Well it has finally happened. My smallest small boy at barely 4 years old has started school.
My smallest small boy who is barely potty trained and is still tantrumming and hitting if things don’t go his way.
My smallest small boy who sometimes smells of strawberries and sometimes of damp dog despite us not having one.
My smallest small boy who wraps his arms around me and squeezes me just that little bit too tight so that I can’t breathe and snuggles into my neck all soft, whispering “I love you to infinity and beyond Mumma”.
I have waited and longed for this day, for the very difficult toddler years that I don’t cope well with to be over and for my freedom at last. How sad that sounds I know, it’s true though. I haven’t felt like a good parent this summer, shouting, controlling, trying to make order out of chaos, patience worn thin and feeling tattered and frayed around the edges.
I haven’t been very well this summer, my hypothyroidism spiralled out of control making me sure that the Multiple Sclerosis had taken a turn for the worst but it turns out that at best it was my thyroid and at worst it was a combination of the two. This isn’t an excuse for my shoddy parenting, just a contributory factor. One that I could do without though in the face of a new school year and a whole lot of new emotions to deal with!
We all tried extra hard over the holidays not to go on about “Big School” all the time as I know the pressure it can put on a small person who is already panicking about the unknown! I think I was just in denial though as I had just forgotten all the things that needed doing and all the uniform needed – jeeeeez!
Knowing what he is like I labelled everything and I mean everything including socks. Not pants though. Even I have a limit!! I just sat sewing labels into the smallest small shorts that even then looked far too big and just felt….I don’t know….scared. Excited too, don’t misunderstand me oh my god I knew I would be cheering with glee in the school car park the minute that I had dropped off my little darlings. But who would notice when he was hopping up and down needing the toilet but too engrossed in his current activity to realise? Who would cuddle him and rub his back to calm him down if he got upset and started lashing out? Hundreds of scenarios played themselves out in my mind as I calmly sewed the little name labels in, imagining him struggling to do up his buttons.
I sewed my love for him and my frustration at not being the parent that he so desperately needs at times into those labels, hoping that he would feel me with him in the moments he felt unsure and lost. Hoping that at least we had taught him kindness and compassion and that he would take with him all the things he had learnt from preschool where they loved and nurtured him in the safe environment he had grown to feel was a second home. I hope that he will grow to feel that about his new school in time.
I sewed my love for her into her labels, my strength to help her deal with the twists and turns of growing up as a girl, the challenges of friendships and emotional changes. She takes my breath away she is so beautiful and so smart and so courageous. She is everything that I would love to be, untarnished by grief and pain, new and shiny with all her life ahead of her. So excited and curious and questioning. I feel so full of love watching her on her journey.
The last few weeks leading up to the beginning of school term small boy’s poo problems returned. Probably a mixture of being in a less structured routine and his dawning realisation that things were changing. I tried to protect him from all of it but it is easy to forget that mentioning school can cause stress and hard to stop other well meaning people’s remarks of “Ooh you’re such a big boy now I bet you can’t wait to go to big school!” every single time we left the house.
He would have accidents and go off and hide his pants in the wash basket, get scared to use the toilet and start lashing out at us all again. We tried our very best to play it down, keep our cool and just pray every day that it would get easier for him. I had already pre-empted things with ‘Matron’ at school by explaining the ongoing situation and she was very supportive but I was still very scared.
The day arrived and he and his sister stood together in the kitchen in their new school uniforms. She, complaining because I had insisted on new dresses that had ‘growing room’. “Mumma I look like an idiot!!!” (okay she did look a bit like an orphan but I am a great believer in getting the most for your money) and he, with his feet so big in his school shoes that he looked like a puppy needing to grow into his feet and his unruly hair so short now.
I felt so proud of them whilst at the same time wishing so desperately that I could turn the clock back and do a much much better job than I have. Wishing that my Mum was alive to tell me that everything would be okay and that she had made all the mistakes that I had and see? it’s okay after all. God I missed her in that moment, I could barely speak as I felt my throat tighten with grief and pride and love all jumbled up together. I hope she’s watching all this somewhere I thought, I really could do with a hug right now. I know I look like I cope on the outside but it’s all a front a lot of the time, although less as time goes by. We’re doing okay all of us.
They both pottered into school with their bags, looking so smart. Big girl was thrilled to see her new classroom and looked so grown up it was untrue. Small boy skipped into his classroom and never looked back. I told him I was leaving and he said “Shush Mumma I’m building something!”. I spoke to his classroom assistant,who had also been big girl’s, about the toilet problems and she smiled and said “Oh don’t worry, lots of them have challenges and they all have accidents at some point! Some are still doing it when they leave us!!” she made light of it which was actually just what I needed. In that moment she made him just a normal little boy who sometimes has accidents just like everyone else and for that I will be forever grateful.
So, a week and a half in we are okay. I sent spare pants and we have had a few slightly wet pairs back but he has done all his poos on the toilet at home. He says that he doesn’t want to poo at school which inevitably means that he is holding a little but he is doing it at home, sometimes unprompted, which is amazing. I am not resting easy for one moment but for now I have 2 small people at school and they are tired but happy and that is all I want. For them to be happy. Although he made a sword out of cardboard yesterday and hit a poor girl in his class with it. I guess we need to work on impulse control a little.
Now what the fuck do I do with my life? Anyone want to offer me a job?