School, Little Elf, Change

Always different and always the same.

Four years ago, I had a turn at delivering dudelet to nursery. Supermum had actually taken him to his first day so by the time I walked him to school he’d already been ‘socialised’ into the norms of the nursery experience. Back then, parents could lead their children right into the large, awkwardly-shaped open-plan space with its 19th century hall.  Dudelet held on to my hand and showed me the hamster, the place where he put his bag, the sand tray and the funny-things-hanging-from-the-ceiling until the teacher clapped her hands and he toddled off obediently to sit on the carpet with his nearly-four-year old peers. He still sneaked me a quick “look-at-me” wave, though and a wide-eyed grin, amazed to be sitting there in the midst of a newly independent, mysterious world, at once circumscribed and vast.

I went outside, overwhelmed by the sense of gateways opening and closing and, to be honest, my own memories of more than forty years previously. It wasn’t the scent or taste of a madeline so much as the high angle of the ceiling and the low sticky-back plastic covered tables and…and…

Well, I cried a bit.

Little elf was different. Supermum and I took her together for her first day after we’d persuaded to put some clothes on (she’s very prone to naked protests). First we dropped dudelet off at the ‘big’ playground with the other Year Threes then  headed across the school to the nursery classrooms. Little elf showed me her hook with her name on but (different building, new head teacher, change in policy) I had to stop at the classroom door and watch her scamper off to join the other children on the assembly mat. She was already chatting and didn’t even look at me.

Earlier, she’d shared a few anxieties, mostly about lunch.

“I won’t be able to eat.”

“You’ll be able to choose something you like.”

“But how will they know?”

“You can tell them what you want to eat.”

“But what if I can’t tell them?”

“You can point.”


This time, I didn’t cry. I don’t know why. Perhaps we suspect there’s something more resilient about our daughter? Or perhaps we’ve just grown thicker skins? There are so many transitions, so may never-to-be-turned-back motions of the clock and we can’t cry about them all. There aren’t enough tears in the world.

About Dad Who Writes (Gabriel)

Writing, reading, listening, parenting... On Twitter as @dadwhowrites. View all posts by Dad Who Writes (Gabriel)

4 responses to “School, Little Elf, Change

  • AnneCamille

    “There aren’t enough tears in the world”. Lovely!

    I only have one child, so I only know by friends’ anecdotes that the experience with the second child is so different than the first. Can’t help but wonder if it is the child or the parent. So many never-to-be-turned back motions of the clock indeed!

    You should remember this post and show it to Dudelet and Little Elf on the occasion of their finishing their educations, or some similar gateway towards adulthood.

  • Achelois


    The littlest started school earlier this year. I didn’t cry either although I had cried so much with the first. I think we do grow thicker skins.

  • Selina Kingston

    Oh I don’t know. I’m still waiting for the crying to stop. I went to a university open day with my son and the thought of him leaving home next year to live there meant I had to pop into the loo for a few quick tears !

  • dickvandyke

    45 YEARS ON …

    MY 1st Day At School Feeling –

    It was early September 1966. England had just won the World Cup. We all lived in a Yellow Submarine. We’d had more than one Sunny Afternoon with The Kinks that summer. The industrial landscape was grey and the streets cobbled, but for me, the skies had been blue and our cheeks had red…

    […and the rest of this very long if evocative comment can be found on a number of other blog posts dating back more than six years as comments or as a bona fide blog entry in the case of Gabriel.]

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