Two years ago this whole school starting business was new to me. I hadn’t had anything to do with it since I began in Junior Infants in a 4-teacher school in rural Ireland in the early 80’s. As far as I remember, starting school involved being brought into the classroom by my mother, the teacher saying hello and then taking me to a seat beside my friend.
When it came time for Number One to start school, there I was, faced with German traditions I knew nothing about and a husband who wasn’t too well up on things either, having only hazy memories of his own first day at school.
This time round, we are well clued in. Number Two starts school tomorrow and we are on top of things. We have a first day of school card from Ireland, so he doesn’t get the same one from anyone else, we have his favourite breakfast planned to set him up for the day, we have the grandparents invited for lunch followed by coffee and cake – because that is what you do her. But most importantly, we have the Schultuete ready.
The what? Yes, that is what I said too when I first came across this tradition. To be honest I thought the it was some recent custom to make more of an event out of starting school. Then I saw a black and white photo of my father-in-law on his first day of school – aged six, in short pants and with a Schultuete nearly the size of him.
A Schultuete is a large, cardboard cone-shape tied with a bow on top. The parents fill it with all sorts of things their child likes and could use for school as well as some sweets and maybe some toys. The idea, as far as I know, is to get the child excited about starting school, rather than be nervous about it. The Schultuete is something to look forward to.
You can buy these ready made but not filled or you can make your own. I love make and do, but our kindergarten has a tradition of the minders making a Schultuete for the pre-schoolers, so that is where Number Two’s one came from. He got to choose the theme – knights and dragons – and his childminder at kindergarten handmade ifor him. Isn’t it fab? I couldn’t have made one as nice as this, I’m sure.
We have filled it with a small selection of his favourite sweets, some school supplies he doesn’t really need but he can have as backup and a few other little bits and pieces he might like, now that he is a schoolboy.
Tomorrow he will proudly carry his Schultuete to school with him, along with his new school bag, posing for photos with us, his brothers, his friends and then his name will be called out in assembly. He’ll get up, take his school bag and Schultuete and follow his teacher to his new classroom.
As I write my eyes are welling up. It seems it doesn’t get easier the second time around. I think I’ll have to start a new tradition whereby someone gives the school child’s mother a type of mini Schultuete with all the things she’ll need for the first day of school – tissues, mini mascara and something for her nerves.
That said, the school seems to be well clued in too. They hold a little reception for the abandoned parents once the children have been led away, allowing us to cheer ourselves up with coffee, cake and prosecco.
Cheers Number Two! Here’s to a great start.