Do other parents say they’re looking forward to their child starting school?

Does it sound like I’m trying to convince myself? I think that’s exactly what I’m trying to do

After recently moving to Wicklow, it has been a pleasant and unexpected surprise to see how enthusiastically our son has taken to the sea. Most mornings my wife takes him to a beautiful, rocky little cove and they swim. The cold doesn’t seem to bother him. In fact, it delights him. He screams and laughs as the first waves slap against his legs. Afterwards they sit on the beach; him in his little fold-up chair, her sipping tea from a flask, and they chat. This is their routine.

At first he only paddled, naturally enough. Before long, though, my wife took him by the hands and brought him to deeper waters, teaching him how to kick and keep his head up. The first time she did this, he was scared. He gripped her tightly and said, “Promise you won’t let go”. She told me this and her eyes started to well-up. I knew exactly how she felt. We don’t ever want to let go, but it is the parent’s curse that sometimes we have to.

We let go all the time, of things big and small.

Here’s a tiny pair of shoes they’ve grown out of. We don’t have the space to keep them, but it pains me to throw them out. How many pairs of shoes are acceptable to keep? I have to fight the urge to hoard. Goodbye, shoes.


When we finally cut our son’s hair – that was a tough one. He had glorious, golden flowing locks. He ran free like a wild little Tarzan. But we realised he’d be freer with short hair. It was bothering him at night. Is it normal to be so sad about a haircut? Goodbye, hair.

The house we rented for years, where our children both took their first steps, said their first words. A house filled with so many happy memories, put on the market for the highest bidder. Goodbye, home.

And now our son is starting school. It is a painfully bittersweet feeling. Bitter because I’m going to miss him so much. Sweet because I want him to be happy, to make friends, to see the world. I can’t keep him all to myself, as much as I’d like to.

He's not a baby anymore. He's not a toddler anymore. He's a happy, curious, boisterous, gentle little boy who's going to love school

Our lives are sparsely peppered with before-and-after events. Moments that act as demarcation lines in our memory. A first kiss, a broken heart, a bereavement, the birth of a child. These are things that change us, and there’s no going back. For me, our son starting school is one such moment.

Five years ago my wife and I decided I would be a stay-at-home parent. It was an easy decision to make; I wanted to do it. I didn’t care we’d have less money. They have been the best five years of my life, but now with school starting things will change. Act I: The Early Years draws to a close.

A few months ago my brother came to visit and he said in an off-hand, casual way, “You must be looking forward to him starting school”. He saw how chaotic the house was and what he really meant was: it’ll be nice to have some time to yourself. In reply to his question, I just said, “Yeah”, but what I really meant was: no. I’m not sure why I didn’t just say what I meant. Does it even matter?

I’m going to miss my son when he’s at school. Perhaps I’m being overly sentimental. Perhaps the intensity of the past 17 months is making me feel this way.

Is this normal? Do other parents say they’re looking forward to their child starting school, when really they mean the opposite?

Another one of those letting-go moments has crept up. When we look back we’ll see a time before he started school and a time after. He’s not a baby anymore. He’s not a toddler anymore. He’s a happy, curious, boisterous, gentle little boy who’s going to love school. Each morning I’ll walk him there, and on the way back he’ll tell me about what he learned and saw.

Does it sound like I’m trying to convince myself? I think that’s exactly what I’m trying to do. If the next five years offer half as much joy as the last five, I’ll count my blessings.

And all the while I’ll try to remember: this next chapter isn’t mine, it’s his.