Sunday, 4 September 2016

Here We Are, Then (Henry Starts School)

I considered not writing this post at all, suspecting that whatever I typed would fast become a Starting School cliché (“Where has the time gone? I can’t bear it!” yadda yadda yadda). But I have been a walking mess of emotions for the past few weeks and shy of hiding in the fridge sobbing into Dairylea triangles (again) I didn’t really know where else to go with it. [Spoiler alert: this post is one hundred per cent a Starting School cliché, seasoned school parent pros need read no further].

The truth is, I have looked ahead to this moment many times over the last four years and I quite honestly never expected that I would be one of those mums. The criers. The ones who get struck down with My Baby is Starting School pangs in the middle of Tesco. The ones who make an excuse to escape to the kitchen with a lump in their throat when the uniform is tried on for the first time. The ones who scroll through toddler photos from two years ago on Timehop and say, “I just can’t believe it.”

Yet here we are. Timehop presents me with a photo of my about-to-start-school child from when he was a toddler, waddling around not quite able to master walking in his wellies, and all at once I’m floored by a hurty heart.
Just like that my Henry Bear, my biggest boy, is going to school. Joining the hordes of reception-starters, he’ll be making his way through the school gates in the oversized uniform I’ve dutifully labelled with name tags, carrying a book bag that will come home bursting with reminders about things we have to do to help him succeed at numeracy/phonics/life.

Parents of children already at school tell me this overwhelming emotion will soon become a distant memory and I have no doubt that when term begins next year I too will be skipping up the road and updating Facebook with, ‘Lovely summer and everything but thank fuck for that!’

I will know the drill by then. I’ll be used to having a school-aged child and I’ll have realised that the school day is actually quite short (and that it’s never very long before the next holiday which presents me with all manner of childcare issues). With a level-head on I already know all of these things but level-headedness rarely makes a guest appearance in Parentland, does it? In fact, Parentland has proved the biggest mind-fuck of a destination I’ve ever been to and that’s without the use of any narcotics. Parentland is maddening and hilarious and weird and makes me cry all the bloody time.

It’s not that I don’t want Henry to go to school. I do. He is more than ready to go and I’m excited for him. It’s just that seeing him trying on his uniform this evening, singing along to his favourite song (Coldplay’s Yellow, genuinely he demands it on repeat), I can’t hide from the fact that he is growing up. In any normal week one day rolls into the next and it’s easy not to see it. Sure he grows out of his clothes and shows an interest in new TV programmes and games so I know he is growing up. But I don’t stop and take stock of that. Life’s too busy.
School very obviously marks  the start of a brand new chapter, which is no bad thing it just means I have to accept that a line is being drawn under the old chapter - the one where he was baby who was sick all the time who then became a toddler who called all animals, “Cat!” and later a pre-schooler who made me howl with laughter at his naked living-room dancing.

I have moaned about him a lot over the last four years (because he’s annoying – really, he is) but this last year has seen a change in our relationship. He makes me laugh. He’s bloody good company.

I will miss him.

There have been times when I have muttered, "Roll on school!" and I could give you some bullcrap about how I didn't really mean it but in all honesty at the time I definitely meant it.

I think maybe that is why I am so sad.

Because I never enjoyed the earliest days as much as I should have. I tried but it turns out the whole baby thing just isn’t my bag (though my ovaries are positively exploding at the prospect of being one child down during school hours so I think Mr Unmumsy will be wearing three pairs of boxers to bed for the next week. “Just one more?” “NO”).

