So, the kids are back to School this week and Facebook is full of the obligatory first day photos of smartly dressed kids standing by a white wall (usually because it’s the only place that doesn’t show all the crap all over the place!) and their are lots of lovely posts about how they ‘bossed’ their first day or went in ‘perfectly’.
I remember buzzing this time 4 years ago when my first born ran into School on her first day without even looking back, and although it was easy for her it was far from easy for me! But I was proud of myself for holding back the tears until I got in the car, where I unashamedly sobbed because my ‘baby’ was growing so fast and I’d just handed her over to a bunch of strangers.
It felt so unnatural.
And that first week was great. She loved it! But when the second week came and she realised she had to go back again things changed, she cried. Every.Single.Day. for the next TWO years.
Yep every morning she would cry and cling to my leg. Some days screaming “I don’t want to go Mammy” while the teacher pulled her off me. It was heartbreaking. I looked at all the other kids trotting happily into School and I wondered what I had done wrong? Had I not raised her to be independent? (trust me that ain’t true, she is VERY wilful and independent) but still I doubted myself. That familiar voice of ‘your not good enough’ would blend perfectly with a shit-tonne of Mother guilt and make me feel like the worst Mother in the world.
There is a happy ending though, after two years when her little sister joined the school it all stopped. She went in happily, she still doesn’t like going, and after every holiday there are tears until she settles back in, but they only last a few days. She just didn’t want to be alone in such a big school, she’s a total home bird, she doesn’t like sleeping out or being looked after by anyone else because in her words “I don’t trust anyone to look after me like you do”
She didn’t want to go to school because she wanted to be with me. And there was me beating myself up thinking I’d done something wrong and I somehow hadn’t equipped her properly for the world, when in fact we had such an unshakeable bond that my sensitive little soul just wanted to be with me,
Now of course i’m not saying that those kids who trot in happily don’t have unshakeable bonds, far from it, but for some kids change is hard and the idea of leaving the safe haven of their Mum to go to school is a really big, scary deal.
Naturally when my second daughter started school I was dreading it! She’s much quieter and more clingy than her big sister, and she’d had 2 years witnessing her sisters entrance, so in some ways it felt even harder on her first day, I remember the lump in my throat and ache in my heart were so palpable I actually thought I might be sick or just stand their crying like a gibbering wreck!
But in she trotted. Happily. WTF? I stood there in the yard watching through the window waiting, expecting the tears but they didn’t come and they never did. Until today.
Today is the 4th day back after summer and the start of her 3rd year at the school, never once has she cried going in or said she didn’t want to go, until today.
As soon as I asked her to get dressed it started. It started as defiance “I’m NOT getting dressed! I don’t want to go to school” but as the minutes ticked by and she realised I wasn’t giving in the tears came, she sobbed and sobbed. I sat rocking her and reassuring her. We chose her favourite bear to take in her bag. I filled her pockets with kisses and did all those little things that help send them off happily, while I anxiously watched the clock thinking ‘we’re going to be fricking late!’
I finally got her to school. It all seemed to be ok until her class started going in. She clung to me screaming. The teacher tried to pull her off me but she had such a tight grip I couldn’t get her off my fingers and every inch of me wanted to run away with her, but I knew if I did that I would never get her in there again. I asked the teacher to stop so I could hold her, she clung to me tighter than ever before and I gently whispered in her ear “its going to be ok, you’ll be fine” but I wasn’t convincing anyone,
By the time all the kids (the happy trotters) were inside the teacher said “I need to take her” and although every inch of me ached, and it went against every cell of my mother-being, she pulled her from me screaming. Had it not been for a beautiful, kind mum who waited for me with empathetic words of “I had that yesterday” I think I would of just burst into tears right there! (which to be fair has been known)
The thing that made it even worse is that she’s never done this before, she’s my ‘happy trotter’. When I asked her why she didn’t want to go she just kept saying “I miss you mammy, I just want to be with you”. And when I called school shortly after to see how she was the teacher said she was fine, she wasn’t worried about school and that she just wants to be with me. Talk about a shit-tonne of Mother guilt!
I wanted to share this today because I know behind all the white walled, smartly dressed photos, there is often a different story. If you have a happy trotter please spare a moment to ask the mum who’s child has just been pulled from her arms if she’s ok.
If you’re a teacher, please give those children extra cuddles and praise that day, i’m sure you do.
If you’ve had your child pulled from you this week or any other time, please know you’ve done nothing wrong, they just love you and want to be with you, it doesn’t mean you’ll be having the HR Manager pulling them from your arms on their first day of work, it just means right now you’re their absolute world and the separation is a little bit tougher.
Our children don’t need to be toughened up for the world, the world needs to be more gentle for our children.