Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Highs and lows of starting school

Obviously, every "Mummy blogger" on the planet has written a post about starting school, about the pride and the sense of loss, about the fears and the hopes, and since I'm never one to shy away from a bandwagon, here's my version of all the cliches...

For the past six months or so, I'd been relatively sanguine about LittleBear starting school. He was so obviously ready to start learning more and discovering more, and having more opportunities. And then it started to get closer, and more real and more immediate, and instead of the hopes and opportunities all I could see was the little, fragile, sensitive, solitary child who struggles with new experiences and who I was about to dump in the ultimate new experience. And every fibre of my being screamed not to let go of my baby, despite knowing full well that this was a normal, healthy, necessary step in his path through life.

And so we got to his starting days. Blessedly, only half-days to begin with. And that first half day I felt sick with anxiety, terrified that my LittleBear would be overwhelmed and daunted. That he would be bewildered and upset. That he would hate it and beg not to go back. After all, we'd had four years of nursery, regularly punctuated by sobbing fits of "I don't want to go to nursery" and a limpet clinging to me as I tried to leave him there.

But no. School was brilliant. School was fun. School was exciting.

And then we moved on to slightly longer at school each day. And still he was happy.

And then he came home from school in alternative pants and trousers having had an "accident". This is my little boy who hasn't had any kind of accident in nearly two years. My little boy who went from nappies to dry in a week. But... he's also my little boy who always needs reminding to go to the loo as he fidgets, squirms, wriggles and insists he doesn't need a wee. And it sent me into a flat spin. He didn't seem even remotely bothered, and could barely remember what had happened, or where, or when. It was a complete irrelevance in his day, certainly compared to the sausages, mash and chocolate cake he'd had for lunch. But I was instantly and completely convinced that it was a Harbinger of Doom. A Sign. A Terrible Portent. It was irrevocable evidence that he was unhappy, unsure of himself and Everything Was Going Wrong. Because I never over-react to anything. Not me.

So then I spent the whole weekend intermittently weeping gently about my baby, about whether he was going to be OK, about whether we were entering a terrible regression into wetting himself, about whether he was actually afraid or confused or unhappy and I wouldn't be able to help.

And then Monday rolled around, and not only was it the first full day of school, but it was also the first day to involve half an hour at the "breakfast club" before school to give both BigBear and I the chance to get to work on time. And we both felt like complete heels leaving our little scrap there, looking small and lost and confused.

I wept on the way to work, missing my constant companion, missing his little voice piping up from the back seat asking for stories, missing the silliness and the happiness we used to share in the car. I'd had four years in which I'd always had LittleBear with me on the way to work. There had been plenty of times I'd been desperate for some peace and quiet, when I'd longed to just listen to the radio and not have to pretend to be a particularly ill-informed bunny rabbit, when I'd wished to be able to stop telling endless dinosaur stories, but after three days of peace and quiet, I missed my boy. Couldn't we just wind back the clock and I could have him with me again? I felt bereft. Alone. Lost.

Meanwhile... LittleBear had a lovely day. Breakfast club was apparently splendid, and the drawing he produced (of a dinosaur) was so incredibly awesome that the lady there took a photocopy of it to keep for herself*. And lunch was fishfingers and chips, and he got to play on the trikes at play-time and he couldn't remember anything else.

And though I miss my time in the car with my adorable boy, I've discovered that I have something better. I collect him from school at 3pm and we have nearly three whole hours to play together before dinner. None of the frantic rush that work days used to involve - sprinting through the door, dropping bags left, right and centre and hastily trying to throw together dinner in six and a quarter minutes. I no longer have a whole Monday and Friday at home with him, but I do get a great big chunk of time every day.

So while I haven't exactly stopped worrying about my baby's wellbeing and happiness (after all, he told me today "I prefer playing on my own at school, because then other people can't annoy me") I am going to relish the fact that I get time to play every day. I'm going to be grateful that I'm lucky enough to have a job that will allow me to collect him from school every day and sweep him up in a cuddle (for as long as he will allow such an indignity). And I'm going to try to stop imagining the worst. Because I'm sure you've all noticed how good I am at that.

* This is LittleBear's interpretation of the event. I'm not entirely sure what actually happened.

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