On top of the fact that I am distraught at him going to school (not an exaggeration) I am also worried about how I will fare as a School Mum. I’ve bumbled through the last four years of motherhood on a wing and a prayer and I’m fairly sure my maternal incompetence will be outed sometime in the first term.
The other mums might have read my book. What if they stand in the corner of the playground whispering, “There’s that mum who called her baby a dick. Look how creased his trousers are - I did read she doesn’t iron anything. Oh and there’s her husband. Do you know he once had to milk her?”
I hadn’t thought this through.
But it’s not about me. And my main worry is not how bad I’ll look when I put Henry in his skeleton pyjamas for World Book Day (Funnybones, yes he has worn them for the last two Halloweens), my main worry is how he will get on. Will he enjoy it? Will he make friends? Will he manage to remember that not everybody wants to abide by his rules when playing  Star Wars? Will he fit in?
He’s too young for me to give him the school advice I want to give him. I want so badly to tell him the things I learned from school. That it’s better to be nice than it is to be popular. That if you are nice you will be popular for the right reasons, because people like you. That if you strive only to be popular you will be popular because people think they have to like you, because you're popular (and that is not the same thing).
I want to tell him to work hard, to play harder and to always be kind.
I want to tell him that I am so very proud of him. So proud it makes me look around and shout, “That’s my son!”
I want to thank him for giving me something so wonderful that I will miss it. For allowing me to make a million and one parenting mistakes in the first four years of his life which will no doubt benefit his little brother (trial and error, it’s the only thing I know).
But I won’t tell him any of these things. He’s a sensitive creature and it would be selfish of me to burden him with the extra worry of his mother having the emotional restraint of Gwynnie at the Oscars. So I will bite my tongue and in my best cheery mum voice I will say, “School tomorrow then buddy! How fab, you’ll love it.” I will keep things upbeat. I won’t make it too big a deal. I will do all the stuff I hope will make school easier for him and none of the stuff that will make school easier for me.
I know it is probable that at some stage he will cling to me and tell me that he doesn’t want me to leave (we had four months of that at preschool, it broke my soul). Every ounce of my being will want to stay there in the middle of reception class holding onto him, but it would start to look a bit weird. So I will be firm, because that’s what parents do. And he will be fine.
I will not be fine. I will come home and cry and eat Dairylea triangles and say, “Where did the time go?”
That’s Parentland. The best place on earth. The worst place on earth.
I bloody love you Henry Bear. Go get ‘em.
The Unmumsy Mum

50 comments:

  1. You have just expressed everything I am feeling this evening. Best of luck to you both x

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  2. Yep to all of the above. My eldest boy starts school on wed and I too have the guilts that I didn't enjoy enough of the time I had with him, and now it's too late. Before I know it he'll be grunting that I'm embarrassing him and refusing to let me kiss him. Waaaaaaaaaah.

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  3. As someone who had left my little boy from 7 months old with a childminder (needs must) I thought I'd be fine with the whole school thing!!! HA how wrong I was, I stood there with tears streaming down my face while giving him two thumbs up feeling him it will be awesome lol
    We all go through it but as with mine your Henry will love it, this luck tomorrow 😀

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  4. Unmumsy mum, perfect! You made me cry and laugh reading this! Good luck to yuor baby and you, From a seasoned mummy with one about to start secondary school this week (I'm an even bigger mess about this!) xxx

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  5. So lovely! All the emotions I felt when son 1 started school. I actually bawled my eyes out driving home! I still miss him now when he goes back after hols. I also breathe a sigh of relief that we made it through the 6 weeks. I don't miss the arguing with second son though. This year is last year at home before second starts next September. I will cherish this last year, cry when he goes but pat myself on the back and sit down with a cuppa (I may cry into it for a bit) good luck to you tomorrow and Henry. He will do you proud.

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  6. Amazing read again! Good luck to both of you for his first day x

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  7. My rocket man is only 14 months, but reading all the back to school posts is really making me emotional. Letting our little ones go out into the real world is what we're supposed to do but bloomin' heck it's a touchy. Fingers crossed it all goes smoothly for you. x

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  8. I am dreading school, only one year to go until this will be me.

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  9. Ah that's a lovely post and something that will no doubt give me the same feels in a couple of years. I really hope he enjoys it and that you do too as the time goes by. On a lighter note, not convinced about the school logo. Bit triangular 😂😂

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  10. Such a brilliant post. My youngest starts this week and you've precisely nailed it. Great work.

