My five year old is out on his first school trip. He is very excited. Last week he came home with a note and specific instructions: he had to have a lunchbox with a handle and no unhealthy food in it. Since then I have been duly making preparations as directed.
They are going to a farm. I think T is more excited about the logistics – the packed lunch and going on the coach. He’s been asking me to have packed lunches for ages but I have told him no – I can’t be bothered to think what to put together every morning and think that a school lunch will be much better for him. He was unmoved by my reasoning, but did listen when I said that I never had packed lunch at school. “Never?” he asked, amazed. He was triumphant when he realised he’d need a packed lunch for the trip. “You can’t say no on that day” he pointed out with irritating logic during our most recent discussion.
When your child starts school you begin a long process of letting go. The first school trip is another milestone I’ve realised. I’ve become used to dropping him off at school and knowing where he is all day. On trip day I will have no idea where he is.
He is very excited about the coach, something I don’t share. He will be leaving the sanctuary of the school premises and going out on the roads. I remember all too well news footage of those lumbering vehicles overturned on tight country bends, their passengers broken and bent inside. I appreciate that this is obsessive maternal worrying but I can’t help it sometimes - my worst fears always surface into my relaxing mind just as I’m dozing off at night.
On a practical note, T is car sick, a trait we first discovered winding into the mountains of Kyrgyzstan. I have taken precautions; a travel sick pill, a plastic bag in his pocket, a request to his teacher that he sits at the front. But I’ll also be hoping all day that he feels well and the excitement of his first trip is not marred by the discomfort and embarrassment of throwing up in front of his class.
I was glad to see many other mothers in the playground flapping as much as me: have you got waterproof trousers? Have you done sun cream? Do they need shoes as well as wellies? It was a new experience for all of us, used to being out with our children and deciding when they should eat, wee, change shoes or put on sun cream. The trip has introduced a new level of independence for mother and child. Next time we’ll all be much more relaxed; I watched with envy as one mother with older children casually put her son’s backpack in the line then wandered off to chat while the rest of us fussed.
T walked proudly up to school with his lunchbox, showing it off to friends we met. He was much more calm than I. In the car I’d started fretting about whether he might wet himself on the coach journey. I’d mentioned spare pants and he’d thought silently then said “I’m a big boy now”. He is. And I must learn to let go.