Who here knows the absolute chaos of the first day of school? For those of you who have done it more than once – respect! For those who have yet to experience this joyous occasion, let me give you a taste of what to expect.
As first-time parents, we had no clue what the first day of school would be like. I mean, we obviously knew it would be hard to say goodbye, there would be tears, etc, etc. But we weren’t worried about it.
So, in the lead up to our daughter starting school, we were mostly excited, a little apprehensive and absolutely looking forward to having some time to be people first and parents second.
How foolish of us! We grew up in one of the most dangerous cities in the world, have moved countries and continents multiple times, and have dealt with family emergencies spanning oceans and time zones, but never in my life have I experienced chaos on this scale.
Oh, by the way, my child is only 14 months old, so this should have been pretty plain sailing. She’s walking and has a wonderfully spicy demeanour, but she can’t talk back, can’t outrun us, and hasn't learnt the art of faking sickness. First day of school – easy peasy lemon squeezy.
We all went to bed on Sunday night with a pep in our step, anxiously anticipating this wonderful new chapter for our daughter and ourselves.
Did she sleep that night? Hell no. She had started coughing and had a blocked nose. Pain relief medication wasn’t helping, and all she wanted to do was sleep in the bed with us. Usually, I wouldn't have a problem with that, but it was so oppressively hot and humid.
Babies are little furnaces, and sleeping next to one can be hot and sticky at the best of times. Throw in gross humidity and a rogue mosquito, and nobody is having a great time.
We woke up on Monday morning bleary-eyed and frazzle-tailed. She was still coughing and spluttering all over the place and had two candlesticks coming out of her nose.
I stumbled over to our medicine cupboard and fumbled around before finally turning on a light. Cue my absolute horror and panic when I realised that there was just an empty box! Obviously, in the age of the C-word, we had to do a RAT to make sure that she didn't have covid.
So, in a world of short supply, long queues and price-gouging, I jumped into my car and necked it over to the closest chemist to see what I could get my hands on. As I pulled into the parking lot, I saw the longest queue of people snaking out of the chemist, along the wall of the parking lot, and out onto the pavement – THEY HAD RATS!
My relief was short-lived, though. As I joined the queue, I happened to look down and realised I was still in my slippers. Not just any plain old slippers. They were my huge, iridescent unicorn slippers with the obnoxious gold horn and big googly eyes. Hard to miss and an absolute eye-sore.
I stood in line for over an hour, head held high for appearance sake, and managed to get one of the last boxes of RAT tests, all the while enduring strange looks and muttered comments – so not a wasted trip, just an embarrassing and humiliating one.
Babies are like wily coyotes with eight arms that can wiggle out of anything. Getting them to sit still is impossible. I pulled up into my garage and steeled myself for the epic meltdown that would ensue as soon as I tried to put a swab anywhere near her nose.
My biggest fear is braining her with a glorified cotton bud to ensure she's not a walking contagion.
Through lots of tears and screaming, cajoling, and a tiny bit of necessary restraint, we managed to get a swab almost an hour and a half later. Phew! It was a negative test result. Double Phew!
At this point, we were all so exhausted that we climbed back into bed and slept until Thursday. Not really, but almost. Thursday turned out to be her actual first day of school, and it was just as chaotic as Monday.
I forgot to label her clothes, couldn't find her nappy bag, and her shoes were either too big or too small – Mom of the Year over here. I hacked at her clothes with a permanent marker (not advisable – it bleeds and becomes illegible), threw a few nappies and some bum cream into a reusable bag and let her walk to school barefoot and happy as a pig in mud.
We arrived at daycare in a fluster, and as we took her into her classroom, realised that we had left her water bottle and comforter at home. My partner stayed with her while I raced home – thank goodness it's only a 5-minute walk – and we finally left her screaming and hysterical in the very capable hands of her new educators. Bless those people; they are exceptional humans.
All in all, not a good first day of school by anyone’s estimations. But, I’m comforting myself with the knowledge that she absolutely won't remember any of it, and we get a few do-overs as she grows up. Hopefully, we'll get it right by the time she starts high school!
After this exciting experience, here’s a little unsolicited advice from a Type A personality that got it all wrong and had a mild panic attack.
One: make sure you have RAT tests at home. Lots of them.
Two: ALWAYS check your feet before leaving the house.
Three: Get a name stamp and label all your child’s clothes. Even if they aren’t starting school soon, get into the habit now.
Four: Have more than one nappy bag, water bottle and comforter ready to go at all times.
Five: Stock up on shoes in your child’s size and one size up so that you’re never taken by surprise. Buckle My Shoe is a good place to start.
From one under-prepared, over-confident parent to another, good luck!