Finally, your youngest's starting school, but you don't feel like celebrating.
He’d been part of the tribe of children in our rural road for as long as he’d shown independence. Of course he was excited about joining them at his impending school start. With a backpack almost as big as him, this innocent being was geared up for the new adventure, a “big boy” now!
He had no idea of my concerns. How would he cope with the long days, the classroom rituals? Would he know which toilet to go to, would he make new friends? Who would help him if he was confused, or upset, or tired, or just overwhelmed? My logic told me he was about to follow the path that so many had in years past. Staff would have these new beginnings well rehearsed and his older sister, now in her third year of school, gave me some level of comfort. But, this was my little boy, my youngest, my baby and no-one knew him quite like me.
Full of enthusiasm as the time for the short trip to school was approaching, I smiled at him, gazing at this little human being who I’d brought into this world. He was oblivious to my internal churning and my strong desire to not let go; to squeeze him, to try to explain just one more thing in my attempts to have him best prepared.
With an air of independence, he hopped in the car alongside his sister, thrilled that this moment had arrived. I remember his sister being just the same, fiercely independent and desperate to hit the ground running on her first school day. Whilst I tried to take comfort, acknowledging that I had not had to deal with the tears and upset of those more reluctant school starters, I could not ignore the emotional turmoil within.
We pulled into a car park, watching hordes of children spilling off each bus, engrossed in private conversations or enthusiastic greetings. Calmly, I held his hand and slowly we headed to his new room. A peg, a book bag and a name on a table. I hovered, his hand still firmly clasped in mine, waiting to let go, anticipating that moment when I would have to say goodbye.
He looked up at me momentarily, taking in his new surrounds. Pictures and letters pinned to the walls, books and coloured boxes stacked with resources close to hand. With a warm greeting, his new teacher approached us, kindly inviting me to stay for the school welcome assembly.
I crouched down and kissed his familiar cheek, trying my best to match his enthusiasm, reassuring him I’d be there at the end of his day.
I joined the other parents at the back of the hall, our standing position allowed us to scan for our children as each class crocodiled in.
Familiar as the back of my hand, I spotted his fair head, his stature diminutive in comparison to the older children filing in.
Without further ado, the familiar chords of the national anthem filled the hall and I felt the lump rising in my throat. Discreetly, yet reluctantly, I withdrew and headed to my car where I sat and sobbed, trying to work out why this emotional mess? This new chapter heralded his new start and his enthusiasm for his new journey.
For me, it was a chapter closing. An end to an era, no more babies at home. As I sat and pondered, I wondered how many new chapters would we have to learn to transition? How many times would I have to let go a little more? How many times would I have to loosen the protective arms? How many times would I have to adopt a brave face?
I am a mother whose every sinew is hard wired to her offspring. When those instinctive, protective circuits look to be compromised, sometimes we have to learn;
To let go a little.
To worry a little less.
To not allow the anxiety to overwhelm.
We are human, not robotic or automated for our children’s next step. We’re deserving of self kindness, time to adjust, to learn, to seek help and support, with an understanding of the greater picture of independence, in this journey called motherhood.
Whatever your struggles or challenges, I’m here for you and I’d love to help:)
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"Learning to master motherhood one step at a time."