It’s 6am on the first day of the school year. The Pilgrim family stirs to life. Dawn has never been my time of day (and some of you will know why this is hugely ironic). My bleariness is made worse by having stayed up the night before to blog out my maternal angst.
The boys are not excited about breakfast. Porthos has already begun to fuss because he hates how the school shorts feel against his legs. I do a last-minute check on their school bags, then it’s into the truck as we head out to school.
We arrive with plenty of time to spare. In the back, Porthos has stopped whining about the shorts, and is now leaning half-awake against the window. The poor fellow looks tired. We park and help the boys with their bags. I’ve forgotten to adjust the straps on Porthos’ schoolbag and it hangs almost to his knees! As I fix his bag, I keep the conversation light and cheery, all the while praying hard for a smooth transition. Porthos, after all, was famous in kindergarten for crying through the first TEN WEEKS.
Walking towards the school gates, we see the friendly security guard who recognises us and says hello – or maybe he doesn’t and he’s just easing the re-entry stress. Athos, who is in Primary Two this year, says a steady goodbye and confidently strides off to the school hall. My baby doesn’t need me anymore, I think, allowing the thought to linger longer than is probably wise. How did he get so grown-up so quickly?
We navigate the maze of hallways and corridors and finally find Porthos’ class. A few kids and their parents are already there, and Porthos takes a seat in the second row. Outside the classroom, we see someone we know and start conversing. I steal a quick look back and, lo and behold, Porthos is smiling and chatting with the boy next to him. Having mentally braced myself for an epic struggle, I am taken aback. Looks like this baby doesn’t need me either, I think. We give Porthos a hug and tell him we’ll see him at recess.
Later on, the Primary Ones are brought to the school hall where they are matched with buddies from Primary Five who will show them the ropes. The parents peer in from the corridor, hoping to catch a glimpse of their little ones. Off to the side, I see the principal arranging chairs. It’s always nice to see authority figures engage in humble tasks. He pokes his head out to tell the parents to make way for the students and Pilgrim Dad and I retreat to the canteen.
When recess time rolls around, the canteen is a hive of activity. The children pour out from all corners as parents scramble to find them. Having done this once before, Pilgrim Dad and I have arranged to meet Porthos somewhere at the periphery. As we wait, we hear the principal’s voice exhorting parents to make room for the kids. We figure he’s not having much headway as his voice gets louder and louder. Finally he produces a megaphone, and we know he means business. We are not surprised when we hear him threaten to ban parents from the school altogether.
Porthos appears with a plate of chicken rice, a cup of Milo, and his buddy R. Pilgrim Dad and I struggle to contain our laughter – R is about twice Porthos’ height and heft, and looks like he could flatten Porthos if he sat on him. As Porthos eats his chicken rice and Milo, R watches over him like a bodyguard, bending over once to tell him, “10 minutes left.” The moment Porthos says “I’m full,” R grabs the plate and returns it. Porthos doesn’t even see it whisked away and asks, “Where is my chicken rice?” A most diligent buddy.
Time is up and R escorts Porthos back to class. We watch them as they leave, still tickled by the David-and-Goliath contrast.
Starting primary school the second time round is administratively easier, but emotionally, I’m just as much of a marshmallow as the first time round.
I’ve had four days to get used to having two boys in primary school. And just when my heart has about settled, we will cross another milestone tomorrow. Aramis will start pre-school.
Now excuse me while I mope in the corner….