So tomorrow is the big day… our second first day at ‘big’ school.
It feels like all roads have been leading to this point for months and months. The anticipation has been building up with well intentioned comments about ‘being ready’ and purchasing uniform; school visits and talking about that all important first day and what it will entail. Creating the lovely but pain in the arse scrapbook that she can share with her friends that shows lots of information about her (and almost drove me to an early grave with her high standard perfectionist ways!)
Second time round does feel much easier. We all know the school, the staff are lovely and welcoming and the routine is no longer alien. Esme has been going into the place every day for the last 2 years and thoroughly made herself at home (at the end of last term she told the Head off for being late as he re-entered school in the morning just after the bell had gone!) We just know the score! Esme has less questions because she has been taking it all in these last few years, and those that she does have she asks our resident expert George over dinner of an evening! ‘IS the Macaroni Cheese nice?’ and ‘what do I do if I need a wee on the playground?’ being the hot questions up for debate this week! (I interjected on the final one that ‘a sneaky tree wee’ might be OK when caught short on a family walk in the woods but was NEVER OK on the playground!!!)
I also feel she’s more ‘ready’ than her big brother was. She’s 7 months older than George was on his first day; she has the in built confidence of a second born child and is academically much further on than George was at this point because she’s had 2 years of observing her brother reading and writing and emulating his ‘homework’. There is possibly also the girl/boy argument at play. She could probably have gone this time last year and I suspect would have slotted in just fine!
But even with this ‘readiness’ in mind, the house has crackled with anxiety for the last few weeks. Our big two show their worries with middle of the night footsteps and talk of bad dreams. Never anything specific, never anything which overtly says ‘I’m worried about starting school’ but definitely signs that their little fragile minds are working overtime. And Esme is a complex character at the best of time- she over thinks things and is a bright little button who will work out all the possible issues before they’ve even occurred. We are battling more on tensions which had calmed down recently- clothing issues and food being the battlegrounds of choice. And I’ve noticed her little stuffed monkey has been closer to her side than usual and the thumb creeps in her mouth that little bit more often too. I’m confident that she will settle in quickly- she’ll be absolutely full of it after her first day and (I hope) chomping at the bit with her bag packed for day 2 early the next morning; but for now, the anticipation is weighing heavy on her little shoulders and we all need to get DAY 1 over with!
I thought I was fine with it this time! I cried like a baby the day I dropped George off! Every time I even drove past the school in the weeks leading up to ‘the big day’ I got a lump in my throat and moist eyes! I honestly thought that this time I’d be fine; my list of worries is far less than last time. I’m keen to get her first day over with as I’m expecting a little wobble but after that the fears that I had over George are not there. I don’t worry she’s too young or too fidgety or too shy and quiet! She is ready to learn, she is confident, she has ‘leadership qualities’ (is a bossy boots!) that mean she will never be a pushover! And I know now from experience that she is going to a lovely school with fantastic staff who will nurture and care for her.
But still the lump in the throat has returned. And on reflection it’s more about me than her; I will miss her so, so much! Of all our kids she’s probably the one who pushes us both to the limits the most… she can be completely impossible! She is so unbelievably strong willed and stubborn! She stands her ground over the most ridiculous things and when she doesn’t get her own way either goes mental or mute, both of which are equally frustrating! But my god, is she entertaining to be around! She’s funny and crazy and oh so grown up for her 4 years on this planet. She has the most hilarious phrases and is definitely my little wingman when at home with Ted. I love our afternoons together when George is at school and Ted is asleep- baking or drawing or doing jigsaws and I’m not ready for these to stop. The finality of starting school also gives you the chance to think of all the time lost or wasted- sticking her in front of the TV to entertain herself while I cleaned up or answered emails or was too tired to enjoy the time we had! I want to go back to those days and shake myself and remind the ‘emailing me’ how short this time is… A school mum friend said to me this morning, ‘I feel like just as they start to get really fun to be around, institutions are willing to take them off my hands!’ It’s a good point!
The start of school just represents the thing I think all parents fear the most. Growing up and growing away. It’s a constant paradox of wanting them to be happy and independent but also wanting them to still need you… Because ultimately, if they don’t NEED you, will they still WANT you?? And the start of school represents something so infinite! All these years stretching ahead of them, day after day, year after year. No longer able to jump in the car on a sunny Tuesday and go to the zoo should the mood take you… No snuggles not the sofa at 11am with a sneaky biscuit and a good book… It’s the ultimate relentless routine and there’s no going back! It’s also the start of spending less and less time with them; I genuinely miss them and the time we used to have!
It’s also another set of worries to add to the parenting anxiety soup… are they making friends? Are they kind to people? Are others kind to them? Are they learning well? Do they have a good attitude to learning and make good choices with their behaviour? What if they don’t like their dinner? Or they fall down? Who will cuddle them better? Are we doing enough to support them at home? Should we listen to them read more? (Yes!) Do we have time to listen to them read more? (NO!)
It’s all just so far removed from the tiny bundle of chubbies you held in your arms what feels like such a short time ago!
So the uniform is out, the bags are packed and my smile will be painted on! I will hand over my second-born-feisty-pants-princess to the kind staff at school in the morning and hope that she doesn’t cry on me… my own smile will be fragile!! You will be awesome Doodle- it’s the first day in your journey to change the world!
‘There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask “What if I fall?”
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?’