I’m pretty sure the majority of parents yeilded their bubbling hyper-active children to the first day of the primary school year with a light heart, a gentle smile and an excusable measure of relief. At Pinewood, there was palpable excitement in the air. It warmed my heart to see Polly hugging and nattering with the friends from who she had been separated for what, in her terms, must have seemed an eternity. I can remember just how endless the summer holidays used to feel, and how the prospect of the looming school year seemed so thrilling.
I greeted the other parents - some of who I know quite well, others just by sight. I wondered how their Sunday nights had gone. Getting the kids to bed at a reasonable hour because of school. Perhaps a civilised dinner, at the table or in front of the TV. Perhaps they worked through those comforting, familiar routines on which children are said to thrive, that instil life with a reliability and an aura of security that give them room to develop into balanced, functional adults.
I wonder if any were woken around midnight by a sun-bright flashlight in the face? If any sat upright and stared, immobilised, like a rabbit under headlights, uncertain of whether to trust the unfamiliar voice behind the beam that was instructing them not to panic. “Everything’s alright. I’m a policeman. Could you get some clothes on.”
Some families would have had difficult, even traumatic nights. I know of at least one who must cope with an autistic child who has reached the age where he is difficult to restrain. But I wonder where my night falls on the sine curve that tracks from sweet and memorable to nightmarish?
I wonder how many rode a taxi to a booze bus in the afternoon to pick up a bewildered little daughter who was soon to be in grade two? Did anyone have a burly, tired, worried-looking cop guide them up their own hallway in the dark to confront a scenario which, though ghastly and heart-rending, was becoming all too familiar?
Were any of them unexpectedly required to describe the salient details of their family life to strangers in the middle of the night? Were any asked to contemplate a hypodermic injection of nail polish remover? Were any left wondering what such an act might do to a person?
Who cleaned a mysterious bloodstain from their floorboards after returning from school assembly?
My plans for a month of diligent work are already under threat. I can, largely, close off my emotions and continue to be functional, to address my responsibilities - but grains of stray madness still slip through the cracks and, despite my best efforts, the last few days have been more than a little bumpy.