We pull up outside the school gate. The school is a large residential property in one of the nicer sectors of the city – in Pakistan many schools operate out of residential buildings. A stream of cars are coming and going, depositing children on the pavement, parents handing over backpacks emblazoned with Dora the Explorer or Spongebob Squarepants before saying goodbye to their offspring. Our son hops merrily out of the car, grabs his backpack (Dusty Crophopper, in case you’re wondering), yells a cheery “Goodbye!” and runs in. We turn to our daughter, just turned three, and on only her third day of school. She crosses her arms and looks up at us defiantly.
“I don’t want to go to school”. She sits squarely in her car seat, a bundle of blonde ringlets and stubbornness, while the queue of cars backs up behind us.
We try to reason with her: it’ll be fun, she’ll make friends, going to school is What Big Girls Do. It’s all to no avail: she simply isn’t going.
We abandon reasoning with her and opt to lift her out of the car and carry her to the gate. She starts crying – not the screaming, tantrum tears that can be ignored, but the soft, helpless tears that never fail to tear my heart apart. She’s actually sobbing. We hand her over to her teacher, give her one last kiss, and get back in the car.
As we drive away I am reminded of my own first day at school, the memory of which is still there. I recall clinging desperately onto the wall as my own mother said goodbye, clawing desperately to keep myself from being dragged into the building, screaming like a banshee – and these definitely were tantrum tears. I still don’t know how my teacher managed to prise me away from my mother; primary teachers must do weightlifting as part of their training. I can still recall the sense of bemusement: my parents are always there, so why am I being separated from them?
Going to school is important for kids. We know that it will help to mould their character, educate them, train them for life. But it’s sad that causing pain to our kids is sometimes the best thing for them.