The date was marked on the calendar yonks ago, asterisked and underlined, with a " crying not permitted" reminder. And now, after months of anticipation, the waiting game was over. My twins Claire and Oliver were starting "big" school.
The catalyst for their excitement, it must be said, was not me, but a fictitious pair of boy/girl twins in a series of children's books. Topsy and Tim Start School and New Lunchboxes were firm favourites at bedtime. They made this life-change thingy look like such innocent fun that, hell, even I wanted to turn back the clock 30 years! With pretty pictures on the coat pegs, fabulous toys in the classroom, and dinner served by two jolly ladies called Miss Knitting and Mrs Pie, the concept was irresistible. Claire and Oliver were banging on the front door, desperate for me to open it so we could hurry up and get there.
They might have been prepared, but I was not. As we ambled down the road, I looked at my four-year-old beauties. So little were they that their school bags were dragging on the pavement. Their faces were bright with expectation. I felt a small pocket of nausea in my chest blow up to the size of a melon and forced myself to be cheery.
"This is so exciting," I said, through a dry mouth. "We're going to big school, we're going to big school," they chanted, adding a hop to their step.
We entered the busy playground, and I felt Claire cling on to me a little tighter. Oliver stood behind and wrapped his arms around my thigh. I crouched, hugging them. "Look," I pointed in the direction of the teacher who was waiting to greet them. "There's Miss Perry. Shall we go and say hello?"
No sooner had we crossed the threshold than Oliver had abandoned his sister for the train set. My daughter looked frightened.
"Can I have five kisses and a hug Mummy?"
Deed done, Claire still wasn't ready.
"Five more kisses."
Claire showed no sign of wanting to let go, so I stood up. My gaze met a knowing Miss Perry, who led my daughter to the Wendy house. And that was it. No tears, no tantrums, 8.50am and the twins were off my hands. As I walked towards the exit a tear plopped out. Another mum stopped and laid a sympathetic hand on my arm.
"I'm not crying," I said. I pawed at an imaginary eyelash that had breached the dam.
"It's OK to cry," she reassured me.
I insisted that I wasn't crying, and headed home. The hours ticked by uneventfully and all too soon it was 3.30pm. Back at school Claire and Oliver were clearly visible through the window, lining up with the rest of the class. Ding-a-ling! The twins ran to meet me, each handing over a soggy "My First Day at School" collage, with an artistic disarray of dried pasta and fluffy feathers.
"Mummy, I like this school much better than our nursery," chirped Claire.
"That's wonderful," I said.
"Mummy," said Oliver, "when's our next holiday?"Reuse content