In a few days the moment I have been dreading will be upon me – I’ve been emotional about this for weeks now, so how I’m going to hold it together when the day comes I have no idea. My daughter is starting school. Whilst many of my friends with older kids are counting down the days left in the holidays, craving the return to routine and surviving on wine and chocolate, I feel a huge sadness at the end of a very special chapter. I know that this also marks the start of a new and exciting time for my daughter, that she’s ready for the challenge and that my son will benefit from a bit more of my attention with his sister otherwise engaged. I still wish though that I could press pause and hold onto this time just a little longer.
I know once we’re into our new groove it’ll be fine and this time next year we’ll be all too ready for the return to routine – I’ve done the school routine before and I know the ups and downs of it all too well. The real issues for me right now are firstly that I am really going to miss my daughter’s company – she’s funny, bubbly, chatty, affectionate and always on the go. In the midst of some pretty challenging times over that last few years she has been a daily ray of sunshine and I know when she comes home she’s probably not going to be at her best for a while!
Secondly, I am no longer able to manage my daughter’s day. (I’m hoping that me finding this a challenge is more out of being protective than total control freak, but it’s probably a bit of both!) I have to entrust it to someone else and hope and pray that they “get her”, that they are kind and supportive and that she meets other children who bring out the best in her and her in them. That process of letting go as a parent is tough and I am glad to know that I am not on my own in this – that the tears I will probably shed as I leave her on her first day are a rite of passage for so many parents.
The thing is that whilst I regularly wish I could press pause and that the end of a stage is sad, rather than focusing on the loss this is, in actual fact, a reminder of all I have. To reach a change and growth point is a privilege so many people don’t have. When I consider the many people I know who would have loved to have children, but for various different reasons– not meeting the right person, health issues, infertility – it didn’t happen then I am reminded how I am one of the lucky ones.
I’ve met parents who have experienced miscarriage, still birth and bereavement so never even got to those stages. I know others with children who have major health issues which mean the usual stages are so much more complex or not even possible and I’m so thankful I actually get to do the things with my child that I’d imagined doing.
I am also reminded of a friend of a friend whose daughter is the same school year as mine. After a long battle with cancer she’s not here to help her child put on her school uniform or wave her off for her first day – to have the joy and heartache of letting her child go one stage at a time.
So often the hopes, dreams and our expectations when we consider having children are vastly different from reality – illness, relationship breakdown and a million other problems – so when we get to go through the usual stages in the ways we imagined doing it then that truly is a gift. So despite the fact that this is a significant and emotional change I am going to choose to celebrate it as a mark that we are so blessed to have got here – to live in a country where my children can access free education, where I am fortunate enough to have made it to this stage with them and to be ready to hear about her experiences, successes, frustrations and all the ups, downs and in-betweens of school life.
I can only hope that I will be able to go through so many more of these emotional stages of letting my children go and watching them spread their wings as this is surely the ultimate role of parents. I may also need to take out shares in Kleenex!