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  11. My biggest girl is off to start year 1 tomorrow and I'm missing her before she's even gone.

    Today she has been excited and apprehensive all rolled into one and so have I, it feels like school is taking her away from me, but actually they are giving her the tools she'll need to survive the big wide world (that I just can't give).

    Next chapter I guess, but as much as she drives me insane squabbling with her little sister and not putting her shoes on until I've asked her at least 10 times she is a little cherub and I wouldn't change her for the world.

    The only thing I told her when she started reception class last year was to be kind, and that she has, and has flourished at school (kindness makes the world go round blah de blah).

    Good luck tomorrow it will be tough but at the end of the day he'll be home for mummy snuggles in a matter of hours!

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  12. It is the 'they just start to be good company and then they go to schoo' that is the killer. But, after the 'changed personality cos they are so tired' bit (which is hard work) your lovely child will still be there and you will enjoy seeing them grow as a person. Honest!

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  13. Good luck for tomorrow. You've summed how I'm feeling brilliantly. Such a mix of emotions going on in my head. So scared fur my biggest boy going to school but so proud of how grown up and independent he's getting. I'll be alone with my two year old tomorrow for the first time. It's ajeats been three of us and we are going to miss him so much. Samuel makes me laugh every day and he's becoming my best pal! Good luck to all the new school mums out there. X

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  14. Oh I am crying, on the sofa , after a weekend of stand offs over putting shoes on, the point blank refusal of him getting in the pool for his first swimming lesson (not even a toe!) and then (me) bursting into tears when he was distraught the lesson was over & he couldn't get in , and then this. I have been an emotional wreck all day and generally feeling like a crap shouty mum loses her shit over shoes ( he even puts them off, then wails they're too tight & takes them of again) But this nails it. I'm so proud of him, and I'm going to miss him so much....& I think that's only just hit me! although that said we don't start school til 12th...so I've got time to pull myself together and then fall apart next weekend. Thanks Unmumsy Mum ( yet again) for making me feel a little less of a knob. X

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  15. My gorgeous boy started on Friday. This sums up everything I feel. I sat in bed sobbing last week over the loss of my boy. Will he make friends, will people be mean to him. In fact I want to cry again.

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  16. Not to make anyone feel worse but there are more of these days to come. 1st day at secondary, at 6th form and (where i am now in regular floods of tears at the 4 1/2hr drive that will seperate us) when our "baby" moves away to university. The only difference is that the older they get the more the notice Mum being soft and show their probable embarassment!!

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  17. My oldest started 2 weeks ago (Scotland) and don't mind admitting I was a mess. He loves it which is the main thing but I sooooo want another one

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  18. As usual, you have made me laugh and cry all at the same time. I'm not quite there yet with my boy, but I'm sure I'll be feeling the same. All the very best of wishes to Henry and yourself. I'm sure he will have a fab time! X

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  19. My son has just started pre-school and I'm already nervous about big school. He'll be fine, it's me I'm worried about 😉

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  20. Aww, good luck for tomorrow. Maybe bring a hip flask of gin for drop off. x

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  21. Beautiful. We're going through a similar thing but now it's with grandchildren. Tempus fugit.

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  22. That is pretty much how I felt a year ago. It's bloody hard but it does get easier day by day. I'll never forget that moment of leaving him in the classroom, I saved my tears for the car and then went and had coffee and cake to distract myself. Be kind to yourself tomorrow. And when you pick him up he'll be happy and smiley and your heart will melt and you'll begin to relax a bit. He will be fine I'm sure. Best of luck!!! Get some wine in for the evening too!!

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  23. I still have a pang when my two go back to school in September (yr 4 and 2 now so I should have gotten over it!!. I just miss being around them all the time, even though they can make me go thermonuclear with the arguing and whining, they are mine and I like it best when I can cuddle them whenever I want and the big one doesn't have to pretend not to like it coz his friends are watching. sigh.

