Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency/ANA
Please don’t forget, we have the Middle School “Back-to-School Night” from 5.30pm-8pm.

I read Shihaam’s message with a groan. Seriously? Two-and-a-half hours? Why can’t the school just email a high-level overview of what’s to come this year for the Grade 6 pupils? Unless there’s a line saying they’re cancelling maths, I’m going to pretty much be okay with the curriculum. I consider saying all of this to Shihaam, before realising a thumbs-up will probably be a more appropriate reply.

Things seem to have moved up a notch with the progression of our 11-year-old son, Aqeel, to Grade 6. In old-school parlance, if you’ll pardon the pun, Grade 6 is Standard4, so not that big a deal, you’d imagine. But in the American school system, which is what all three of our kids are experiencing, Middle School represents a coming-of-age of sorts.

They aren’t suddenly expected to battle orcs on their way to Mordor, but they did have a “Step Up” ceremony in the school auditorium before completing Grade 5, which symbolised their new status and accompanying responsibilities.

Now, instead of spending much of their time in their homeroom (please excuse the Americanisms), the pupils move around in a larger environment where classes are taught in blocks, instead of being day-specific, kids have their own laptops and lockers, and they have access to the coffee shop on campus.

Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? And it can be, especially when you see your child maturing before your eyes. Not so much, though, when you track their weekly spending on the school’s online portal and discover that the charges for vanilla smoothies are racking up.

Aqeel needs to understand that, while the school fees might be exorbitant, they don’t include complimentary smoothies.

Anyway, let’s chalk his smoothie excesses up to the novelty of suddenly having more freedom than was previously the case.

I’m more concerned about Back-to-School Night. The Middle School principal has recommended parents wear running shoes as we will only have five minutes to move from one teacher and class to another.

Apparently, the aim is to let parents experience what their children do in rushing from class to class, so we can better understand what they’re going through as new Middle Schoolers, compared with the relative pampering of previous years.

Oh well, I guess it’s time for me to “step up” and fulfil my responsibilities as a parent. And it’s only one night, after all.

My phone beeps. It’s another message from Shihaam.

“We have Saabirah and Yaqeen’s curriculum night tomorrow, in case you’ve forgotten that, too.”

I could definitely do with a vanilla smoothie right about now.

* Ridwaan Bawa, a former newspaper executive editor and magazine editor, is writing a weekly column about the life and experiences of a proud South African living as an expat in Qatar. Follow him on Twitter @ridwaanbawa

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.

Cape Argus