Tag Archives: school

Spreading our wings

Until this year, I had taken Kramstable in to school every day that I went to work. In his early days at school, I’d stay until the bell went and we’d read stories, look at work he’d been doing, and talk to his classmates, their parents and his teacher.

As the years passed, the time I stayed with him decreased, until by the end of last year I was seeing him to the door of his classroom, and he’d be off. I think by Grade 4, I was one of not many parents who would actually go into the school with their child, but I really liked it. I liked seeing his classroom, looking at what he’d been doing, and catching up with his teacher.

But it was time for a change, and at the end of last year Kramstable said he didn’t want me to come with him to school any more. I knew this was coming, because most of the other kids weren’t being walked into school, but I still felt I like I was losing something that had been a big part of my life for six years.

He said I could walk him to the school gate, so that was OK; I’d still have a chance to go in if I needed to, but I had a feeling that as this year moved on, his drop-off point would get further and further away.

It did, but it happened so suddenly – only two weeks into term – that I’d not had time to recover from not going in with him, before he asked me to leave him at the end of the street.

Ok. That was unexpected.

And last week we’re walking from the bus stop, and we get to the place where Slabs had dropped Kramstable off the day before.

He says, “I got dropped off here yesterday. Bye.”
That’s even more unexpected. I say, “I think I’ll walk with you a bit further.”
We walk on a bit to the next intersection, him skipping ahead as always. We stop and look for cars. I say, “Don’t you want to be seen with me?”
“No,” he says, and starts to cross the road. “Bye.”
“See you this afternoon,” I say, feeling incredibly sad, but also slightly amused.
I watch him cross the road safely, and he’s on his way.
“Bye,” I say to myself.

I know that he has to become independent. I know it’s my job to equip him so that he does become independent. I know I’m not going to walk him to school forever. I’ve always known this, but it’s never been real until now.

Of course he’s not going to want to be around me forever. He’s growing up and, as he grows, he’ll need me less intensely than he has done. And that’s the way it has to be; the same way I needed my mother less as I grew up; the same way every child does.

But he’s been the main focus of my life for so long – over ten years – and it’s hard to accept that this is changing, and changing fast. He has depended on me, and I’ve given as much of myself to him as I’ve had to give.

I feel like I’m bonded to him in a way I can’t imagine being bonded to any other person, because he’s my son. He has made me laugh, made me cry, made me so very grateful and feel so very blessed. I can’t imagine life without him.

It strikes me now as I’m writing this that I’ve spent his whole life making him ready for when he’ll be able to leave me and make his own way in the world, but that I’ve done nothing to make myself ready. It’s a minor thing, leaving him to walk a bit further to school. It’s such a small thing, but it symbolises so much more than that. I wasn’t prepared for how much this would hurt.

The worst thing in the world would be for me to be clingy and to deny him the freedom he needs. To try and stifle his growing independence. He needs to grow his own wings and fly. And while I’m so proud of the young man he is becoming and I love watching him learn and grow, I am also feeling deeply, intensely, painfully his gradual transformation away from the boy he has been. The boy that called me “Mummy”, the boy that would always hold my hand, the boy that was happy for me to come into school so he could show me what he’d been working on.

I cannot, will not deny myself this pain. I acknowledge it. It is real. I accept it as part of the transformation that I too must go through over the next phase of his life from being his provider and his care-giver into a role of adviser, supporter and (I hope) positive role model. Perhaps it hurts so much because it’s such a slow transition that will continue over many years to come. I can’t just rip the bandaid off and have a fully functioning adult before my eyes. I wouldn’t want to be able to do that. We have a wonderful journey still ahead of us.

He’ll still need me, even if he thinks he doesn’t. I treasure every moment he wants to involve me in what he’s doing, perhaps even more so now than when he was younger, because there are fewer of those moments these days, so they start to mean more.

And it occurs to me that, while he is still the centre of my universe, his decreasing reliance on me gives me my own freedom to focus on becoming the person I want to be outside of being “Mum”. So while this awareness doesn’t lessen the pain I feel, at the same time it inspires me and fills me with enthusiasm for how I might create my own future. In loosening the apron strings, I’m making room for my own wings to grow.

As I’m trying to figure out how to end this post without rambling on uncontrollably, I scroll through Twitter. This quote from Maya Angelou appears in my feed:

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty”.

It seems highly relevant right now. The destruction of the old, the massive upheaval and transformation, and the eventual recreation into something new and beautiful.

2011 FOLIO 19 Butterfly

Even though there’s no actual end to this transformation – Kramstable won’t wake up one morning and be a butterfly, any more than I will – this quote still rings true in relation to the changes I’m going through. People say that it’s heartbreaking and difficult to let go, but it’s hard to convey to someone else how much it hurts until they experience it for themselves.

