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My son is starting school – and it’s a picture perfect occasion | Parents and parenting

My son, who is a literal baby, has started school and I am glad. Mostly this is entirely self-interested since, for the past six months, I’ve been taking three hours of my day to do the twice-daily commute to his nursery, which is near our old house and thus a 90-minute round trip. The fact that I did this for so long, in wind, rain and excoriating heat, and without ever writing about it, makes me as brave, and manly, as one of those war photographer guys. His new school, by contrast, is 12ft from our front door, meaning we could probably land him there most mornings with a glancing headbutt, and the joy of this convenience has not left my bones since we learned he’d gotten his place.

We’ve been trying to prepare him for his school days by reminding him it’ll be different, displaying his uniform and, since he has more than a dozen school-age cousins, showing him a lot of back-to-school content in the past few weeks. He has long been fond of seeing updates from the family WhatsApp, which I guess he considers a small, mildly boring TV show centred almost entirely on his cousins, my dad’s dog and blurry pics of his aunties and uncles drinking wine.

My dad was an only child, and my mum’s side of the family lived nowhere near us, so I grew up seeing cousins a couple of times a year. In the intervening months, the lives of my cousins in Armagh, Coventry or Galicia were as remote as those of astronauts. My son, on the other hand, gets a full-colour update any time one of them eats ice-cream.

We knew it was having an effect the night before his first school day. Presented once again with his book bag and jumper, he furrowed his brow. We imagined he was about to express some reticence or wonder about his imminent adventure. ‘Does this mean,’ he asked, thoughtfully, ‘you’re going to take MY picture at the door?’

Well, yes, it did. At 8.45 the following morning, we perched him on that step, for the first time realising the drawbacks of living across from a school, as the 50 fellow parents crowding the opposite pavement watched us do so. He stood gleaming with pride, his spotless uniform shining like freshly polished battledress, his bookbag outstretched at arm’s length, like the chancellor on budget day. As he joined the queue with his classmates, we saw tears from a few kids and a few parents, but before we knew it, he was gone.

I got on with my day, occasionally keeping an eye out for a tell-tale shriek from the playground, or a bonk on the front door which meant some other student had saved us the trouble and headbutted him all the way home. But we didn’t see him until the allotted time, when he bound from the classroom, his head filled with wonders.

‘How was it?’ I said, gulping slightly. ‘Daddy!’ he cried, eyes wide as saucers, ‘Can I see my picture?’

Did Ye Hear Mammy Died? by Séamas O’Reilly is out now (Little, Brown, £16.99). Buy a copy from guardianbookshop at £14.78

Follow Séamas on Twitter @shockproofbeats



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