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  24. It never gets easier. A year ago I sobbed in a multi storey car park after dropping my son at college for the first day. The tears dry but the pride in watching your amazing, perfect firstborn go out into the world never goes away. Good luck Henry, and unmumsy. You are strong and brave, and cheese always makes things better.

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  25. It never gets easier. A year ago I sobbed in a multi storey car park after dropping my son at college for the first day. The tears dry but the pride in watching your amazing, perfect firstborn go out into the world never goes away. Good luck Henry, and unmumsy. You are strong and brave, and cheese always makes things better.

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  26. Bloody hell you just multiplied my pregnancy hormones by 1000 and I have just sobbed my heart out for a full 34 minutes and mines only starting preschool! X

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  27. Pretty much how I felt a year ago! I'll never forget leaving him in the classroom, I saved my tears for the car and then went and had coffee and cake to distract myself. It's bloody hard but it does get easier day by day. And he'll come out at the end of the day happy and smiley and your heart will melt and you'll relax a bit. Be kind to yourself tomorrow and get some wine in for the evening. Best of luck - we've all been there! Xxx

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  28. You didn't enjoy it as much as you could have, not should have. There is no guideline governing how much an individual has to like any aspect of parenting any aged child! (not a criticism, love your work) You'll all be very fine at school, love Nicky (mother of four, one starting primary tomorrow!)

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  29. I'm guessing you'll fare just fine as a school mum... guessing coz my girls are only starting reception tomorrow too and they are my first (and only) children. You're post is making me feel the unmumsy one though... why don't I feel like this when everyone else seems to?! I've even got this week off work as am between jobs and I'm celebrating the fact our school doesn't force you to do half days to start with! I love my girls to pieces but can't wait for them to start!

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    1. I've only just come across unmumsy. I have a 6 month old but also 2 older ones. I love all of my children more than I ever thought was possible but I'm a bit like you. I didn't get emotional when they started school and wondered a little bit what was wrong with me. Certainly no tears here. I dropped them off and got on with my day. That certainly doesn't make me any less mumsy or unmumsy than anyone else. We just deal with things differently :-)

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  30. Wow I didn't think I'd cry but you goto me. I can tell you that it does get easier and by next year or certainly the one after you will be skipping into school with him as I will my 6 year old who is about to start year 2, however I am just as much of an emotional wreak over my daughter who also like Henry will be starting reception tomorrow, maybe it's because she's my baby or maybe it's just because those rare just mummy daughter days are gone but I'm sure I'll come home tomorrow and cry

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  31. A seasoned school mum here - my youngest starts secondary tomorrow and I'm feeling all these bloody emotions all over again! It's never bloody ending!

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  32. My first is in year 2 (roll on Tuesday), but I know I will feel exactly the same all over again when my second starts reception next year. Good luck Henry, and you. X

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  33. You rock. You'll be fine. And you'll cry. http://www.andthensheclicked.com/a-guide-to-surviving-the-first-day-at-school/

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  34. Shit, i was just about holding it together til i read this! Conception of son was prompted by our big girl starting school 5 years ago, and here we are again but this time without the option of popping out a baby replacement. Am distraught and proud in equal measure and am sure i shall spend the first 2 days sculking behind cars, spying on him in the playground, crying into a kleenex, checking he isn't standing all alone with noone to play with. Just like i did with his big sister.....sigh....

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  35. Sobbing now reading this! Feel exactly the same. Can't wait for my boy to go to school on Thursday coz I love him but my word he is demanding. But on the other hand, he's my baby & I'll miss him & it's so weird. The uniform got me too. Still got my little girl at home 2 & 5 months but won't know what to do with her, it's always been the 3 of us during the week. Good luck Sarah & Henry xx

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  36. Good luck to you both. As a seasoned mum I can totally get where you are coming from. My eldest started Uni last year and prior to this he had endured a very reluctant move to the countryside with us all from the town, voicing his disgust on a daily basis!!! I was absolutely dying for him to leave home so that calm could be restored but found myself completely out of the blue sobbing on my drive back from Wilko's with student supplies!!! I even used to go and sit on his bed once he had gone and sniff his pillow !!

