I admit that I can at times be somewhat dramatic and prone to exaggeration, but in this instance, I really think that the abundant swirling emotions that keep knocking me around, are being felt by many mums and dads around me. I believe there are a whole heap of us “school mums and dads” that in the last couple of weeks have experienced a very real grief reaction. Hear me out.
My eldest son started Prep last Tuesday, and my middle son started kindergarten. As I write this, my baby sleeps. Until I decided to put it all here, I was at a loss as to what to do. I honestly cried a few tears when as I walked outside I saw my son’s thongs at the door (I wish his little tanned feet were chasing me with his water pistol in hand like they were on the weekend). I walked a lap of my garden; I laid down in my hammock; took a photo of my feet and sent it to my friends saying “maybe I could get used to this?”, I guess trying to make myself feel better. Then I jumped out of the hammock, and now I am here. Typing, and watching the clock, 37 minutes and I can go to kinder, 52 minutes, school!
For the past five years there has not been more than a couple of hours here and there where I have not been with these boys. And now my eldest is not here for a large part of most days. And in many ways, it feels like he has been taken from me. I can’t choose not to send him to school, I can’t even just pop into school and play with him like I could at kindergarten, or stay for the day because I wanted to enjoy more time with him, or bring him home early because we all just need some quiet time.
I have known his movements, what he has played, who he has played with, what has made him laugh, what frightened him, everyday of his life…until now. It has been me who has ran to him when he fell, cleaned up his grazed knees and kissed them better. Now I walk him to his classroom, help unpack his things for the day, make sure he’s happy on the mat, give him a hug, and I walk away.
At pick-up time it takes all my will not to inundate his teacher with questions: who did he play with? Where does he eat his lunch? Where did he play at lunch time? Is he letting you know if he’s tired? What made him laugh today? Is he using his manners? Are the other children kind to him? And, honestly “do you know how fabulous my son is and how very much I am missing him?”
But then he comes barrelling out of his classroom with a big smile and launches into my arms, and I am whole again. He excitedly opens his school bag to show me his work for the day, and he shares bits and pieces of what happened at school. I am so proud of my boy, how far he has come, how independent he can be, how resilient he is. He is my champion. Another wave of emotion rolls over me and I blink back my tears.
When I reflect on all of this, part of me tells me to pull it together, stop being ridiculous, your boys are happy, thriving, finding their way in the world. This is your job, to raise them to be confident, curious men. But, while I know this is all true, it dismisses my very real feelings, and I know that dismissing feelings is never helpful.
I also know I’m not alone in these feelings. I talk to many of the mums at school and kinder drop off. Lots of us have exhausted looks on our faces and are looking at each other through teary eyes. This milestone is as hard on us, maybe even harder than it is for our children. So, to all those kinder and school mums who are finding it hard sending your children off into the world where you can’t be there all the time for them anymore, please be kind to yourself. Let yourself cry; find people who understand and will cry with you. Take time to acknowledge how you feel, and spend all the time you need when you can with your children. It’s more than ok to grieve for the time you have cherished with them up to this point. And as time keeps going, I think and hope that we might all find that this next chapter of our children’s life is just as amazing as their early childhood, only in different ways. Here’s hoping anyway! Hang in there, we are in this together!
Now it’s time that I get go pick up those little “pieces of me” that will make me whole again!
(Mum and Psychologist)
Lakeside Psychology, Victoria, Australia