How did your kids cope with starting school for the first time? Perhaps my story is typical…

So here we are yesterday, man and boy, father and son, enjoying each other’s company for the last time in two months. My youngest boy has hardly been away from my side since the start of the school holidays. But now both he and I were looking forward to him starting Reception today.

It was going to be a very routine affair. He loved nursery, virtually skipped to it each day, and as his nursery classmates would now be his new Reception classmates, I thought it would be a very straightforward transition: Drop & Go.

But just when you think you know your kids like the back of your hand, they go and do something that completely discombobulates you. And as I type I am in a maelstrom of discombobulation.

The morning started well enough. All three kids were up, washed, breakfasted and dressed in about 15 minutes. Good going. So far so good.

My wife then took the eldest up to her school and then came back because she wanted to see her youngest start Reception for the first time. We’d gone through this when the youngest started nursery in January. Then, he wandered in, started playing with some toys, and waved us goodbye. Out of our three kids, it was the easiest home-to-school transformation we’d had. And so the four of us – me, my wife, our six-year-old and four-year-old boys – all walked to school together, hand in hand, like a scene from The Little House On The Prairie.

And that’s where this little blissful picture of familial harmony shatters. Because the moment we appraoched the youngest’s new clasroom door, he went into meltdown. He clung to his mother like a mussel to a rope. Every time she tried to prise him off, he’d latch back on again. He wasn’t crying, but he was trying to bury his head as far inside her coat as was possible without turning into a mole.

I looked at my wife’s pained expression. What shall we do? our eyes said to each other.

‘He’s milking it,’ I said. ‘He knows you’re a soft touch so he’s making you feel guilty. Leaave him to me. He’ll be fine.’

And so confident was I in that assertion – and so confident was my wife in my confidence – that she reluctantly agreed to leave and get the bus to work. I took my son in my arms and whsipered in his ear: ‘It’s time to start school now, son.’

He starting howling and crying like a little lost puppy. ‘Want go home, Daddy. Want go home.’

‘No, Sam, it’s school day today. You stay here.’

‘No, Daddy. Nooooo.’

By now, his new classmates were curious and gathered around. His new teacher offered to take him from me. Other parents raised their eyebrows in empathetic pity (whilst secretly thinking, I’m sure: ‘I’m glad mine’s not like that.’). The school cook even came over and told Sam it was fish and chips for lunch. All to no avail.

‘Want go home, Daddy. Waqnt go home.’

He was so traumatised, I decided it would be better to take him outside for a sit down and a chat on a bench. Snot was pouring from his nose and great big fat tears plopped from his eyes.

‘Love you, Daddy. Love you. Want go home.’

And that got ME started! My eyes filled up and I could feel the prickle of salty tears creeping down my face.

‘Can’t go home, son. It’s school time,’ I whispered, when all I wanted to do was to bolt out of the gates with my boy under my wing and have him playing at my feet as I wrote a different kind of post, about cooking or ironing.

‘Want go home, Daddy. Want go home.’

Now the Head Teacher was at my shoulder.

‘Everything OK, mate?’ he asked (he’s a Kiwi).

‘Yeah, fine. Just a blip. He’ll be OK,’ I replied.

But I wasn’t sure. And then eventually, after 45 minutes of this, the penny dropped. School wasn’t the problem – I was. My son and I had become so close over these paqst two months that he knew how to push every button in my emotions.

‘I’m doing more harm than good here,’ I thought to myself.

And so I carried him back into the classroom, and heaved him into the arms of the assistant.

‘Should I just leave him?’ I asked, seeking assurance.

‘Yes. Go. He’ll be fine. Five minutes after you leave, he’ll be loving it.’

As I walked towards the door, my son pierced the air with a heart-wrenching screech of: ‘Daddddddddeeeeeeeeeeee!’

But I didn’t look back. I closed the door behind me. And then stood there, listening to his screams of protest and sobs of despair. But I didn’t go back in. I just waited. Trusted. Knew he couldn’t keep it up forever.

