On starting school
Harrie is my two-and-a-half year old granddaughter. She’s quite a character and knows her own mind well enough. Sometimes, she surprises even her mother.
Earlier on this month her older sister and brother returned to school. They’ve been there before – several times now as they’re in upper and middle junior classes respectively. Most days that she can remember, Harrie has joined them on the daily trek through the village to and from school, firstly in the pram, then pushchair and now she mostly walks with them. Actually ‘skips with them‘ would probably be a more accurate description of her mode de transport, but I digress.
My daughter related this story to me over the phone on the second day of school.
‘It’s 7:30am, time to get up for school Harrie!’ Mummy called, having already woken the other two children. The daily round of preparing for school had begun. Getting up, getting washed and dressed, eating breakfast, building a new Minecraft adventure (her brother’s a bit keen on his computer game), finding homework, brushing hair, singing show tunes (her older sister is a super songstress), donning outdoor clothes, getting the pushchair ready, persuading Josh to temporarily abandon the computer, remembering it’s PE day and locating the right kit in a bag, eventually stumbling out of the door five minutes late… it’s a familiar routine with all young families around the world.
Harrie leapt out of bed, wearing her zoo pyjamas and an enormous smile.
‘I go to school today?’ she squeaked, ‘I’m a big girl now?’
The question hung in the air like a magical rainbow, the little one’s hope and dreams resting upon her mother’s confirmation of her status as ‘all growed up’ and ‘big enough for school’. Harrie loves the whole idea of school, organising her teddies, dolls and little sister into play-school situations, giving them lots of lovely things to do such as listening to her telling them stories, or watching her act out stories or having them participate in her story telling, wearing appropriate (or occasionally not-so-appropriate) props such as a pirate hat or fairy wand or a cat (yes, an ACTUAL cat, usually one adopting a rag-doll posture as they’ve learned that it is futile to resist) so they too can share the joy of *being* the story. She likes story time.
Her face a picture of quizzical enquiry, Mummy paused in her preparations to consider her response. Knowing that coming down on the side of actual reality, that is to say, ‘no of course you’re not going to school today Harrie, you’re only two and that’s too young for school’, would likely devastatingly crush her enthusiasm, she had to think of something. Quick. That angelic little face fronts the infant mind of a prodigious talent – Harriet is destined for greatness. Not for nothing are the laws of applied genetics observed without fail – she is of course her mothers’ daughter and Mummy smiled benignly as the idea popped into her head.
‘Yes, Harrie, you are indeed a Big Girl, but today’s the day we have to go and collect the application form for you to start school in March, when you will be three. You’re not quite three yet, so when we’ve filled in the form, you can take it back and then Mr Wisbach will have a look at it and I’m sure he’ll agree you can start in March. That’s after Christmas and after your next birthday.’ Pleased with the compromise of her own response, Mummy resumed the supervision of ablutions, nourishments and readying for the day.
Harrie’s smile slightly waned, but only slightly and she happily helped everyone to get ready. Once out of the door and skipping along the pavement with her siblings and others who had joined them on the walk to school, Harrie sang this little ditty: ‘I’m going school today! I’m gonna get my form!’ which we shall interpret as joy at the prospect of acquiring the necessary paperwork in order to enter school.
The older children having been despatched to class, Mummy, Harrie and her little sister in the pushchair proceeded to the school office. The school secretary was busily ordering the day’s work on her desk but she smiled broadly as the family approached.
‘Good morning! What can I do for you today?’ she greeted them cheerily. School secretaries are very special people. They are inscrutable – they know everything and manage to convey a sense of calm, capable presence that can accommodate any and all requests. Without flinching. Usually.
Before Mummy had a chance to speak, Harrie announced, with all the confidence a two-year old can muster ‘I want a form to come to school. Please. Thank you.’ Broad smile bonus, no extra charge.
Slightly non-plussed, the secretary raised her eyebrow at Mummy. ‘When is her birthday?’ her question directed at the adult rather than the person making the request.
‘My birthday’s after Christmas,’ Harrie interjected, not to be trifled with. She has that air about her already and one thing we’ve all learned is that you just don’t mess with Harrie. She has a Clint Eastwood steeliness in her determination to achieve her objectives.
A little flummoxed, the secretary located the necessary paperwork and handed Mummy two copies. Just in case a mistake is made, a second copy is usually supplied. Harrie thanked her and they made their way home as usual.
Whlist Mummy made a cup of tea and played with Harrie’s baby sister, Harrie set about finding the right colour pen with which to complete the form. She settled down at the table with her form and filled in all the boxes carefully and with a great deal of Harrie-thought. This is not the same as other people’ thought for this is much, much deeper.
Think Mariana Trench deep.
Think Jean Paul Sartre crossed with Descartes and Snoopy the beagle deep.
Think James Earl Jones’ voice deep.
Yeah, baby! That’s getting something close to the deepest, fathomless abyss that is the depth of Harrie-thought.
‘I’m done Mummy!’ Harrie declared as she handed her completed form to her startled mother. And truly, she was done. She’d written something in every box on the form. Each and every single one had written communication inscribed therein.
Fast forward to the third day of school. Same as the second day, with the added edge of Harrie’s eager anticipation of handing in her application form.
Mummy, Harriet and baby sister arrive at the secretary’s desk. Mummy gives her completed form in. Harriet hands her own form over. The secretary looks from Harriet to her mummy with a look of mild confusion – she plucks up sufficient gumption to ask the question.
‘What’s this?’ she enquires, holding Harrie’s handiwork aloft.
‘I wroted my form, I want to come to school now!’ Harrie enlightened her.
The secretary looked at the hieroglyphics adorning the pristine form. She was clearly puzzled, so Mummy stepped in.
‘Harrie filled her form in herself. She’s really quite keen to start school as soon as possible. Perhaps you could let her know what will happen next?’ Mummy’s bright smile was an attempt to reassure the bemused secretary that all two year olds make their own applications to school, it’s all perfectly normal, run-of-the-mill stuff. Nothing to get excited about.
‘I’m really not sure what to do with this now,’ was all the secretary could manage at this point. She noticed the crestfallen look upon the wee girl’s face. She could see the Hindenberg hurtling towards the Earth in fiery flames.
‘I’ll put it in your file Harrie,’ she smiled as she looked at the hugely beseeching eyes. ‘And I’ll make sure the head teacher reads it right away! We’ll all look forward to having you in school after Easter next year. I expect you’ll fit right in!’
It only takes a little thought to see the world through the eyes of a curious, amazing child. I am thrilled that Harrie was able to help on that day.