The walk to the car was a quiet one. It wasn’t far, maybe a few hundred metres, but every one of them was a quiet one. It was the last thing I was expecting when picking my son up from his first day at another school. We had been in this situation a number of times in the last few years. It seemed George had grown accustomed to the change, a little anyway. He certainly seemed much more assured in the time leading up to his first day.
I spent the day wondering how he was getting on. It must be so tough to be supplanted into a completely different school, different faces and routines. It takes courage and resilience to keep going in the face of such wholesale changes like that. We probably don’t do it enough in our adult lives. If we had a choice we often prefer the path of the known and the familiar. I suppose the only time we are confronted with that ourselves is when we move jobs. I always enjoyed the challenge of taking on a new role, meeting new people and trying to quickly understand new responsibilities and where stuff was.
In many ways George, as a nine year old, is not quite burdened with the same social awkwardness we gather as we get older. Making friends as a nine year old is one of your major projects. And yet I still spent the day fretting about the sort of day he would have and whether he would be OK. I imagined picking him up and dealing with either a) the fallout, or b) the excited tumble of stories. That was perhaps why the quiet walk to the car surprised me.
I took his bag from his shoulder as a few of his new pals said their farewells. I scanned his face for any clues to the day, anything to help fill in the blank chapter I had. He seemed pretty calm. There was something about the quiet in him that made me feel really settled. I asked, just once, how his day had been and he replied with a short, “Fine.”
We walked through the school gates and along the road to where I had parked the car. I knew he had a big day for a nine year old, he had overcome a big challenge. He walked beside me with a calmness that I could sense. I could also tell his mind was ticking away thinking through his first day at his new school. He wasn’t rambling off a slew of stories nor was he clearly upset, he just seemed settled and comfortable walking beside me, grateful to be with me, but quietly lost in his own thoughts. I mirrored his calm and refrained from peppering him with questions every few strides, we just walked together. Although it was unusual for him not to be chattering away, it seemed, in a way, he was telling me all I needed to hear.
We got to the car and George hopped into the back. I closed my door and dumped his bag in the passenger side, we soon pulled out onto the road leaving his first day in the rear view mirror. It was probably a few minutes later that George chirped up, “That day went really fast.”
But I already knew that everything had been OK.