My baby's first day at school
daughter first day of schoolBy Scott Avery

It seems like moments ago that I was reading up on becoming a new dad. Then one day I come home from work, and there is my little girl proudly parading the new school uniform she will be wearing on her first day of "big" school. Where did those five years go?

Getting our kids, and more importantly our wives, ready for school has dominated discussion at the Dad's Group meetings for the past year. First came the "which school are you going to?" debate. This topic caught me a bit by surprise, as I thought we wouldn't have much of a choice. When I went to school, I was dressed up and shipped over to the school closest at hand, without any ifs or buts. But as children of the choice generation, we have that luxury. And so we head off to road test our local schools over the next few months using a selection criteria that would surpass the standard of most commercial tenders. We are grateful that all of the schools are willing to show us around their school and answer our endless questions, which they did with enthusiasm and pride.

Having found a school which has a cool motto and colours which match our favourite footy team (undoubtedly the most important attributes), it is now the school's turn to grill us.

After we killed a few trees in application forms and supply our DNA for testing, it was confirmed our daughter had a school to go to.

Next comes induction day, which I believe most schools do nowadays to provide an opportunity for you and your child to familiarise themselves with the school environment and meet their teachers for next year. It is difficult to overlook this event, with the daily reminders from both child and wife. It is no surprise that the dads and mums are equally represented, although most of the dads look a bit sheepish as if they've accidentally wandered into the mothers' den.

The morning starts smoothly, as our child leaves to meet her teacher. As yet there are no tears, just wide-eyed excitement (from both child and wife). A pep talk from the principal gets the information session for parents underway. This is followed by a stirring rendition of the school song from last year's intake, and impressively, they all stand in line and do exactly as they are told. Then comes the request to help out with the canteen and clothes shop from the P&C lady, using recruitment strategies borrowed from the early navy press gangs. We buy up big on school uniforms -summer, winter and sports - a wide-brimmed hat and an ergonomic back-pack. After a few stories with the lads around the back about our old schooldays, our kids are returned to us and we leave to brace ourselves for the real excitement which will build over the coming months.

My daughter's first day at school is still a few weeks away. I have it marked with flashing lights in my diary. I am still wondering what to expect, although I'm told crying is normal. However, I'm also told that children tend to stop crying as soon as you are out of sight, and the teachers seem pretty good at distracting them when you are leaving. Mums, on the other hand, could take a few weeks to get over it.  (Note to Dads - this is NOT an excuse for retail therapy).

Despite this advice, I suspect it will be very hard to do a quick drop off of as recommended.

Then there are the practical suggestions mentioned during the induction, such as making sure she has a big enough suitcase, a spare change of clothes, and a number of other things which I can only half remember. I'm not normally forgetfully on things like this, but I think that I've bought into the excitement of going to school myself.

As the big first day gets closer, the house has become a buzz. Whenever we get a visitor, my daughter slips into her school uniform for a practice run. Going to school has even overshadowed Christmas for her this year.

"How many more sleeps til I go to school, dad??"