Yesterday was number two son's first day at school. In his inimitable fashion, when the time came for mummy to leave he didn't even look up from playing with the toy dinosaurs as he threw out a nonchalant 'Bye mum'. He simply oozes confidence and has a magnetic attraction for other children that I can't help but envy.
Within seconds of entering any new situation he has picked up a coterie of mates who hang on his every word. At a park he will be playing with children in an instant and a passerby would think they had been friends for years. This summer he did two weeks in at a summer school. Within a couple of days I was already getting invites for playdates.
What a contrast to his own dear mum who was as socially awkward as he is sophisticated. When I look back on my first day of primary school there is no comparison between our experiences. Where he sauntered in and picked up a conversation with his playmates as if they had been friends forever, I remember being paralysed with shyness and unable to even lift my eyes to look at the other children, let alone address a word to them.
You might assume this is because my son had been in nursery with at least a portion of his class, but I lived in a tiny village so there were virtually no strangers in my classroom. It's just that the whole idea of school filled me with dread, whereas he has been counting down the days before he could start 'big' school.
I suppose it helps that his brother is there, and it also helps that school has changed immeasurably since I went. Back in my schooldays the happiness of the children didn't even make it onto the teachers agenda. I remember being stuck behind a desk unable to do the simplest things like have a drink or go to the loo without asking for permission. Being terrified of the whole experience and longing for the moment my mum would pick me up and deliver me from this hell.
By contrast my son was most reluctant to leave once his first half-day was up. He was puzzled as to why he wasn't staying for a whole school day like his brother. On the way home he quizzed me as to when he would be able to go to school 'properly'.
I suspect a lot of the difference is down to personality, but I also think that schools want children to enjoy themselves too. Perhaps sometimes to the detriment of their academic achievement, but I remember being crippled by shyness induced by the bullies at my school, while my teachers turned a blind eye - if indeed they noticed at all.
I was kicked by the boys, had my hair pulled by the girls. I was mercilessly teased because my mum was the only one who took the suggestion that pupils might not want to wear uniform seriously. I would stand in my jumble sale pink jumper amidst a sea of deep green school cardigans and feel a prize idiot.
I didn't fit the mould of a petite and pretty little girl, and boy did I pay for that. School started badly and didn't get much better for several years. So I am very glad that times have changed and my own little boy declared his first day at school as 'fantastic'. Let's hope it's as much of a mark of how his school career will go as my impression on my first day was for me.