Friday, 4 September 2015
Starting Big School
Since then six years have passed and the day-to-day business of rearing four boys is no less exhausting, but paradoxically it seems to take even more time than when they were little. There are no nap times during which I can escape to the keyboard to avoid the siren call of the washing machine and now they are all at school shockingly it appears I have to make some vague attempt to earn a living. The latter of which is proving more than a little challenging, as the call for a jack-of-all-trades writer seems to have faded to little more than an vanishing whisper torn away by the hurricane blast of digital media.
But it seems somewhat unfair that while I charted the early years with such dedication, now that my children are getting really interesting I am silent on the matter. Particularly as this week marks a huge parenting milestone as my oldest started secondary school.
My goodness what an emotional few days it has been. We have been working towards this day for the past two years. Thanks to a very poor choice of location (oh the shame for one so devoted to Kirstie and Phil ) we ended up living in a house that was in the catchment for just one secondary school, which had just shut down its sixth form due to lack of interest.
This meant that we were caught up in the whirlwind of exams and tests to see if we could win that golden ticket to a selective school. It seems as if we have been tutoring, revising, sitting tests, waiting for acceptance letters forever, yet, at last on 2 September, it was finally time for him to go to his new school.
He dressed up in his new blazer and tie, a massive change from the sloppy polo shirts of primary school and before me stood an impossibly handsome young man. A quick scroll through my Facebook page and I was confronted with legions of little children who were suddenly all grown up as everyone posted the obligatory first day of school photos. Where had all the little urchins with unruly curls, chubby cheeks, untucked shirts and gap-toothed smiles gone? Overnight they were transformed into smart, independent almost-teenagers.
On day one of school I was eased in gently. I was allowed to drive my precious boy to school and give him a quick kiss before he disappeared into the crowd of blazer clad pupils. Day two and the plaster was beginning to rip off, but I could still walk him to the bus stop and wait with him to make sure he got on safe and sound.
Day three and, ouch, the plaster is off! I had to watch from my doorstep as he trudged down the road, PE and book bags weighing him down, off to catch a double decker London bus all on his own. He was grinning at his independence, while I had come over all neurotic and kept shouting randomly that he 'Wasn't to speak to strangers' and to 'Remember to look both ways when you cross the road'. All things I have drummed into him for over a decade, but suddenly it seemed imperative that he shouldn't forget all the rules that I pray will keep him safe in the big, bad world.
Parenting is such a roller coaster of an experience. On the one hand you count the days in the lead up to every milestone. When will they sleep through, walk, talk, start school, finish school? As each new phase rolls around we are filled with pride that we have made it, that things are going to plan. But equally every achievement is tinged with the blue hue of nostalgia and the fiery red alarm of fear.
Of course my son needs to go to school alone. He needs his mummy to let go of his hand and allow him to forge his own way. Of course I am proud that he is coping so well and happy that he is enjoying this new experience so much. But deep down there is a part of me screaming that I don't want him to grow up, I want to keep his sticky little hand firmly clenched in mine forever. I want to wrap him in a double layer of cotton wool so nothing can ever hurt him. I think that as a mother you never really manage to tamp down that overweening protective instinct, you just learn to gag it for fear it might suffocate your beloved baby.
So this week marks a big step forward for both me and my boy. For him he is making his first strides towards independence and for me I am inching my way towards letting go. That said I cannot wait to hear his key in the door and I will continue to engulf him in a bear hug the moment he gets home, no doubt long after he is happy to reciprocate. After all I have made it clear to him that a mum's primary function is to embarrass her children, and I wouldn't want to let him down!