And then his sobs started to be replaced by the laughter of his classmates. I peeked inside – just an eyeball, to make sure he couldn’t see me – and he was laughing too.

Little fucker.






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16 Responses to How did your kids cope with starting school for the first time? Perhaps my story is typical…

  1. Julie Copland


  2. Oh they do wring us out don’t they! You stress and worry and while you’re doing that they havegot over whatever it was and moved on while you’re still a wreck.
    Glad mine weren’t like that…
    But we have all been there one way or another. My twin girls started school this year. One of them kept telling me she had no friends, and this went on for so long I started to get worried. Finally I asked my husband (who starts work later than me and usually does the drop-off) to hang back and sneak a peek. And there she was, surrounded by kids calling her name and grabbing her hand and she smiling and talking and having fun like it was the most natural thing in the world.

    • keithkendrick

      That’s the scenario with our youngest (I hope) but I might wander past the school a little later and see how he’s getting on. x

  3. Oh great Keith! I’m a blubbering mess! My ‘baby’ starts next year. I actually got a little teary earlier today thinking about it and now I go and read your post! Just great! I hope little Sam had a good day after all (and I hope Dad had a good day too and got all that ironing done! LOL)

    Thanks too Keith for your kind words on my sausages and mushrooms. Honestly, it wasn’t that hard. I don’t know about being a professional. Professional eater maybe! LOL

    Anne @ Domesblissity xx

  4. I cried as I read this post. DD started nursery last September and on the first day I stood outside blubbering long after she had settled down and was playing happily inside. Thankfully this year was a return to the same nursery after only a 3-week holiday. So I hope you don’t mind me blubbering for your son instead :)

  5. Blimey I must be hormonal as that made me cry as well! My girls don’t start for another week. They’re chomping at the bit to go to school with their sister. We’ll see how it pans out!

  6. Keith – its SO hard – this is the stuff that blindsides you… I dropped Emma off with the childminder this week and she was inconsolable and I had to so the same as you, the more time they spend with you the harder it seems to be. i didnt have this with my elder 2, they were both nursery kids and used to mummy saying bye at the door but I dont envy you, he might do it again you know but now you will know how to tackle it, with love, firmness and simplicity, just keep doing it the same way x

  7. Jude.x

    Oh Yeah! Been there, done that too. And then you had me rolling around the sofa with your last sentence! I love that you are brave enough to put into words what the rest of us are thinking. Thanks. Jude.x

  8. That last line almost made me spit my drink out! I’m pregnant with number 1 so have no experience of this…but will try to remember the ditch and run approach. Hope day 2 goes much more smoothly.

  9. I so feel your pain! Was the same with my daughter,but within 2 minutes she’d would be right as rain! They are manipulative little fuckers!!Hehehe

  10. Absolutely flipping sobbing here mister! I’m a teacher and am therefore dreading The Boy’s first day at school in a few years. I need to start getting him into a playgroup soon in preparation for nursery next September, but I don’t want to. I’m going to sob!

  11. Ohh bless, what a day! One of mie used to do this every day at Nursery. She even bolted about 1/3rd of a mile one day out of school with me chasing her!

    I hope next week is much easier. Mich x

  12. you got me going here too! Tears were rolling down my face on Wednesday when the kids started back at school – it wasn’t mine that I was crying for, it was seeing the 2 poor Mums leaving school with their eyes all puffed & red & then going into pre-school and listening to 4 wailing little ones, it wasn’t a great start to the day, I craved wine at 9am!

    I hope you all have a better week next week

  13. Oh they certainly know how to tug at the heart strings don’t they… In a few weeks he will be loving it…

  14. Oh dear. I’ve had a similar experience this week. Middle boy skipped into school the first day and I left after 30 seconds with a smug smile on my face. The rest of the week has been tears and heartbreak. Little feckers indeed.

  15. Aww, it’s so hard on parents isn’t it? I would have had this even further back – and long – ago when my son started at the creche. But you know what worried me even more? Looking at that picture and knowing what would happen if the small boy knocked over the pint of beer….