• A child's first day of school can stir up a lot of emotions for those who raised them. (Digital Vision)Source: Digital Vision
My daughter is my eldest, so this day represents a new era in both our lives.
By
Genevieve Bradson

28 Jan 2020 - 7:51 AM  UPDATED 21 May 2021 - 12:47 PM

I sit here in the car park on my daughter’s very first day of high school. My heart is beating faster than I’d like, and I suspect the watering of my eyes is not just from the summer breeze that carries a surprising amount of heat for 8:45am.

During the drive here, my daughter held herself together despite the intense anxiety I know she is feeling. She was not the only one. I have been fighting off rising emotion all morning, staying strong for her sake. Now she has left the car, my emotion rises to the surface and threatens to break through.

I was under strict instructions just to drop her at the car park. Not to come in (though I feared this might be needed) and not to hang around. Yet I feel completely unable to restart the car and drive away. I have neither the physical strength to drive, nor the emotional capacity to move further away from where she is.

I was under strict instructions just to drop her at the car park. Not to come in (though I feared this might be needed) and not to hang around.

I glance over to the high school, which feels like a foreign, unknown place. My daughter is my eldest, so this day represents a new era in both our lives. I’ve driven past many times but have only been inside the gates twice before – once on orientation day last year and again to buy uniforms last week. I have only a vague idea of the location of the hall where the start-of-year assembly is about to start.

As I debate quietly to myself whether to stay or go, I see a friend whose daughter has similarly headed into her first day of high school. His presence cheers me and I jump out to say hello.

He is feeling similar emotions and it feels good to share our first day nerves.

Others, who have both new and older high school kids, join us. They are far more relaxed than us newbies and I am reassured that, when my younger son makes this transition, I will be too.

It is tough to be the eldest child, who always has to be the trail blazer. It is tough to be that child’s parent. When this eldest child carries with them the burden of anxiety about new people and situations, life is just that much tougher for all.

There is one parent in the gathered group that I do not know. Though he clearly knows my friends and I am usually confident in social situations, it takes a shot of courage for me to introduce myself.

There is one parent in the gathered group that I do not know. Though he clearly knows my friends and I am usually confident in social situations, it takes a shot of courage for me to introduce myself.

I realise I am putting into practice what we talked about last night as a family. In that eager, optimistic way of parents speaking to kids facing unenviable challenges, my partner and I spoke about how making new friends will be one of the fun parts of high school. We stressed that saying hello to strangers is the first step.

Luckily, this stranger is friendly and I feel my breath coming more easily. As I move back to my car, I look over to the school. I have missed watching my daughter walk through the gates, but know this is the way she would prefer it.

She will have moved around the corner towards the hall – wherever that is - ready to join all the new Year Sevens in assembly. I hope she will not have tears prickling in her eyes, like they are in mine.

All I can do now is hope that, like me, she will have found friends to help her feel less alone.

All I can do now is hope that, like me, she will have found friends to help her feel less alone. I will have to wait until the end of the day to find out whether she was, like me, able to muster up the courage to introduce herself to new people.

I look forward to picking her up after school in this very spot. I’ll hear about her day and she’ll ask me about mine.

We will share stories but I will keep to myself just how strongly I relate to how she was feeling in the car park on her first day of high school.

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