Is missing your child’s first day of school a big deal?

Most parents hold the memory of their child’s first day of school quite dear. My daughter started school in 2003 and I still remember every detail of it with emotion bordering on extreme nostalgia. Dropping your child off at the school gates or walking them into the classroom itself, as some schools allow, is a memory making moment.

Starting school is a defining moment in a child’s life. It marks a transition from being a toddler to entering an institution tasked with instilling a sense of discipline and responsibility in the child. As a responsible parent we feel it imperative upon us to physically deposit them at school as if it were some sort of cultural ‘handing over’ ceremony.

But is it just flummery or does the whole ‘taking your child on first day of school and making a big deal of it’ mean anything at the end of the day?

I think the answer has two dimensions: from a parental point of view and from the child’s view.

As a parent, taking my daughter to school was a BIG deal for me. It felt like a rite of passage. What sort of mother would I have been if I hadn’t marked the day by physically being there, was my personal view. The whole process of waking up early on the day and getting her changed into a school uniform was part of a ‘process’.

Fast forward 14 years later. My daughter is now 18 years old and can’t really remember her first day. Neither, I should add, does she give a stuff about how it all went. While I still cling on to old memories she has made newer and fresher ones that are far more exciting to her.

The ‘process’ that I refer to two paras above turned out to be not quite as life-changing as I thought it would. My fear was that the home would become a diminished place because much of her life would be shaped by academia and teachers. I severely underestimated the continued primacy of the home and my role as a mum.

From the acres of coverage of Prince George’s first day at school what is rapidly emerging is an unspoken subtext that the Duchess of Cambridge ought to feel guilty for not being present today at the school gates.

I have no doubt that she is convulsed with guilt and regret over it but somebody should tell her that as the years roll on these things fade into the background and, more likely, Prince George didn’t feel abandoned in the slightest.

As parents we sometimes create extra burdens for ourselves by gold plating our sense of care, love and responsibility.


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