real life

EM: My daughter is starting high school. Got any tips?

Em Rusciano with kids.





Do you remember your first day of high school? For me it involved a lot of lip smackers, impulse and contacting my books with pictures I cut out of Smash Hits of Kevin Arnold from the Wonder Years.

I had cut my hair short before the term started, thinking that my groovy do would definitely make me popular. I realised the fatal error I had made when I walked into home room and saw the luscious manes on all the other girls. On more than one occasion my geriatric French teacher called me “young man”. Oh the horror.

I remember feeling small and a bit frightened on my first day when I saw a group of year 12 boys and their sweaty, testosterone-y bodies loping around the yard, leaving wafts of Davedoff Cool Water in their wake.

I vividly recall looking at the other girls’ boobs in the change room and fearing mine were actually growing inwards, so lacking were they. I was also shocked at the muff on display and wondered when my crop would appear and secretly hoped it never would. Sadly, I ended up with a fine set of koala ears that poked out either side of my standard issue green Speedos.

My first real crush was in year 7. In hindsight, I think the boy was actually secondary to the passion I felt! An accessory to my boundless capacity for love and writing out of complicated love percentage equations.

The freedom of the cafeteria! Oh the joy of being able to pick my own food, some days I would just have 3 giant Freddos for lunch. What glorious, heady anxiety ridden days they were.

Friends, my eldest daughter is about to embark on this same journey – my first born starts high school next year. My high school actually…


MUSICAL INTERLUDE – Picture the opening scene of the Lion King, I walk to the edge of the cliff in a sexy loin cloth and vine nipple tassels. I am holding my daughter who is 12 but surprisingly light. I thrust her up towards the heavens and sing:

“Nants ingonyama bagithi baba Sithi uhhmm ingonyama. Nants ingonyama bagithi baba Sithi uhhmm ingonyama. Ingonyama Siyo Nqoba Ingonyama

Ingonyama nengw’ enamabala.. It’s the Circle of life and it moves us all.”

Em in Year 7

Are you with me?!

My eldest had her high school orientation day last week and I am torn between excitement and grief. This is it. This is what her father and I have been training for. Does she know right from wrong? Will she act against injustice and protect those who are vulnerable?

Will she know the correct foundation garment  to wear under a strapless top? Obviously I will continue parenting for as long as humanly possible but the framework is now well and truly in place and so begins her slow emancipation from us and into the real world.

It is a strange thing, accepting that your kid is no longer a kid but an almost young adult. I miss my goofy, affectionate, smiley small person.

Somehow overnight she has turned into this slightly intimidating, politically correct gazelle who shuts the door a lot. Every door. All of them. Metaphorical and physical.

Every now and then a glimpse of the old kid peeps through but that is a rare occurrence. Like a comet. Blink and you’ll miss it, stare at it too hard and it will yell at you and say it hates you. What an ungrateful comet!

Starting high school is a shitting big deal.


This time of her life will define her. In preparation for that I said to her: you are going to feel everything %1000 harder than you ever have before. Love, hate, disappointment, anger, frustration- prepare for that.

Do you remember that situation? Being floored by all the emotions at once? I do. I have to trust that we have done our job to prepare her for this next phase. We had a conversation on the morning of orientation day which leads me to believe she is going to be ok.

Em: “So, what are you wearing? You want to look cool but not tarty cool. I’m thinking somewhere between Taylor Swift and Lindsay Lohan pre-drugs.”

Chella: “Mum, I’m wearing leggings and a t-shit. I need to be able to move around. I don’t care what people think of my clothes, I just want to be comfortable.”

Em: “Chella, not to put too fine a point on it but this day will probs determine your friendship group for next year. You want to make a good impression! Wait, are you taking a PLASTIC BAG with you?! No, where is your Roxy backpack?”

Chella: “Mum, real friends aren’t going to care what I am wearing or what kind of bag I am carrying. If they do, I don’t want to hang out with them.”

How the fuck my kid got so wise I’ll never know. It must be all the “Gilmore Girls” we have watched together. That Rory is very sensible! So think of me won’t you, as I send her off on the school bus. I’ll be wiping away a singular delicate tear, softly singing the Britney Spears’ classic “She’s not a girl, not yet a woman.”

Yes, I am getting a grip. Slowly.

How did you feel when your child started high school? Do you remember what it was like to be in year 7?