Dad shares his daughter's first day at school and yes, we are crying
"It wasn't like this 60 years ago."
I nodded in agreement with the proud grandfather as a clatter of small children took to tiny desks and little seats. Doing the maths, I worked out it was 34 years since my own first day in school.
The fact that details from that day, in late August 1984, still stick out just goes to show how monumental it is in your life. For a four-year-old, it is such a gigantic event.
Caitlin, our eldest, gets excitedly carried away about birthdays and even birthday eves so myself and Caitriona, my wife, figured the best way to prepare for school was with the minimum of fuss.
We discussed school with her, welcomed her questions and requests for our school memories and had a big day out to get her uniform, but we actively avoided the topic of school before the big day.
That didn't stop ourselves from fretting and planning. From picking out the lunch menu for the rest of the week. From ironing labels onto shirts and pinafores.
We set our alarm for 7 am, on Wednesday, but slept on until 7:30 am. Still, enough time to get up, set and out the door for 9 am.
That 90 minutes zipped by, regardless. Breakfast over and teeth brushed, we broke the news and Caitlin just beamed. This was it. This was the day she had heard about all summer and before that too.
I was on alert for Caitriona to shed a tear or two, especially when she arrived downstairs with her coat on and sporting a pair of dark sunglasses.
Instead, I was the one that came closest to welling up before we left the house.
Patrick, our three-year-old, had been in playschool with Caitlin for the past year. He was ready for school too, in his cartoon character pizza slice t-shirt, but they'd be going their separate ways for a while yet.
Patrick knew something was up when Caitlin was suited and booted in her mint, new uniform. "But Caitlin," he asked (looking dolefully on), "who's going to look after me now?"
Jesus, lad, enough!
"You're the big boy in playschool now," I told him. "You'll have to look after the other little boys and girls there now."
Imbued by a new sense of responsibility, he slung his over-sized bag on his wee shoulders and headed for the front door.
Time for the walk to school. But, first, photos. 40 or 50 of them. A video or four too.
Any sense of nerves Caitlin may have felt were replaced by excitement and anticipation as she saw all the older children on the road marching towards and over the green. Our next door neighbours' little one is in the same school and they joined up to chat merrily on the way.
We joined the busy convoy on the way to school and tried to take in the sights and sounds ourselves. Turning the corner to the school-yard and we were hit with the noise and the sheer amount of little, uniformed bodies milling about.
It took a moment to take in the vast number of adults and children. For a four-year-old who is three-odd-feet tall, it must be close to overwhelming.
We got the last of the hugs out of the way before we joined the fray and weaved our way towards the right door. Elise, our five-month-old, was absolutely loving the chaos and smiling at anyone, young or old, that gave her a wave.
Parents, guardians and grandparents were allowed in on day one. We brought Caitlin in, introduced her to her teacher and we were prouder still when she produced a hand-made card for the teacher on her first day. Swotting up already...
Caitlin found a familiar face and took her seat. We left her to it. No point in hanging around too long.
The school put on tea, coffee and biscuits (myself and Patrick 'shared' four custard creams) so we chatted to the other shell-shocked parents and veterans who had been through this routine before.
We headed out the door and into the morning sun. Our party of five shorn of one of our working parts.
Another new beginning and one that comes with the promise of lifelong bonds, and biscuits for mum, dad and brother. We'll take that.
Patrick is a Dubliner, now well adjusted to life far from home... in Sallins, Co. Kildare. He writes for SportsJOE and is the co-host on their popular rugby podcast.