Nene started primary school today. Both of us were nervous about the day. Nene because he didn’t like the idea of big school without his friends (and he’s not a fan of school in general even when he had only half a day and his kindergarten was very fun and easygoing because in his words “I need more playtime”, even though he is only playing from 12.30 pm onwards), and me because I knew Nene was nervous and also because I know he’s going to struggle with the new environment, long hours, and independence required in tasks such as finding, opening and eating his packed lunch, undressing into a swimsuit, etc.

By the time the day came around, however, Nene was resigned to the idea, V had firmly told me that primary school teachers are used to kids not being confident and an ostrich approach was adopted. I sent V and Nene off to buy a new schoolbag over the weekend, with the suggestion of a superhero theme, and that helped pump up his enthusiasm, he really loved his new Batman bag even though it is ginormous according to me (it was the only superhero one and V says the shopkeeper told him it was fine for primary school).

It was also Mimi’s first day, and she was not pleased to be going back to school (she is not a fan either, for different reasons though – too little structure and not enough friends at school) and that she couldn’t go to the same school as Nene. Although she had a tantrum on these two counts the day before, and I reminded her that I had promised her a present if she did not do any drama about school for a week, on the morning of school, she was okay. In fact, there was an endearing moment in which Nene went over to her bed and explained to her how he had to go to the big school but she could come pick him up one day.

We set off and Nene was chatty and excited all the way there. He was happy to wear his new school bag, even though it was a tad heavy with all his textbooks in it (thankfully, the school will keep them there, though I’m embarrassed that I didn’t even cover them or label them nicely, short of scribbling on his name in pencil). As we neared the gates, I sensed he was getting anxious and I let him know that I would be going in with him and he relaxed.

However, once we reached the area where all the students had gathered and it was time for him to line up, he got very stressed out. Again, I told him I would be with him, but he was not happy. In fact, all the kids in the line looked nervous. I chatted with a mother next to me and we introduced our sons. The boy was small and crying and Nene was even less happy that he had to interact with him.

Then, the teacher began to lead the line upstairs, and apparently, we had to let go of the kids then. I kissed Nene and he brushed me off, because hello, the line is moving and must not be interrupted. The other mum told me our boys were holding hands.

Later, when I picked him up after the first half day, he seemed fine. He told me the “boss of the school” had spoken to them (he meant the principal!). Also, he couldn’t find his snackbox and the little boy had shared some with him. I tried to get more details out of him but he clammed up.

When he got home he raced to Mimi, and they had a good chat about their respective first days. Or rather, Mimi talked and he got a word in edgewise. Mimi is now in Nene’s old class and his old teacher is her class teacher. It is becoming apparent to me that my children are conforming to gender stereotypes – despite my best efforts to make my boy a communicator, he basically just does not want to talk about …stuff. Except for exceptional topics like superheroes. Mimi on the other hand is a total chatter matter, as we say in our household.

Mimi’s day was somewhat overshadowed by Nene’s. I couldn’t go with her for her first day, but it’s an old school, I know the teacher, most of her classmates, and I know she’ll be fine. Or as fine as Mimi can be being Mimi. I later asked her about the new kids in her class and she said, I have no friends, I played all alone. I told her to shut it, because I’ve noticed from a birthday party we attended two days ago, that the other kids in Mimi’s class call her, but she prefers to stand apart. I have told her she has to take that step forward or she will have to live with being left out. She is unfortunately not taking my point.