Don't ever forget the trauma of going up to Big School | Blaise Tapp

A scene from Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows. Picture: PA Photo/Warner Bros.A scene from Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows. Picture: PA Photo/Warner Bros.
A scene from Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows. Picture: PA Photo/Warner Bros.
It is fair to say that parenthood ages us all, although I really didn’t have a clue as to how rapid this process would be.

In a momentous year for all of us, this week heralded perhaps the most significant development in our house during 2020, when our eldest pulled on her blazer and knee-length skirt and headed off to high school for the very first time.

The step up from primary to senior school is so huge that its memory stays with us for a lifetime – I still have a vivid recollection of the bewilderment I felt on entering ‘big school’ for the first time.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The sheer size of the place, the need for timetables to keep on top of every lesson, not to mention that unforgettable smell – a heady cocktail of underarm odour and correction fluid – will live with me forever.

While it didn’t take me too long to make the transition from being a big fish a little pool to becoming a tiddler in an ocean of testosterone and tramline haircuts, it wasn’t all plain sailing.

Moving schools is just about the biggest thing that can happen to most kids and it is incumbent on parents to use their own experiences of this to guide their young through it.

While I have spent the past few weeks doing just that, I have held back from filling her in on all the gory details as I am not sure whether she’d appreciate tales of daily wedgies and being pushed down the steepest hill in South Manchester in a pinched KwikSave trolley.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Undoubtedly, school life has evolved since the late 1980s, but the dynamics remain the same – a building crammed full of both children and young adults, making it inevitable that most of the younger intake will grow up sooner, rather than later.

This is the aspect of our new reality that is upsetting me the most: it really does feel like yesterday that we were seeing her into the classroom for her first day ever in a school seven years ago.

Now, even the mere suggestion that we might walk her to the end of our street on her first day was met with the, now standard, five seconds of mock stunned silence, followed by a clipped ‘no’.

While not yet in her teens, our little girl is no more and is now five and a half feet of firm opinions and hormones.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

I am told that the teenage years are even trickier to navigate for parents than the waters we currently find ourselves in – if that is true then I really don’t stand a chance.

The problem I have with parenthood is that I cannot keep up with the pace of change and am struggling to come to terms with the fact that she’d rather spend an hour or four creating videos for TikTok rather than go to the park with her old man.

Rather than endless readings of Gruffalo and Dogger, bedtimes now usually consist of negotiations about what time the lights go out and the screens go off.

Suggestions that human rights might have been breached because I have curtailed her latest Netflix marathon are regular occurrences, while the once common salutation of ‘I love you daddy’ has been replaced with ‘Chill, father’.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

All children grow up but I didn’t bank on it happening this quickly and, if I am being brutally honest, it scares the whatsits out of me because I really don’t have a clue what I am doing.

On Saturday, I spent part of my morning helping her cover walls with faces of people I had to Google, although Harry Potter and Michael J Fox did appear on two of them.

This was another significant step away from her childhood and yet another reminder of how out of touch I have become.

My job is to attempt to keep up with the changes that life as a dad brings while being as supportive as I can be...

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.