Now that both the kids are at school, my better half has returned to work.

That was a big step for her. It was seven years since her last job interview, but after four interviews she had two job offers. Good work!

As the new job begins earlier, and my job has flexible hours, it’s now me who takes the kids to school in the morning. It has been eye opening. What is normal for most mums is new to me, and I have already learned some skills, from my mistakes, that will help me survive the utter mayhem that is

Taking the kids to school

Observation #1 – Hair

Bobbles, pins, slides, bunches, bows and plaits. I’m a 45 year old man so I know what these words mean but learning how to throw them together to the satisfaction of a six year old school girl has been like learning the skills of a mid-level wizard. That dude who went viral for using a vacuum cleaner and a bobble to do his daughter’s hair wouldn’t last one day in my house (and not just because the kids would be freaking out cos there’s a stranger with a hoover in the living room).

School

Eve’s hair is curly/wavy. Jenny’s is straight. They have different bows, clips and preferences. To my shame, I did not know this. Damn, there’s a whole subculture in my very house that I didn’t even know about. Try and put the wrong bow in the wrong person’s hair and BOOM! Nuclear war. Still, we’re getting there. I’m getting there.

Observation #2 – The Journey to School

“It’s my turn to open the door!!!” Wha? Another dynamic that happened while I was at work and am totally unaware of. There’s a seemingly ritualistic nature to The Unlocking of the Front Door in which I must partake or they look at me like I’m an extra-terrestrial. In my first week, I left without the kid’s school bags. Idiot. I won’t make that mistake again. (I will).

The school is literally on the other side of the main road from us. It would take you, or I, about 9 seconds to walk to the school gates. Only the small children are not you and I. This means that the actual route to school begins by walking away from the school, and down the hill to the lollipop lady. Then we have to cross, walk back up the hill then down another road to get to the zebra crossing, which only around 3% of drivers respect. Then down the hill and up some stairs and, Jesus, is my Fitbit recording this?

School

Now there’s something else. The lollipop lady. The first few times we crossed, I said ‘thank you’ and she ignored me, only saying good morning to the girls. So, we don’t say thank you? Is that offensive? Is that another rule? So, I started saying good morning instead and she beamed a reply to me. I’m fairly certain that I’ve now cracked the lollipop lady conversation etiquette. We even got the Christmas card rule right.

Observation #3 – The Playground

I’m new to the playground, and the wait until the bell arrives. All the other parents know each other and have their regular places to stand and people to talk to. I‘m beginning to identify the different groups of parents and am slowly building up a picture of who has the power. I’m very much like a new prisoner in the yard picking up who is in what gang, and who is liable to attack me in the dining room if I look at a gang member the wrong way. So far, I haven’t been attacked.

School

The children aren’t bound by such social conventions. Many a time, I’ve looked down to see a kid, who I don’t know, standing at my feet staring right at me. I don’t know the correct response in this situation. It’s generally frowned upon for a guy by himself to start a conversation with a five year old that he doesn’t know in a school playground. I resort to looking at my own daughters for guidance. Yesterday, this happened, and I looked at the eldest (6) who just shrugged. I looked back and just went with “hello”. The child of unknown identity looked satisfied with that and walked off.

I’ve made the mistake of thinking that seeing the same parent in the playground on a number of occasions means that a bond of familiarity has been formed. It apparently hasn’t. I find this out when I say “hello” and they walk past, looking right through me. I don’t care how confident you are in life, when that happens, the inner you is a stranded child in a sea of adults. You’re two feet tall and broken. Well, you are the first time. After the ninth time, I’m over it.

Observation #4 – The Bell

My two children have very different reactions to the bell ringing. The elder (6) runs over and shouts “kiss cuddle!” then goes and joins the queue for the classroom. The youngest (5) says “I’m not going to school” and holds on like I’m a vine over a ravine. I have to heave her over to the classroom door where the teacher coaxes her in.

Both reactions are heartbreaking. The eldest’s confidence and ability to run away without looking back is obviously great for her, but I don’t like the feeling of redundance that comes with that. The flip-side is that the youngest’s reluctance to go in herself makes me feel like I’m abandoning her, even though it’s a necessity. In short, dropping kids off at school makes me feel awful.

Doing this has made me a whole new level of parent, which the majority of you probably already do. You’ve likely read this, chuckled, and thought “amateur”. So be it. I am, but I’m learning and enjoying being more of a dad.