Zac's Big Day Out
Thursday January 29, 2004
As Zac starts school today, his father Michael Winkler reflects on how a little life will unfold.
When he grows up, Zac wants to be a policeman, a farmer, a taxi driver, a detective and a doctor. Note the "and". When you're five, life is a matter of "and", not "or". Let alone "but", "however" or "if only".
Zac used to include footballer in his list of future vocations, until his mother explained that footballers have to eat oranges at half-time. Detested fruit notwithstanding, his future is as broad as the map of the world. No doors are closed for him yet - but one crucial door is about to open. He's starting school.
Participating in his journey makes me think about my own. What did preps mean for me? Sitting cross-legged on a wooden floor. The sawdust that was dragged into the classroom and heaped on shameful puddles of vomit or urine. Times tables. The solitary Koori kid who was always, always crying. Storytime, transporting you beyond the classroom walls. Third place in the ball and spoon event at the aths carnival. Learning bad words from big kids. The vast mysterious taciturn grey presence of the principal. Being in love with Miss Winter, the teacher. The foreboding toilets. The monos that Stefan, the school hero, popped on his Dragstar. The days: so many and so long. Thirteen years worth, ultimately.
I wasn't one of those kids who love school. The clock would crawl towards 3.30pm, then you'd have to front up again the next day. Most of the teachers were OK. A very few were inspiring. But the schoolyard culture was sometimes hard to endure, and too often I was bored, or scared, or constrained, or withdrawn.
Now it's Zac's turn. Will the big kids be kind? Will he find his way to and from the toilets all right? What if he gets frightened? What if he's embarrassed by his playlunch? What if the work is too hard or he has learning difficulties?
Every important step in life...