Well as I write, it is the first day back to school and my facebook newsfeed is teeming with pictures of various children, nervous parents, kids in oversized uniforms freshly pressed and others straight out of the packing on their first day at school.
Going back to school bringing a new term for the returning child also brings new routines for parents that mark the various passages in a child’s life, first day at school, Junior school, ‘Big School’, College and University.
This year is bitter-sweet for me, as I didn’t get to see my Boys on the first day of term. Since my eldest started school I have done the school runs. Walking to infant school, early car trips at 6am, the frantic dash back home for the forgotten book or lunch. Those precious moments of father son conversations on diverse subjects from school projects, being worried about a spelling test, the various merits of choices for school lunch, how big is infinity and what happens if we add one to it?
But I’m in the middle of a divorce and my wife has changed her work hours so she can take the boys to school every day. She says she doesn’t ‘need’ my help (regardless of what the children may want or not) and that means a trip to the solicitor’s, to ensure I get to do something I have always done. It really is the little things that mean a lot and those are often the things people make issues over. It is the involvement of dads in the mundane bits of daily life, that I feel are as, if not more, important than the trips out, holidays and cool stuff.
Being a dad is organic: your skills grow as your kids do, and as they grow things change – the scared child on their first day of school becomes the 10 year old who doesn’t want dropping at the gates by Mum or Dad, the 9 year old who wants to walk to school with their mates and the first trip to school on the bus are all milestones. Some we recognise, others pass by without us even noticing, some we have negotiated with our kids, others happen because of the school location or the child has insisted on it, some we agree to and others we feel are forced on us.
Society often assumes children and getting them to school are maternal roles, being the only dad in the playground on many occasions would support this, but I now see dads on drop-offs and pick-ups all the time. Dads who are suited and booted with various “I am Important ” ID badges around there necks, those trying to go for the trendy dad look, or those who you know are off to the office but won’t put their ties on until their children are at school. All very different but have one thing in common: children who are proud that their dad is taking them to school. They may not say it but they are really glad you are there.
So every dad this week is feeling something different, some are willingly stepping back and supporting …. because that is what their partner needs them to do and don’t forget it is just as hard or harder for your partner, as it is a significant step for your child. Some, like me, feel they are being deprived of a rite; others are willing to take a back seat.
However always remember these milestones may bring tears and joy but they are also markers of a child growing up, enjoy them, revel in them and don’t forget to post the picture on facebook. Take a moment to gloat or show off as it is a time of change and a time all dads can be proud of what they have done in helping their children on the journey.