Alexandra in the morning. Image Credit: Supplied

You can interview the likes of Tiger Woods, chat with superstars such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Diego Maradona. You can cover global events like the FA Cup final and Wimbledon. But despite whatever momentous occasions you have experienced in your life, nothing quite prepares you for when your baby girl goes off to school for the first time.

I am writing this with a slight tremble in the hand and more than the threat of a tear in the corner of my eye, having just seen my five-year-old walk in to school for the first time ever, leaving her poor old pops at the gate and stepping into a whole new world of her own.

Over the past five years, I cannot think of a single day when she was not with either mum or dad for more than an hour or so, so to see her depart into the big world without one of us holding her hand was nothing short of heart-wrenching.

Alexandra had been wearing a brave face all week — excited to meet new friends as pre-school nursery last year was done entirely on a laptop due to COVID-19.

Like so many others across the UAE this week, first year in school is an entirely new experience. There are no break-time playmates and buddies from nursery to team up with as they face this alien environment. Despite being in classes of 20-plus, every one of them is quite literally on their own.

If mummy and I had a million thoughts racing through our heads as to how Alex would get on, we could only guess what was happening in her own little mind. Just before bedtime last night, Alex’s steely visage cracked for the first time and the tears flowed just before an early sleep (it was a 5.30am start this morning).

However, on the big day, the smile was back and the excitement had returned — for Alex at least: “Best day ever!” she anticipated before the first glints of daybreak had arrived. Mum had tears as she waved us off. I was holding Alex’s hand on the journey to school, and I found I was the one searching for reassurances as Alex admired the sun rising on the hazy horizon.

The tumult of cars and yellow buses I have always observed from afar was in full swing by the time we arrived for registration, and the very organised chaos moved along at a brisk pace, thanks to the teaching assistants ensuring everyone was in the right group ahead of their shepherding off to class. I was urged to step back outside the gate as I said my goodbyes to Alex, and then she was off. A solitary glance over the shoulder, a little wave and, with a skip, she stepped into the great unknown.

I hope, for my sake at least, tomorrow will be easier.