On Sunday night last week, like many other parents I’m sure, I sat on my sofa with the laptop, eyes dropping, tired but focused, refreshing a website at least an hour before there was any chance of it updating. I was waiting to find out which Primary school Mabel had been offered. I had no idea what time the website would update, and I knew I would be up in the night with Ernie and could check it then, but still I couldn’t go to sleep until I’d at least waited till midnight, just to check. So I sat, and pointlessly refreshed.
It reminded me of when we were trying to conceive Mabel, taking a test a week before my period was due and knowing it would be negative because it was too early, but being compelled to do it anyway. I carried on doing tests every day until I started to see the slightest faint line appear. I held it up to the light, turned it this way and that, I actually stood on the edge of the bath to get it as close to that blimmin light bulb as I possibly could. Were my eyes just seeing what I wanted to see? It was too early to tell, try again tomorrow….. Carl gave me his ‘you’re crazy but I love you’ look, and listened to me list my symptoms over and over, proclaiming in one minute that ‘I must be pregnant’ and the next minute ‘but it could all mean nothing, maybe I’m imagining it’. I even carried on taking tests long after I was convinced, scared it would suddenly all go away. I did 15 tests all together. That was my first taste of the pointless things that being a parent can make you do, when you feel like you have no control over a situation.
So, midnight rolled around and my crazy late night and irrational refreshing was rewarded with the words ‘place offered’ next to our first choice of school. Was I happy? Yes. Was I relieved and contented? Far from it. I was completely confident in the choice we had made, I love the school that Mabel has a place at and I can imagine her going there. But the bit that I have a problem with is imagining her going there in just 5 short months. As soon as we had a place offer, it suddenly felt so real. My baby girl is supposed to be going to school this year. By September, she will be expected to be fine with being away from me for 30 hours a week. Mabel has recently decided that she doesn’t like preschool and cries when I try to take her, so obviously I’m worried that school will be the same. Except that if she doesn’t want to go to preschool then I won’t take her to preschool (she doesn’t, so I don’t). I won’t have that luxury once she’s at school, that won’t be my decision to make anymore. I have no interest in dragging a screaming child down the road, prising her little hands from around my leg and leaving her to cry while I go home to worry about her all day. I used to work in a preschool, so I know that they calm down when you’ve left and they don’t cry all day. But I also used to be that sad child who didn’t want to be left, and I remember how it felt. Even though I wasn’t crying, that didn’t mean I was happy and wanted to be there, you just get used to it. Do I want my child to get used to the feeling of being unhappy?
Obviously I know, she needs to develop a bit of emotional resilience. I would love for her to be really happy and confident to be left anywhere by herself, but how do I encourage her to be that way? The way I see it there are two options. Either I take the ‘sink or swim’ approach, and chuck her into school and see what happens, or I take the gentle approach, don’t force her to do anything she doesn’t want to, and hope that she gets there in her own time and one day wants to do things on her own and will go off happily and confidently.
When Mabel has the security of knowing that I am nearby, she is outgoing and confident. She makes friends at the park or soft play, she’s happy to talk to most people and she’s nowhere near as shy as I was as a child. But then I think, was I shy before school, or did school make me shy? It’s hard to know. What I do know is that I don’t want anything to take away from the confidence that Mabel does have.
As with all things in parenting, from that very first (probably imagined) faintest of faint lines on a test, I am over thinking, doubting and questioning myself constantly. But I am trying to tap into my instincts, which don’t seem to have steered me wrong so far. Every child is different, and some will skip happily through the school gates at the age of four, and some might need a bit longer before they are ready. The main thing for me is that we do have a choice, school is not the only option and I am happy to home educate if that turns out to be the best thing for Mabel when it comes to it. At the moment we are exploring all of the options and my plan is to go down the preparing for school route at the same time as getting involved with the local home education community. Ultimately, I think I will let Mabel decide what she wants to do, after she has had a taste of both options. One thing’s for sure, we may have our school place, but it’s far from a done deal for us.
Linking up with Katie at Mummy Daddy Me
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