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  37. I hear you. I felt this way for each of my four children when they started school. I remember being in hospital after the birth of my eldest son and reading a magazine article about starting school and sobbing as this tiny blond boy, just a matter of days old, will leave me.......... That was 28 years ago now. Now I sit at the other end of the scale. 2 eldest boys gone through uni and left home and eldest daughter leaving for uni in a few weeks. My baby will be starting her final year of A levels. I have only one child left at home for one year. I've already done the sobbing and there will be a lot more to come. Just as you say I fear I have wasted time together, busy all the time, jobs, hobbies; frantic life. So now just one year for me, with just one child, then it's done.............
    You will get used to school run life and be able to fill your wonderful blog with new funny accounts of school gate related drama. Keep writing. Xx

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  38. Brought it all back - sobbing my heart out on the changing room floor in John Lewis, trying his school uniform on - he's 24 now and there has been a few of those days!

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  39. Sums up my summer perfectly, glad its not just me. We're in Scotland so my little girl started a few weeks ago, I still feel terrible as I miss her but she's having the time of her life! Your wee boy will do great I'm sure. X

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  40. Ok, so I have two years to go still until I reach this milestone but I just wanted to say that after getting choked up on my drive to work this morning passing all the tiny little dots with their backpacks bigger than themselves, you have well and truly destroyed me after reading this.
    Currently sitting at my desk holding back the tears restraining myself from grabbing my car keys to dash and give him a hug.

    Thank you for always saying it exactly as it is but also for making me appreciate every moment. I can guarantee I'll either laugh or cry every time you write (mostly choke on my coffee with laughter)
    (cold coffee that is of course) xxx

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  41. Good luck Henry (and Sarah). It takes me back to when our oldest first started school for years ago, when we had much the same mix of feelings. (A little secret: dads can get all emotional about it too.) Of course, by the time subsequent kids hit the same landmark - our third, Kara, starts next week - it's a bit more knowing nods and "yeah, whatever" but that's for later.

    But don't worry about it all being a bit too much - I think that's perfectly normal, and the odds are H will settle down faster than you will. Fingers crossed!

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  42. I feel this sad feeling at the end of every school holiday. I stop sleeping through the night 2 days before term starts and don't get a full nights sleep again until the next school holiday. I hate school.

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  43. I love this! My two are 7 and 9, I'm still bumbling through parenthood. I make a terrible school mum and everyone knows my business too because of my blog...and hate me cos I post pictures of food I make! Hey ho. PS I've just discovered you through Exeter Living. Nice to come across another Exeter blogger!

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  44. Discovered your blog the other day and like so many others on here, am thinking "thank fuck it's not just me". I am the mum that forgot Xmas jumper day and stands alone in the playground because I'm shite at small talk, especially child related small talk. Spent a long time beating myself up, thinking I wasn't giving enough at work or at home. Your posts have eased some of the guilt. Thank you! I look forward to the school posts.

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  45. Love this blog! Just had my son. Harrowing experience at baby group singing class yesterday...I am just not that sort of mum! Been told off a few times for swearing by other mums too. I used to write about animals but now find myself becoming an 'unmummsy mum, littleVet.blogspot.co.uk

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  46. Absolutely perfect! I have been feeling the same way with the boy starting pre-school. Elation at a little free time, but also heartache at what I'm losing and for the times I should have enjoyed more! Beautifully written. X

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  47. My second son started school this year. It was at least twice as bad as when the first one started. Losing my baby to the school system! On the plus side, all the other mums in the new class are the bike-with-trailer kind, just like me (not).

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  48. as a teacher and will be going through this in a years time im dreading it. Homeschooling very much appeals to me for this reason alone i couls see my daughter every day but also for reasons of education and what is happeneing to schools in the UK. argh! its hard enough dropping her off at nursery.

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