Friday, 6 September 2013

Back To School


The umbilical cord between my eldest son and me has finally been severed. It wasn't a gradual process. Oh no. All it took was one blow. Days later I am still recovering.

After nine weeks of summer holidays the first day at my son's new school finally dawned. It wasn't a full day. In fact,  he only needed to be at school from one till three to meet his form tutor and all 31 of his new Dutch classmates. As some sort of  rite of passage he wanted to cycle to school all by himself.
From a Dutch perspective, this is a very common request. Children in the Netherlands start to cycle to school on their own when they are eight, or nine years old. Maybe  their mums and dads still help their children to cross a busy road, but the kids will at least cycle part of the way by themselves.
Not my 12yo. Till he broke up last June, I had always driven him to school. In Italy only lunatics try to ride a bicycle and in Switzerland we had to climb several hundred meters to get to school. Although it is much healthier to travel by bike and it will probably do wonders for their independency, as a mum and designated driver, I have to say, it was quite nice to monitor their school life from up close.
Anyway, in the Netherlands you cannot be seen cycling to secondary school with your mum. That would the end of your budding social life. So, my son and I did a few trial runs and I bought him a way too expensive phone to make sure, if need be, we could at least communicate.
My 12yo - who is going to a new school for the fifth (!) time - isn't the least bit nervous. This comes as a bit of a surprise to both him and me. I can still picture him looking pale and worried on first days in England, Italy and Switzerland. Having had an easy start and two great years in Switzerland, surely must have helped.
As my son has been asked to bring a significant object into school to help him introduce himself, he put a Swiss flag into his backpack before he sets off to school. I know I am nagging, but I nonetheless tell him about ten times to text me when (if?!) he gets there. He has obviously decided to humour me, because ten minutes later the words 'made it' appear on the screen of my phone. Marvellous.
It is a long afternoon. Till around half three I am pretending to be busy, walking up and down stairs, sort of unpacking boxes, creating more and more chaos as I go along. By four 'o clock he is officially late. I manage to wait another five minutes before I call him. Of course he doesn't pick up his phone. It's at least another ten minutes before he finally turns up.
,,I fell off my bike", he explains. ,,I was holding the Swiss flag in my hand, because it doesn't really fit in my backpack. When I suddenly swerved to avoid bumping into this guy on a bike in front of me, the flag got stuck in between the spokes and I was catapulted off."
Oh my God. Luckily he got away with just a few bruises and thank God it happened in a quiet little street. I need a drink. And my son deserves a coke. I am really proud of myself that I manage to get the drinks on the table, without giving my 12yo a lecture on responsible cycling. I really keep my cool. He doesn't seem too shaken up by this accident and I am intent to keep it that way.
'OK', is all he is willing to share about meeting his classmates and form tutor. When pressed he reluctantly adds 'fine' to his description of the afternoon, before he - the can of coke in his hands -heads upstairs to his room. Half a hour later he is back, ready to go to field hockey practise. A quick wave and he is off again. On his bicycle. My lovely, independent 12yo boy.