I feel as though I am floating a million million miles above the scene around me.
There is a white room, and small plastic tables dully reflecting the strip lighting above.
There are coat hooks and gym bags and the artwork of near-adolescents lining the walls.
There are groups of parents - mostly women, with one or two men dotted about - sitting in groups around the tables. They greet one another and nod, and smile. Occasionally they whisper to one another, or laugh gently.
From up here I can see what looks like me down there, sitting to one side at a table that seems slightly set apart. (Or maybe that's just the way it looks from up here in zero-gravity. Excuse me while I adjust my visor. This protective suit can skew my perspective.)
At the front of the room the headteacher - yes, we're back in school, again - talks. She is talking about forthcoming exams. She is calm, assertive and knowledgeable. She is friendly and reassuring. She has done this many times before - both the tests and preparing the parents to prepare their children for the tests - and, frankly, she thinks it's a bit of a waste of time. But it's got to be done, so she's telling us how we'll all do it.
I am wondering how we'll do it, Grace and I.
But more, I am wondering how it must feel to be one of those other parents. What are they thinking, I think, as I float. What is it like in their world, where they arrive, and sit with friends, the parents of their children's friends, and exchange small stresses and questions about this process, while knowing that, basically, their children will be fine.
I pause and adjust my zero-gravity boots, and examine that last thought, while someone asks a question about grammar. No, I think, I'm not exaggerating. Their children will be fine. They won't start screaming when the extra homework starts after half-term. They won't prowl the house for hours at night when they can't get to sleep for worrying about it. They won't wake screaming and cursing on the mornings of the exams. They won't get grades suggesting they are well below the national average. They won't be the ones embarrassed and hurt when the class exchange results (even though this is banned, it will happen, and my daughter will suffer.)
Well, one or two of them might.
When I look closely there are a couple of other parents who smile and say hello to the figure that looks like me. One of them even asks how Grace and I are doing.
When I look closely, I can see that the headteacher is looking at me with a smile and raised eyebrows and a thumbs-up, to gauge how I'm feeling and check that I (and by extension Grace) are feeling ok about this. And now I remember the reassuring email she sent before the meeting to say that my girl would have all the help she needs to help her perform at her best and show what she can do, when she's not worrying.
It's weird up here in this suit. It's sort of nice and sort of not. It leads to far-away thoughts. It makes me think there is more distance than perhaps there might be.
My daughter often feels like she's from another planet and as though she needs help interpreting this one. She does a great job most of the time. She needs me to be in the control room, not bobbing around up here like a space tourist.
I think maybe I need to talk to Ground Control about coming down soon.
We've got another project to start work on.
Image by NASA, not me