Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Hand me the tissues - it's Kindergarten all over again

There are milestones in family life, some may be optional eg marriage, you don’t actually have to nip up the aisle in a froth of white fantasy to create a family, but if you have children, unless you belong to the essentially noble but completely mad band of homeschoolers, (and I use mad here in the full knowledge of the homicidal rage that fills me whenever I try to teach any of my children anything on the academic front), one of the milestones of life is when your child starts ‘Big’ school for the first time.

Drama Queen No. 1 was keen on the concept of school for the introductory half day, less enthused by the first full day and completely baulked at the thought of returning for a full on Friday.  She took off the school uniform she looked so angelic in, hid all of it and climbed back into the top bunk, a position that she knew from experience that it was almost impossible for an adult to dislodge her from.  I succeeded in persuading/wrestling her into the car and as I drove her to school pointed out that arriving wearing only a pair of knickers might cause a stir.  Bear in mind at this point I was also wrestling with a 2 week old baby and a 2 year old, in fact I was wrestling with life basically.  She went into school, very reluctantly, though in a wave to convention she did consent to put her clothes back in, and sailed through the day and the rest of her school life in triumph.  I in contrast retreated home a complete wreck and burst into tears every time everyone spoke to me.

Given that it seems only the other day that the Kindergarten strip off took place, Husband and I, who in our minds have only just left university, were somewhat stunned to find ourselves back in the car, driving DQ no. 1 off to start yet another educational milestone.  Fortuitously, this time she opted to keep her clothes on, though I am sure arriving at college for the start of her university career wearing just her knickers would have ensured a certain kind of notoriety and possibly popularity.

Australians, particularly those living in the major cities, tend to live at home to go to university, which is in contrast to the UK and American experience.  Having just paid the first Semester’s residential fees for DQ No.1’s college, I have full sympathy for the economic reasons behind this.  You can put university course fees on a student loan but residential fees generally end up being paid by parents.  However I can’t help feeling that going from school to university and continuing to live at home does contribute to the tight knit nature of Sydney society – I always used to typify this as per the following conversation at a party.  ME: “So how do you and [THE HOST] know each other?”  STRANGER (who given my luck, is generally less of the tall dark variety of stranger and more of the small and mousy) “We lived on the same street, went to the same school, went to Sydney Uni together and then I married his sister.”  ME “Oh, so you’re close then.”

For both Husband and me, going away from home to live at university was such a formative experience in our lives that we have really encouraged the DQs to think about doing the same, such unselfish encouragement having nothing to do with a wish to regain control of the car/laundry/fridge/tv control and bathroom.

We dropped DQ1 off in the amazingly organised and welcoming environs of her residential college and drove home feeling a little emotional that this was probably the end of the five of us all living together permanently as a family unit.  However the upside is that having just sent out my traditional Christmas letter, traditional that is to February, to my overseas friends, when I looked at the distribution list (because of course when I say letter, what I mean is email), I realised how many of the friends on it, are of course my university friends.  These are the people I still classify almost thirty years on, as ‘the ring in the middle of the night’ type friends, and if that is the gift that DQ No.1 picks up from going away to college, then it is worth any amount of money as it is those friends who will keep her going when she has forgotten every lecture, for as one of my favourite quotes goes; “Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything one has learned in school”. Albert Einstein


  1. Ahhh - great post. My eldest is in her third (of four) year at college now. It's always a surprise when she tells me that she's looking at places other then home for work in the summer. And when she says "home" when she really means her dorm, agh!

  2. I feel your pain on the "home" front Expat Mum - No 2. daughter went to France on French Exchange for 5 weeks and came back talking about her French hostess as "My Mum"! Was amused by the fact that DQ No.1's official packing list included suggestions that she might like to bring fancy dress for events like the toga party - some things never change.