I’ve never been good with change.
As kids we used to spend lots of time in Dorset with our cousins. On the morning we were due to leave I’d always have a secret cry in the toilet – I was one of the younger ones and knew crying was for babies, but I felt really sad. I was having a lovely time and it was all changing again. This is fairly dramatic given we went there every few weeks and would most definitely be returning, and I rather liked my own home and family. When my mum drove me to University for the first time I cried all the way there – I wanted to go, I was excited about going but couldn’t stop the tears.
I’m absolutely fine once I’m used to the new ‘normal’, it’s just the build-up and transition to new situations that I find really unsettling. So I probably should have guessed that Buster starting school last week was going to take a bit of getting used to.
I’ve seen people putting up their facebook pictures of their little darlings in pristine room-to-grow uniforms in previous years and thought ‘that’s nice’, but the volume and accompanying ‘I cried like a baby’ commentary all seemed a little over the top. Surely they’re inwardly rejoicing at some free childcare? And most kids love school once they’re settled so it’s a win win.
As usual I had it completely wrong. The build-up itself was pretty full on – sorting uniforms and childcare (shocker – the school day is a short day!) not to mention feeling like we should in some way mentally prepare our son. We had the added drama of not getting a school place at all initially, and some of the families at the new school we are now at will probably leave as soon as they move to the top of a waiting list which feels pretty unsettling.
So by the time last week came around I felt pretty spent. When things get too much I can go one of two ways – retreat and look after myself and know sleep will make it better or take on MORE and try to get everything done NOW and suddenly that lightbulb that has been out for three months needs replacing IMMEDIATELY. In the evenings I went in to manic mode; storming about the house, barking (actually barking) at Doug to help me with the seemingly endless list of things I needed to do; feeling angrier than usual at him for crimes such as leaving the kids pyjamas scattered around the living room and not taking out the goddam recycling. Then frantically googling savoury muffin recipes looking for portable, wholesome snacks I can feed Buster between picking him up and getting Mabel thus avoiding malnutrition.
When the third reminder from the opticians arrived I wanted to cry. Weirdly it’s the first time in a while I felt something a bit like when the kids were small – foggy and overwhelmed. And then I felt cross with myself because I know this is nothing. It’s a change in our routine and all part of growing up. The problem is, it’s impossible to have perspective all the time. Lack of sleep or hormones can lob perspective right out the window.
There’s also a bit of me that feels a failure, when it feels like other kids are running in without a backward glance and my kid is clinging on to me, legs and arms wrapped around my body like a koala.
Buster’s first day was a TRIUMPH, he practically skipped in through the gate. Second day, see aforementioned koala grip. It was hard to know what to do – peeling them off and handing them over to a stranger who I know will become familiar but isn’t yet. Most of us are being thrown together with lots of new parents too, so it’s like starting again and worrying about being judged, even though if roles were reversed we’d only feel empathy for another parent having a hard time. I sat in my car weeping after a bad drop off and someone I’d just met came and tapped on the window and gave me a hug.
I think the difficulty is that mums feel change in their kids so very personally. Have they eaten enough? Are they happy? Am I damaging them with the choices I’m making? When my kids wake up early as well as feeling gutted not to get more sleep myself, I immediately feel anxious as I know they’ll be tired later and I feel overwhelmingly responsible for ensuring they get enough sleep. I don’t think Dad’s feel it so personally, which is perhaps why I felt so annoyed last week – it felt like Doug was swanning about all calm and taking it in his stride while I flailed about feeling out of my depth and wandering if the other parents thought I was useless. Despite growling at him for his oblivion of the admin taking place behind the scenes with name tags and the like, I probably wish I could react to these things like he does.
I’ve spoken to friends over the last week and nearly all the kids just starting school are having some sort of reaction – whether or not they’re wailing at the gates, there’s night-time bed-wetting, lots of crying, and/or angry outbursts that are interestingly mostly aimed at mum. (Seriously kids, we GREW you. Give us a break!). I also know a number of mums who are punishing themselves about not being there for every drop off or pick up. Ladies – unless you’re on a chaise longue being fed grapes bellowing ‘fetch my kids wench’ at someone else, I’m pretty sure you’re doing what you need to do. We need to give ourselves a break.
Buster flits between being a dream (my loving, funny, dancing boy) to growling at me (I’ve no idea where he gets it from…) and looking very hurt at the whole situation. I know he’s confused, and I also know it won’t last because I’m learning that this is motherhood – each new phase is a challenge and can feel insurmountable and then you settle in to it and before you know it, it’s just part of life for all of you; feeding, weaning, nursery, potty-training…and now school. We’ve handled a new phase before and we will handle one again.
So you see, I think we’re all going to be ok. Soon this will become our new normal and we’ll forget what all the fuss was about. In the meantime rather than fight it I say we’ve earned the right to weep in cars/streets/strangers arms while we all adjust.
If you need me I’ll be cranking on a power ballad and letting it all out.
Images: news.stv.tv; chuckman1920sarcadecardbeauties.wordpress.com