll have no one to play with…he’ll…”
“Nobody will die,” he snapped as he continued looking at the job ads and more job ads. He had as much compassion as a potato. My son, on the other hand, who has playing with Mr Potato looked so grown up in the spanking new size 6 uniform.
“Ethan, how do you feel about your first day of school?” I asked.
“Fun,” he replied without even looking up.
“Yes, but how do you feel?”
“Fun,” he replied again without looking up at the woman who had given him life.
“FUN!” He said loudly as he continued playing with Mr Potato Head.
Sean then rolled his eyes at me, as if he was saying “I told you so…”
I knew Ethan was VERY excited about playing in the big playground and going to the canteen to buy snacks and drinks. He was even more excited about his new uniform, his new bag and his new drink bottle. My husband then rolled his eyes a second time and I decided to fix a smile to my face. My annoying always-right spouse was right AGAIN. I should be happy and excited for my little boy since he was obviously “fine” about starting school.
I then looked at the lunch bag again – Packed lunch? I knew as much about packing school lunches as I did about building the Lego Death Star.
I knew how to choose assessment books, tuition centres or textbooks but a school lunch was the most foreign concept to me ever since we arrived in Australia. Brought up on the concept of a school canteen and bought school lunches, I was at as much at a loss as to what lunch bag to choose, let alone what to pack inside it.
So I did what I usually did in a situation like this – wing it. I looked in the fridge and pantry and put together a six course meal, worthy of being mentioned in Women’s Weekly.
One frozen ham and cheese sandwich, two jam pikelets (nothing pikey about it, more pancakey), a packet of rice crackers, a packet of veggie chips, an apple, a banana, a pot of frozen yogurt and some chocolate biscuits. I’m sure he’ll still be hungry but there was only so much space in those lunch bags.
Must buy bigger bag, I thought.
At 738am while my son was having his Monday breakfast of peanut butter toast and milk, I checked and rechecked his school bag fifty times, to make sure that he would have everything he would need to survive for the next 6 hours without Mummy.
After all, this would be the first time, he would be in the big school. He would not be in the protected enclave anymore, no more barbed wire enclosure which gave me peace of mind for 6 hours, no more maternal nurturing protectiveness of his Preschool Teachers who not only knew his name but also knew how to hug him right or say the right words to him. He would be in the big world of Primary School for the first time, without me, or his wonderful Pre-primary teacher for the next 6 hours.
After checking his bag for the fiftieth first time, Sean shook his head and I looked up and realized that we were a minute behind schedule for putting on shoes. I literally dragged both kids to the front door and hurried them to put on their shoes.
“Make two balloons, one goes around the other and through the loop,” I said gently at 816am.
At 818am, I was going”twoballoonsgoesroundthroughtheloop, oh, here I’ll do it for you!”
At 820am, right on the dot, we were all out of the house and I knew that we would reach there at 830 if we kept a steady pace. We needed plenty of time for settling in and calming nerves.
My nerves, mostly.
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