December heralds the end of the Australian school year and yesterday was my last primary school (grade school) Presentation Day as a parent and I’m officially about to start a prolonged period of mourning. Drama Queen No. 3 has reached the giddy heights of Year 6 and is caught up in the extreme social whirl of the last week of school, entailing the kind of celebratory schedule that would leave most A-list celebrities reeling. But though I am gearing up for a spot of parental dancing at the Year 6 Farewell on Thursday—a performance already billed as the most humiliating and embarrassing experience of my daughter’s life—the sad fact is that I feel the end of the primary school trek is not just a transition for her, it’s a watershed for me too.
In terms of motherhood, forget all those meaningless age categories—and by the way who decided forty-five to sixty was a reasonable category? What really matters is where you slot on the school ladder. After years of working my way through “Pre-School Mother” and “Kindergarten Mother,” I finally achieved the status of full-blown “Primary School Mother.” Adding it up on my fingers, a vital Primary School Mum skill, I make it twelve continuous years of primary school motherhood spread across three countries, with no time off for good behaviour. Somehow being a full time “Senior School Mum” doesn’t have the same ring about it —I’ve a horrible feeling it means I might have to ditch the jeans and boots as my standard school outfit. Despite two children at senior school, a Primary School Mum toehold somehow allowed me to consider myself young and feckless—the Bridget Jones-end of the spectrum. Senior School Mum somehow doesn’t have the same appeal as a job description, and at the rare times when I appear at senior school, I find myself combing my wardrobe for a skirt—leading to the vexing question, does anyone know what mutton wears, when it throws out the lamb apparel?
The end of primary school means no more staggering across the school playground carrying the child-sized science projects incorporating most of the kitchen utensil drawer. No more rummaging through every wardrobe in the house at 1:30 a.m. just in case anyone is hording anything that could conceivably masquerade as a Harry Potter outfit. No more late night wine- fuelled attempts to cover books in sticky backed plastic, only to have them rejected in the morning on the grounds of trapped air bubbles by disdainful offspring.
No more creating cupcakes for the entire class, and just for the record, Masterchef’ has nothing on the stress of trying to match the creative abilities of other parents. I am in fact still mentally scarred from a Kindergarten Holiday Celebration when we lived in the US, where the class party called for a contribution of a traditional Christmas dish from your country. I decided mince pies could masquerade as a Scottish offering, but as I passed around the plate I became aware my festive cooking was being greeted with the kind of rapture traditionally associated with the onset of gastric poisoning. It turned out that mince pies are not a well-known delicacy in the US and the rumour had gone round they were made out of sheep’s head—a perfectly understandable mistake for those suffering from confusion about the extent of the Scottish love affair with Haggis, but one it was difficult to recover from, despite my feeble protestations about ‘”fruit mince.”
Friday’s the final day and I’m lying in the Kleenex. As a family we’ve been so lucky to be part of such fabulous primary schools. The best thing about the primary school stage is the friends you make—and I’m not just talking about the Drama Queens’, “I love her, I hate her” progression through school here. Over the twelve years of sitting in tiny chairs, learning times tables, sports days, swimming galas, science nights, school fairs, school fundraisers, art competitions, band rehearsals, back to school nights, and school shows, we have made the type of friends that you can rely on in any crisis ranging from non-appearance at school pick-up to the appearance of nits and any form of party/alcohol. So in between sobbing into the tissues, and thus providing DQ No. 3 with conclusive evidence she has the most embarrassing parent in the world, I’d like to raise a glass of age appropriate lemonade and say “THANK YOU” to all those amazing people at the three schools in London, New York, and Sydney: Streatham & Clapham Girls, Midland School, and Middle Harbour Public School who’ve contributed to the top mark, A starred smiley face primary school experience over the last twelve years; we’ve been nourished, nurtured, and above all, we’ve had a ball!