Secondary school appears to have stolen my children and sent me back two teenagers in waiting. Well, my eldest is almost a teenager and I have had a year to get used to the changes that came almost as soon as she put on her blazer and tie and marched up the hill to big school. But now that daughter number two has been there a week I can see it happening all over again and this time I am more able to watch the development with interest rather than just close my eyes and hang on for the ride.
It started with number two in the summer holiday. We had the same level of excitement, the same degree of planning for route to school and who to walk with but there were slightly less nerves. Maybe it is because she doesn't wear her heart on her sleeve like her sister and so didn't share them with us but also I think there was a degree of confidence born of experience. She had watched her sister take the selfsame steps just twelve months before and doubtless had countless conversations about it and so was a slight advantage to her and to her friends.
The first sign of the emergence of the maturing child was the haircut. Side fringes appear to be de rigueur. By this I mean having a section cut into the front which hangs just over one eye in a fashion that must impair vision but is, apparently, all the rage.
And then the big day came. She looked small and neat in her uniform, but not quite as small as her sister had done and when she arrived home she had adopted the post school slouch, tie undone. shirt untucked, skirt rolled high to reveal thigh, something that took her sister a couple of weeks to achieve.
But despite these relatively insignificant outward appearances, something inside her has changed too. A new air of confidence, of pride in her books, a sniff of the beginning of something fresh and exciting. And this time I want to soak it all up and enjoy it because before too long she will become a seething ball of hormones, grumpy, taciturn, volatile one minute, childish, eager to please and entertaining the next. Just like her sister.