Youngest children thrive in an environment of benign neglect. They have to, it’s all they have available to them.
Eldest children enjoy a parent’s undivided attention, they are the prototype of our parenting and as such we relish every moment, recognising milestones, throwing ourselves into this brave new world.
When my eldest started school, I was sooo into it (I even wore lipstick on the first day). I was at reading groups, supervising maths activities, on the P&C, hell by a series of defaults I even ended up President of the P&C! Every event I was there, camera in hand, recording every single moment.
By the time the youngest was in Grade 1 I was back at work. I juggled and managed to make it to most of the prescribed activities but when the athletics was rained out I couldn’t arrange to take another day off, when the band playing at assembly clashed with work meetings I couldn’t wangle it to be there. There were other faces in the crowd, sometimes Dad, sometimes Nana, sometimes Aunt Dorothy but sometimes not me.
Yesterday was our last Primary School athletics carnival. Next year Princess Child will progress to High School and I won’t be wanted at the carnival.
Standing in the sun, watching the Year 6 kids, they all looked so grown up. They are tall, growing into their features, cheering for each other, laughing at private jokes, hugging each other in victory and handing tissues to the sobbing losers – hormones suck girls – I know you don’t understand why you are crying – I know it’s not really about the sore knees and ankles or the fact you lost – but it will be many years before you realise just what made you cry on the warm autumn day back in 2012.
I remember our first athletics carnival, when we were still keen, manning the fundraising BBQ. I had a three-year-old clinging to my legs and a queue of hungry people. There was chaos and laughter as we got the folks fed. We lost any desire to ever eat another sausage again. We raised money and were part of the school community.
Today it’s a different school, we don’t help out much, too tied up with work. Thethree-year-old is a lanky 12-year-old running the anchor leg in the relay. Holding her team’s lead, to cross the finish line in first place, the crowd goes wild (well OK her Mum and Dad go wild). Hastings doesn’t usually win the relay, the girls leap into each others arms, jumping up and down, faces alight with excitement. I’m glad I’m there (and I even remember to get a photo).
We are heading into the final stretch of a year of lasts. The swimming carnival, the cross country, the athletics carnival. The Mother’s Day assembly. The Father’s Day assembly. We are ticking off each one marking the end of an era. Our last year in Primary School.
There will no more standing at the school gates catching up with other parents on my day off, waiting for excited children to come running out. Instead when we do venture to high school we won’t leave the car, our self-sufficient teens will plonk in the vehicle with monosyllabic answers to our enthusiastic questioning about their day.
There will be no more calls to man the reading groups.
It won’t be cool to have your parents come to too many things, we’ll manage to bully our way into a few, but it won’t be same.