It’s a momentous day for Steve and his daily routine... Mary has at last started school
I am, ladies and gentlemen, on cloud nine.
After four and a half years of having to spend long days watching My Little Pony (I know all their names; Twilight Sparkle, Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy – the latter lives in a small cottage in Everfree Forest and represents the element of kindness … no, really) and visiting pretty much every park and playground within a 35-mile radius of our house (I even carry around with me a tea-towel with which to wipe dry the slide and swings should the weather have been inclement overnight … if that doesn’t sum up the depths to which my life has sunk I don’t know what does), it’s finally happened. I’ve got rid of my daughter.
I don’t mean that in a malicious way. That would be terrible.
I mean my little Mary has finally, mercifully, started primary school.
There seems to have been a long build-up, mainly because – to Mrs Canavan – it seems to be some kind of big deal.
She has spent the last six months or so waffling incessantly on about it - choosing the school, waiting anxiously to see if she got the school of her choice, purchasing uniform, going to online meetings, setting up WhatsApp groups with mums of children going to the same school, buying a satchel, sewing name tags on to various items of clothing, trailing around dozens of shops to find hair bobbles that match the uniform … her life’s aim of late has seemingly been to make sure Mary is prepared and ready to start this new chapter of her life.
She’s also been acting very strangely at home.
The other week, for instance, we were midway through watching an interesting documentary about the mating habits of snails (the process begins – because I can sense you want to know more about how snail’s make love - with two snails touching, usually with their tentacles, and sometimes gently biting the other’s genital pore … which, for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on, I find strangely erotic).
Then, just as the narrator is saying ‘snails primarily find a partner through smell and touch’ (which makes sense as it can’t be through appearance can it … I mean snails don’t exactly spend ages doing their hair or trying on new dresses), I’ll hear a strange noise and look up to find Mrs C weeping into a tissue.
“Don’t worry,” I say reassuringly. “I’m sure the snail will find a new mate soon.”
‘No, it’s not that,’ she’ll say in shaky voice, looking at me through tear-stained red eyes.
“What is it then?” I ask. “Has your athlete’s foot come back?”
‘It’s Mary,’ she’ll cry. ‘I can’t believe she’s going to school. Where has our baby gone?’
“Oh,” I’ll reply, and turn back to the TV and switch the volume up, because frankly she’s been saying the same thing for months now and it’s getting boring.
I suppose I kind of understand why she’s a little upset. It’s her first child and I guess school represents growing up and being less dependent on its parents (which sounds bloody great to me).
But I don’t really understand why she’s quite so distressed about it. I mean surely starting school is just a natural progression for children, like learning to walk or discovering the joys of picking your nose?
And to be honest Mary needs to start school.
She’s been in the top group at nursery – pre-schoolers I believe it’s called – for ages now and swaggers around like she owns the place. It’ll do her good to become a small fish in a big pond and to get her head flushed down the loo (some people call it bullying, I call it character-building and a free hair-wash).
Anyway, last week the moment finally arrived, her first day.
Mrs Canavan laid out the uniform the night prior with military precision and asked Mary – about 157 times – if she was excited about starting school.
“Will you stop banging on about it to her?” I said.
‘I’m trying to make her comfortable with the idea, so she’ll settle in quicker,’ Mrs C hissed.
“But you’re making such a big deal of it she’s probably going to be really nervous and scared stiff,” I complained.
‘Well, I didn’t see you rushing around buying uniform so until you do that and show some interest butt out,’ she replied.
Some people say the romance and love has gone out of our relationship but I don’t see it.
The next morning Mrs Canavan woke at 4.40am (she said she was too excited to sleep; I replied that she was insane) and rushed around the house preparing for the historic moment.
I basically did as instructed, with my main duties appearing to be chief photographer. I was told to take a picture of Mary leaving the house, getting in the car, travelling to school in the car, getting out of the car, posing on the pavement, posing next to the school sign, posing outside the school gate … I felt like a member of the paparazzi. Indeed, I’m expecting to receive a letter through the post next week from Mary complaining of harassment.
(These photographs, by the way, were later posted on social media – as seems to be the done thing by just about every parent of school-starters these days – along with some saccharine comment like, ‘Can’t believe it? When did my baby get so grown up?!!?’ Then the author spends the next hour monitoring the post to see how many likes it gets).
After all the build-up, Mary trotted off into school without a backward glance, as did the other kids, and then all the parents kind of stood around wondering what to do, before traipsing off.
Mrs Canavan cried, I punched the air in jubilation and went home to watch not My Little Pony but a re-run of Saturday’s Match of the Day.
It was a glorious day.
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