To our biggest boy the night before your first day at school

TOMORROW you start school. It’s a day that’s seemed so far away, and yet it’s here already. And I don’t know how to feel.

I want to be excited for you, and I think I am. Kind of. You’ve been looking forward to this since we visited your school a few months ago and you got to look around all the classrooms. You’ve remembered your teacher’s name since that evening, and asked me if I have a photo of her for you to see. You were excited to choose your school trousers and pick up your polo shirts from the shop (where both times you insisted on using the staff toilets for a wee), and couldn’t quite believe it when you spotted someone in Cardiff with the same soldier rucksack as we’d bought you.

You’ve tried your uniform on, with your untameable hair hanging over your collar and your little face lit up with smiles as you pulled silly faces for me to take a photo. You instantly looked older, but still so young and baby-faced with your too-big shoes and sweatshirt sleeves covering your hands. Trying it on for the first time was such a big deal. It’s hard to imagine that in a few short weeks it will become normal to see you wearing it. That your t-shirts will have been through the wash after each wear, and the name tags I’ve painstakingly, but badly, sewn on will be starting to come loose and I’ll curse myself for not just buying iron-on labels.

We’ve filled in your workbook, stuck your photo on the front and attempted to write your name and copy the numbers 1-5. Where you were asked to draw a picture you scrawled a Father Christmas and sprinkled it with glitter because you don’t do things by halves, unaware of my worries about these expectations on a three-year-old.

Yesterday we were playing school. Tomorrow you’ll be going to school.

It feels so young for you to be sucked into the education system. To not be able to go on spontaneous days out or pick you up early as a surprise. To have to plan childcare around school, to consider if we can book a holiday during term time or if we should pay hiked up prices so you don’t miss out, and for there to be so much structure. Just one more year would be nice.

I’m worried that you won’t understand what’s going on. You’re very bright, but we’ve made the decision to send you to a Welsh language school which will hopefully be a big benefit when you’re a bit older. Maybe you’ll understand more than we expect, and that more Welsh has been spoken in nursery than we realise. Hopefully. But there’s the worry that you’ll struggle. Maybe you’ll act up because you don’t understand your teacher or the children who speak Welsh at home. But when you come home with new Welsh words we’ll be so, so proud of you.

I’m worried that you won’t listen even when you do understand. You can be very stubborn, especially when you think you’re right, and have a clever way of getting around things. Like when you try to tell us that you were allowed to walk off the path at the wetlands because the sign said “keep off the grass” and you were on the mud.  I don’t know how well that sort of logic will go down in school. Please don’t try to tell your teacher she’s wrong. I’m pretty sure that won’t go down well.

Maybe I’m making too big a deal out of it. Probably. But I can’t help myself.

I know that a lot of this is down to guilt. Guilt that I’ll be in work at drop-off and pick-up time. That I won’t be a school gate mother. I won’t be on the PTA, and I’ll probably be rushing in late to concerts and sports days from work. We’ll be relying on family and nursery to take you to school and collect you at first. Then you’ll be in breakfast club and after school club a few days a week. I’m sorry. It’s not how we intended life to be, but at the moment that’s how it has to be.

Of course we could have kept you at nursery for a few months more as school isn’t actually compulsory yet, but you’re ready for it. You;re more ready than I am. You’ll be fine, I’m sure you will. You made friends in nursery no problem. You’re happy to talk to anyone and get on well with other children. You’re excited about school, and that’s the main thing. It’s me that needs to man up.

So tomorrow we’ll get you dressed in your new uniform, pack your new bag and drop you off with your new teacher to make new friends. And I’ll try to,hold back my tears at least until I get back in the car.

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