Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Back to School

Well I'm here again, finally...

The last few weeks of the holiday were inevitably busy and I had very little time to blog. And last week I was attempting to catch up on the housework/garden while arranging a fortieth birthday party for a friend which we hosted at the weekend (of which more later).

Last week saw not just the kids back to school but nos 1 & 3 both starting new schools (next year for the first time in five years I won't have a child starting a new school, which will be such a relief...).

No 1 as I may have mentioned before got just a tad stressed at the end of last term about the prospect of going to secondary school. I felt like a worn out dishcloth by the end of it, and was mightily relieved when school finished and we could forget about it all.

As the last week of the holidays wore away, however, she got increasingly anxious. We spent a fabulous weekend at my mother's in Shropshire, where she poured her heart out to her granny (lucky old granny), and when we left she surreptitiously sobbed all the way home.

By the Sunday she was like a cat on hot bricks, but we had a long (and I thought calming) chat in the car on the way home from a day out, and I thought she'd be fine.


Last Monday she started to look teary around lunchtime and by teatime was claiming she wasn't hungry. (A sure sign that something is wrong. No1 is always hungry).

I sent her upstairs to get in the bath, as I could see she was about to lose it big time and thought she might not like an audience. I gave her half an hour and followed her up to discover her sitting rather tragically in her room in floods of tears. I think she probably sobbed for nearly two hours, by the end of which she a) couldn't actually tell me what the problem was and b) was so lacking in oxygen I felt sure she was going to have a panic attack.

In desperation I shoved her in the bath, letting her borrow all my body wash/bubble bath etc and let her soak for about an hour, which seemed to do the trick.

While all this was going on, I of course was busy hiding my own stress about the idea of my baby going off to school on her own without me. I suddenly realised talking to a friend in the week there was a reason I had been waking up early every morning, and that was it...

The thing is though, hard and all as it is to let go, and it is very very hard, I know I have to do it.

In a sense I feel that from the moment you have a child you embark on a series of leave takings.

As women we carry our babies for nine months, and they are physically part of us, until the moment the placenta is cut.

For a while we generally sleep with them, then maybe we move them into a cot next to our bed, before eventually transferring them to a room of their own.

As they grow we start to leave them occasionally with others, and when they're big enough we spend mornings or days apart from them as they progress to nursery, and then on to school.

At each point, our children step away from us and move onwards to a place where they will one hopes have the confidence to leave us and face the world.

Because that really is our job as parents. Our children aren't ours to keep. They are the greatest gift we have for sure, but it is inevitable that one day they will leave us. Which is just as it should be, however hard that is.

So come last Tuesday, when I walked no 1 up to her new school (a measure of her nervousness was that she made me accompany her all the way) although I felt a pang of longing for the little girl I am losing into adolescence (a pang that nearly became a flood when she turned to give me a hug - the first time she's done that at the school gate for years), I couldn't help but be pleased for her as well. Though she doesn't think so, she is more then ready for big school, and it is time she and I both moved on.

No 3 was much more sanguine about her change of circumstance, skipping in happily on the first day and demanding that I left her in the junior playground. Which means I'm down to one in the infant school - another two years and I'll be saying goodbye to that part of my parenting life for good.

Like I say, parenting involves a series of leavetakings, which can sometimes feel rather sad and final.

On the other hand nothing matches the feeling I got at the end of the day, when no 1 sent me a text.

Hi Mum, she said, I had a fab dayxxx

Sometimes it is so fabulous being a parent.

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