I’ve laughed and made jokes about how this has affected me, and have tried to carry on. I think that mostly we’re expected to accept this type of change, because our job is to prepare our children for the “real world”. There isn’t anything in the job description about taking time to reflect on different stages as our children move through them and to acknowledge how we feel.

I know it’s part of the job, but I’m not an automaton, I’m not a position number. I’m a person, I have feelings, and the process of letting go is upsetting me.

I think there’s value in acknowledging any kind of transition like this, rather just sucking it up and pretending we’re ok when we aren’t. This is the first time I’ve sat down and acknowledged how I really feel about it, and I’ve been surprised to find out how much it’s deeply affecting me.

It’s not the first time that a transformation has been painful, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. But I’m ok with this. I’m grateful to have had an experience in my life that has meant so much to me, that moving on from it hurts this much.

And so another school year begins

Today Juniordwarf started Grade 3.

I don’t know about anyone else who has kids, but these holidays seemed to fly by. Yet even though the holidays have zoomed past us, last year (when we were wishing his Grade 2 teacher all the best for her retirement) seems like a lifetime ago.

Time’s a funny thing. Something can go past in the blink of an eye, yet seem like it started foreverago.

When I was Juniodwarf’s age the summer holidays seemed to drag on and on, and I’d get incredibly bored. Yes, in those days the summer holidays were longer than they are now we’ve got a 4-term system but, even so, the holidays seemed to last forever.

I expect my mother, at home with 2 kids, felt the same way.

And I don’t know if I’d been at home with him the entire time if I’d feel the same way about these holidays too. But I wasn’t. I spent most of January at work, with a few days here and there for our little getaways and then towards the end, I took some time off to spend with Juniordwarf.

He never seemed bored while I was with him, but leading up to school going back he started to get excited about going back. He was especially excited about seeing his friends.

Even if there were periods when he got bored, he never seemed to experience that excruciating, neverending boredom that I remember from my childhood.

Yesterday I told him he was my big Grade 3 boy, and he told me seriously he wasn’t a Grade 3. Not yet. Not until tomorrow. Until then I’m Grade Zero. I’m not in a grade yet.

OK. If you insist. Who am I to argue?

I guess I got a bit sentimental last night.

He’s now been at school for 4 of his 8 years. Half his life. This year is the start of his ‘big kid’ years at primary school. His classroom is in the main building. He’ll have his first taste of the NAPLAN tests. He’s not a little kid any more.

I remembered back to just before he started school in 2011. How distressed I’d been about putting him into this system we call education. (I wrote a post about it here.)

This time wasn’t like that. This time was more reflective and wondering.

I watched him sleeping last night and I thought I could see, in the dark, with my crap eyesight, a glimpse of what he’d look like when he was a lot older.

Sleep is honest. It shows you things you don’t see when people are awake.

When my father was ill and Juniordwarf was a small baby, I can remember looking in at my sleeping father and thinking how much like a sleeping baby, how like Juniordwarf, he looked. So peaceful.

The same feelings came back to me last night. I could see, if it wasn’t a trick of the light, the young man he is going to become.

And I wondered . . . Is this the year?

Is this the year he leaves behind some of his treasured playthings and companions?

Is this the year he stops wearing his exotic headwear?

Is this the year he tells me not to come into school with him?

Is this the year he doesn’t want to hold my hand any more?

Is this the year?

I don’t know. A part of me doesn’t want any of this to happen. I love who he is right now and I love the things he does, the things he wears and his assortment of companions, real and imaginary.

But I know that, just like he’s moved on from Ben & Holly, he will – when he’s ready – move on and grow up. He’ll find new interests, new things to delight and amuse me with, and new people to be with. Eventually he won’t want me around as much (or ever).

None of this might happen this year (I hope it doesn’t) but, even though I know it has to happen, it’s going to be hard to cope with.

Perhaps one reason for feeling like this is that every first for me is a last as well.

With only one child, every first wobbly tooth will be the last first wobbly tooth. Every first day at school will be the last first day at school. When he grows out of something, there won’t be anyone else to love it, play with it or do it any more.

And so I tell myself to make the most of the moments I have because I won’t have these chances again. So at the times I’m with him*, I’m trying to fully enjoy the quirky things he does – even the ones that are annoying (remember Ben & Holly?) – to be present and engaged, to observe when he’s entertaining himself and to participate when he needs me.

I owe it to him, and I owe it to me.

 

 

* Opens discussion about boundaries and me-time, which don’t quite fit here!