It was easy to tell the first timers from the old hats.
The new parents shuffled in cautiously, unsure what to expect, their children’s school supplies tucked under their arm. Their eyes would scan the room, hoping for a familiar face. There wasn’t one. If they came with their partner they would move towards an empty table, and busy themselves reading handouts on developmental milestones and State frameworks, pretending that this wasn’t killing them inside, wondering how they were going to cope on Monday when they needed to say goodbye.
Us old hats blundered in like we owned the place, which we kinda did.
After the initial disbelief of being given directions by someone who was clearly completely new to the school (our lovely new teachers assistant it turns out) we pulled up chairs and rearranged the library, making space for old friends, laughing loudly at the exploits of our children over the holidays.
I remembered the whole time how it felt being one of the new mums, knowing no one, feeling in awe and slightly intimidated by some of the old hats, who clearly felt relaxed and knowledgeable in their role as school mums. I just remember feeling distinctly sweaty and out of control.
I looked around the room at the group of parents whose children would be attending Kindy with my youngest child. There was the young dad, asking questions about security and child/adult ratios, wondering whether kids would be able to scale the fence and escape before a teacher realised.
There was the older dad, who calmly told the younger guy not to worry so much, because the fence was electric. A ripple of nervous laughter spread throughout the room, until the smiling teacher reminded everyone that no – the fence was not electric.
There was the shy young aunty, sent in as a representative for parents who were obviously at work. She was clearly out of her depth and I felt for her as she smiled eagerly at every new face who approached her table.
Behind us the heavily pregnant woman, perhaps only weeks away from delivering. That was me four years ago, taking my eldest to full time school for the first time, while I was 100 months pregnant. I bumped bellies with a small lady also holding hands with a little girl. The girls eyed each other as I eyed the other mum. Her bump was so small, so tidy. She was looking at my sprawling mass.
‘It’s my third,’ I told her as though it would explain away my giganticism.
‘Me too,’ she said. I hated her immediately.
Tonight, she was sitting next to me as we swapped stories about our third children. I confessed I was nervous about Number Three’s offensive new habit of calling people ‘Buttface’ when she didn’t like what you were telling her. My friend was concerned about her son’s habit of pulling down his pants and weeing on everything.
We laughed as we imagined ourselves being called to the Principal’s Office to explain our children’s behaviour.
Meanwhile I could feel eyes on me. In awe, maybe. Intimidated, perhaps. Wishing we would shut up, quite likely. Awe and intimidation are only temporary until you get to know someone. Wishing they would shut up, I have been told, is permanent. As I looked around the room, I wondered if my new BFF was in the room. I wondered what experiences I would share with these mums and dads, which of their kids would become part of my daughter’s life.
This is the third and final time I will be doing this – taking my child to ‘the first day of school’. There is a luxury in doing things for the third time, a sense of familiarity and control. Even though the school might not be ready for Number Three and her potty mouth, I am ready for this final journey.
Bring on Monday.