"What I need to hear on my child's first day of school (and what I don't)".

My first child’s going to school, and I’ll cry if I want to. But I’m not sure I want to.

The world is delighted to tell me what a big moment this is. Everyone we’ve as much as bumped into for three months has told my daughter the same.

At first, I could see her confusion. Then I could see her pride. Now, I can see her anxiety. After all, it’s probably peeling off me in waves.

Holly with her partner Brent and their kids Matilda and Billy.


There’s the constant chatter of who can do what. Parents share furtive whispers about kindy streaming (or not), Best Start tests and who’s squandered the last pre-school summer on, you know, fun. Freddie can write his name. Bette can read. Ava can add. Alfie can pick his nose.

I’m texting my comrades – What goes in a school bag? Did Ivy have a dental check? Have you heard they’re finishing at 2PM for two whole weeks? And, for the love of God, HOW MANY HATS?

Today, I found myself staring at ‘lunchbox inspiration’ in a newspaper supplement. Will hand-filled, kitten-shaped sushi rolls really enhance the kindergarten experience?

I suspect that really, this moment should be a celebration, not an anxious trial.

A first-day guide for overly anxious parents.

Gone are the days when those first steps through the school gate are the first away from a mother’s side. My daughter – like many, many others – has been in the care of trusted professionals, for varying lengths of time, for four years already. What’s daunting for her – as she marches around ‘practising’ her school shoes and opening a lunch box – is not separation but scale and expectation.

Yes, it’s overwhelming. We grew them and fed them and carried them around like tiny koalas, and now they can run faster than us, refuse us and think for themselves.

But really, what a moment – it’s the beginning of so much, the end of so little.


They are about to have their whole world widened, to explore horizons they did not know even existed. And us, we’re not going anywhere. We’ll still be here, clutching snacks and water bottles, desperate to hear about their day.

Need your own lunchbox inspiration?

“They are about to have their whole world widened, to explore horizons they did not know even existed.”

So if you meet me and my comrades in arms this week, panic-buying hats in bulk, be kind. Do not add to the pressure, say something nice. And in the spirit of shying away from what NOT to say, here are the only things the parents of a kindy-fresher want to hear in the coming days.

1. “She’ll be fine.”
So we can stop worrying that she’ll be overwhelmed/won’t make friends/her teacher will hate her/will be instantly bullied/spontaneously combust in a cloud of anxiety as soon as she steps on school grounds. No, that’s us.

2. “She’s going there? I’ve heard it’s great.”
No need to add that you thought about that school but decided against it because it was too big/too small/not as good as it used to be/you heard the Head was a bit flakey. Really, ssssh now, it’s too late.

3. “She’s growing up. You must be so excited.”
Not devastated that she’s not your little girl anymore. Yes she is, and she will always be. But now, she’s standing at the edge of independence, and is about to learn things that will blow her mind and open up her world. So, you know, let’s reconsider the epic commiserations.

4. “You’ll manage the juggle.”
So school starts at 9 and finishes at 3, but work starts at 8.30 and finishes at 6? Don’t worry, you’ll find a way through it, everybody does. You’ll find new support networks, and your daughter will love her new carers. You’ll work it out. Please tell me that.

5. “Of course it doesn’t matter that she can’t read/do maths/make the perfect vanilla slice.”
Because that’s what school is for, right?