No More Plimsolls

I have a new job.

And I’m not sure I’m ready.

I’ve known this first day has been on the horizon for weeks but now it’s here I’m not entirely sure I’m ready.

Tomorrow, I start a new job, after seven years in the same role.

Tomorrow, I start as the parent of a secondary school child.

For the last seven years, we’ve walked together up the same hill, along the same route, chatting about phonics, playtime, SATs and sports day. We’ve navigated all manner of firsts, hand in hand, book bag swinging against little legs and shiny shoes.

We started off just three of us, baby sister in the buggy and little fingers gripping the buggy handle as we crossed the road.

Then there were four of us. Little sister toddling alongside us and baby brother now peering out of the pram.

Then all three were suddenly all uniformed and walking together, chatting happily along the familiar route and juggling multiple PE bags, lunchboxes, and cardboard models, picking blackberries out of the hedge along the way. There’s the kerb mummy slipped on when it was icy. There’s the allotment the eldest fell in when she was running too fast again; that’s the hedge the tiny middle one was blown into when it was such a windy day. That route has taken us to nativities, parents’ evenings, music concerts, tentative first days, and exciting school trip days. We’ve walked along it in costumes for dress up days; wrapped in snowsuits in blizzards; and sunhats in heatwaves. We’ve chatted about lunches and laughter, Vikings and Romans, artists and cartwheels, and sometimes just walked quietly, listening to the gravel underneath our feet.

But tomorrow we’re back to just two in uniform with me up that hill. One is going off on her own. No more picking blackberries and climbing the gate to sit and swing. She has a new phone, a lanyard, a kids’ debit card, and no more plaits and plimsolls.

I only had to buy two sets of plimsolls this year.

You need a lot of stuff at secondary but you don’t need plimsolls.

She’s ready. She’s more than ready. But I’m not sure I am, and, judging by the familiar parents’ WhatsApp group, neither are many of my new Y7 parent cohort.

We’re a little lost and we’re trying our best. We want to get it all right and off on the right foot so we’ve been to the open evenings, tried not to mess up the uniform buying, sorted the pre-paid lunch system, and pinned the contacts form to the kitchen noticeboard. But it’s all new to us. We’re used to knowing the familiar faces of the primary staff on the playground, the rhythm and routine of the primary school year; we’re used to it not being an issue if the PE top isn’t exactly the right shape or colour, and we’re used to knowing the familiar names of the friends and families of the primary peer group. We can picture exactly who our children are talking about and now there are hundreds of other children and dozens of other teachers, many just referred to as Miss or Sir. We’re directed to the website for most of our queries and the, “leave it with me; I’ll sort it out” of primary has been replaced by an efficient homepage.

So, I’m not sure if I’m ready. My new Y7 is ready. She’s excited and raring to go. Her new shoes are in the porch ready, and her blazer and tie hung up on her wardrobe door for the morning.

But when she goes tomorrow, she goes alone. And she’ll no doubt have the time of her life. But as she’s busy learning so much, there’ll be a whole raft of new Y7 parents trying to adjust to the brave new world of secondary. And I know I don’t speak for us all when I say this but we’re probably going to get lots wrong. And we’re probably going to ask some daft questions. And we’re probably going to feel a bit lost that our new Y7s are now so independent. We’ve just spent 7 years in one family and now we’re moving into another. We’ve got to try and get used to how things are done and try not to embarrass our Y7s along the way who now don’t want to hold our hand and pick blackberries on their way to school.

And I have every confidence that I’m handing her over to have the greatest of adventures. She’ll set off on her first day tomorrow, ponytail swinging and too big blazer cuffing her knuckles but hopefully she’ll leave in another 7 years clutching pieces of paper which’ll open doors to the rest of her life. I hope she meets teachers who make her fall in love with their subjects. Who make her think and dream and want to get lost in all they know. I hope they open her eyes to the subjects they love and make her wonder, starry eyed at what each subject has to offer. My expertise has ended now. I’m kinda done. It’s up to others now to carry her forward and make her want to skip to school and run there as fast as she did when she was little.

So, I start my new job tomorrow.

No longer the expert.

I’m a rookie again.

My new job as a Y7 parent.

And I’m not sure I’m ready, even if I didn’t have to buy plimsolls this year.

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