Motherhood, Uncategorized

The Emotional Roller Coaster of Your First Child Starting School

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I wasn’t planning on writing this post but I feel the urge to write a few things down about Annabelle starting Primary School, as I’m finding this time so emotionally charged, and have had a few big sobbing sessions (quite unlike me!). I’ve never been overly emotional around my children’s birthdays or other milestones, but this starting school chapter seems to have hit me hard. Speaking to other parents in the same boat, I think this is pretty common, and I now understand why social media feeds are full of ‘first day at school’ photos and parents lamenting ‘the time has gone so quickly…I can’t believe they’re starting school’ etc (of which I’ve now joined the ranks).

I was feeling emotional when Annabelle finished Pre-School back in July but knew we had seven long weeks together (which I was both looking forward to and slightly worried about, wondering how we’d fill the time, with no holiday planned and my husband working). Now we’re at the end of those seven weeks, which were wonderful (but also filled with plenty of moments where I wished for more time to myself!) and I’m facing, what feels like, a rather huge change to our day-to-day lives.

I’ve had no real concerns about how Annabelle will get on at school. She’s always been quite independent and happy being in new situations/with new people. We’re now at the end of her first full week, and have had no tears so far from Annabelle, apart from when she fell over and grazed her knee just before going into her classroom on her first day (which reminded me of my first week at Primary school, where I dropped my dinner tray and my peas rolled all over the floor and everyone stared at me – needless to say I didn’t have school dinners again after that!). Other than that, all the tears have been my own (in private, I wouldn’t cry in front of her and tinge her early school days with the weight of my sadness/mixed emotions). Although Annabelle has been happy going into school each morning, by Wednesday over breakfast she asked in an exasperated tone, ‘Mummy, when will I get a break from school?!’. I think it will take a while to sink in that she’ll be there every weekday, and I’ve already found that I have to be careful mentioning what Rafe and I are doing with our days, in case she feels like she’s missing out on some fun. For the last year or so she was at pre-school for three full days a week, with Wednesday’s and Thursday’s free to see friends and grandparents and visit our favourite places. Going to those places now with just Rafe, I really feel Annabelle’s absence (she’s generally very good company) and it’s thrown up so many memories of the fun we’ve had over the last four and a half years. I’m really happy to be spending some one-on-one time with Rafe, but also fighting some strongly nostalgic feelings of sadness that Annabelle’s toddler and pre-school years are at an end, and she’s now in the school system (which seems so looong, doesn’t it?!).

I was chatting to one of my friends about this, and she said that it feels like being in mourning for those early, busy years with your child (where you’re going through a series of ‘firsts’ and are finding your way as a parent), and also that she sort of felt like she’d been ‘demoted’. I have this strange feeling too, and perhaps it’s because when you’re a ‘stay-at-home Mum’, your (temporary) identity and main ‘purpose in life’ hinges on you having both/all your children at home with you, and mostly under your influence.

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Now that Annabelle is at school, she’ll have so many new influences that will shape her, and I won’t necessarily know what she’s got up to during her day (I’ve found over the last few days that little bits of information will come out, generally at dinner time, but she doesn’t want to chat straight after school). When your little ones are mostly at home with you, or in a Pre-School/Nursery setting (where you can go and help out, get to know the staff and other children), you feel like you have them fairly firmly under your wing. You know what, and who, has shaped them and all the little details of what makes them tick. With Primary School there are new teachers, friends, routines and learning which you feel strangely not a part of (or yet anyway).

The house feels quieter without Annabelle here – Rafe has picked up my old phone (which he likes to play with) and ‘called’ her every day, saying “Hi Abelle, it’s me, Rafe”, so he’s clearly missing her too.

Given that the last two years seem to have whizzed by at lightening speed, I can’t help thinking forwards to next year, when Rafe will be starting pre-school, and then the year after that when he will be starting school, and it’s almost too much to bear. Because then these crazy, special years when my children were babies, toddlers, pre-schoolers, and we spent so much time together, will be at an end. And although I know, rationally, that there will be so many wonderful things to come and I will enjoy watching them continue to grow and change, it’s still incredibly hard to think about a time where my days won’t be filled with playdates and trips to the park or Costa. Although parenting and being a stay-at-home-Mum can be tough at times (and boring and lonely, and sometimes spent wishing I had more time to myself), I also wouldn’t have changed any of it for the world, and feel incredibly lucky to have had this time with Annabelle and Rafe. Without having a career/job to anchor me in a different way, I don’t know what I’ll do with myself once Rafe starts school. I have an urge to ask some of the school-Mums who I know don’t work, and whose last child has just started school, what they do with their days, and whether they will go back to work. But it’s tricky, as I don’t want anything I say to be misconstrued/to cause offence/to make anyone feel at all guilty about how they spend their time. Hopefully this feeling of being a bit ‘untethered’ by this new phase will pass, and I’ll get into a new weekly routine, and maybe start thinking about new opportunities (volunteering maybe? I’d love to spend a few hours a week working in a museum or school or something).

So, anyway, enough of the emotional rambling. I’m sure that by the end of this half term we’ll be well into the swing of things with school, and I’ll probably be wondering why I was so melodramatic and weepy at the start of term! But at the moment I’m allowing myself a bit of wallowing time, and to emotionally register this big marker in my little girl’s childhood. Annabelle, you’ll do brilliantly!

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