Ben has started preschool this week, yesterday was his first day. He came home with a little scratch on his face, not a promising start, but I suppose it was part of today’s lesson: other children (or babies as he calls them) are not always as nice as Mum and Dad.

The teacher described him as “an angel”. “It’s early days”, I thought. He’s been a very good boy on this first day at school: he didn’t throw a fuss when mummy left, played nice with other children, and didn’t caused any trouble in general. He’s been so good that a tiny part of me worried he would have refused to come back home because he liked it better at school. He didn’t, gladly, but I really need to work on my own insecurity.

On the way back he was super excited, and told his mummy all that had happened that day, in his own way. Apparently he didn’t stop talking about it all afternoon. I’m saying “apparently” because, while all of this was happening, I wasn’t there. I missed my son’s first day at school because I was busy at work, and that makes me angry and annoyed at myself. How did I not get how much of a big deal it was going to be? I had known the date for weeks, I could have taken the day off, but by the time I thought of that it was too late.

That is not the only reason why I feel a little blue today. There is something I’ve noticed happening more and more lately, and now that school has started there’s really no way back.

Before becoming a dad I had a lot of naive ideas about fatherhood, all of which I quickly reviewed and corrected. Not because I’m good at it, but because they were all wrong. I also had this romantic notion that I would teach my son everything I learned about this world; and for a while I had been able to comfortably sustain the illusion.

When Ben was very little, every new skill or new word he learned, he learned it from us. I remember teaching him how to catch a ball, stroke our dogs, hold a pen, name colours, count till 10… the list could go on an on.

Then came “Oh dear”, the first crack in my illusion, the first expression he learnt on his own. It took us a while, but we eventually realised he picked it up from a DVD of Winnie The Pooh. He must have decided at some point that we, his parents, didn’t have much to offer anymore, so he started learning from everything else: toys, books, radio, cartoons, YouTube. Today, on his first day of preschool, is when the illusion finally shatters.

From now on, he will learn more from his teachers and his classmates. He’ll learn so much from others that I wonder how much there will be for me to teach.

I suppose I can continue teaching him Italian, but he will soon realise that learning to speak a language none of his friends speaks is just too much of an hassle, and not worth his time. I’ll try to explain how much he will regret his choice one day, but he won’t see it that way.

I still have time to impart all I learned about music, I’ll teach him to appreciate real music, but I’m sure at some point he will start listening to something like drum & bass just to piss me off, or because that’s what his “people” listen to. I swear, if that happens I’m gonna run away from home.

Ben is the one who just started school this week, but I am the one, it seems, who still has much to learn. My lesson for today is to learn how to share my Ben with the rest of the world; I think I’ll struggle with that for some time.

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