Tomorrow I get up and do not mooch around the kitchen with coffee playing online scrabble with my mother. I will not be slowly slowly getting things moving so that at 10ish we are finally ready to face the World Outside. No Facebook checking, no leisurely shower, no trying on two or three outfits, and maybe no Benefit Benetint blusher. No. Tomorrow is the first day of school. We have never done this before, and we all fear it. Barnaby fears the school lunches. Noah fears the lack of cartoon-watching. Custard – well, he is maybe the only one truly untroubled here, as his cares only extend to the whereabouts of his whiffy blue blanket and if he can lean out precariously far enough out of the pushchair to touch the wheels as we stride along. I am fearful of all this:
1. Will Barnaby be scared and cry when we turn back towards home without him?
2. Will the lack of nametags sewed onto the collar of his many polyester shirts make the teachers think I am a bit of a domestic slattern who doesn’t read the school rules like a caring parent?
3. Will Barnaby eat his carefully packed lunch or go the strange English school dinners-way? Will anyone bother to tell me, or will I just one day notice his ribs sticking out and his belly all swollen and starving?
4. What if Barnaby needs someone to check his bottom has been wiped ok? Will he reach the loo paper roll?
5. Does every kid’s school trousers sit so high they brush the nipples?
6. Will his lunchbox mark him out as cool/weird/hopelessly out of touch with everyone else?
7. Will he freak out when he realises that school is not just about playing pirate games and constructing castles with Lego?
8. Should I have given him a name with three letters, like “Ben” so he could spell it and write it when he arrived at school instead of lumbering him with a cruel SEVEN letters?
9. Will he recognise me when I pick him up tomorrow?
10. Will I actually adore not having him here all day making the others squeal/putting them in headlocks/hiding their blankets/calling them “poo”? (I suspect this may be the case, ashamed as I am to voice it.)
He used to look like this:
But now he is a big school boy. And I have to leave the house at 8:05am with Noah and Custard strapped into the festering wobbly pushchair and Barnaby reluctantly scootering beside me, to walk under the Westway, breathing shallowly to avoid the toxic fumes, to get to Penfold Street in time to deliver him into the care of Miss Leach. And turn around and leave him there and go home without him. Until 4pm, that is.