I wasn’t sure how I felt about sending my firstborn off to school. She turned four on Thursday and then walked into the classroom to begin her formal education the following Tuesday, a mere five days later. That’s very young to be pulling on a school uniform, walking into a room full of mostly unknown faces and start learning new things five days a week every term for the next 13 years.
It’s easy to see it as a loss, and I know many parents do. Indeed, I had times over the summer when I felt like I was ‘losing’ my baby. I birthed her, grew her myself from a cell into a person with thoughts and feelings and likes and dislikes, and now I have to hand her over to a lady I’ve never ever met before who’s going to hand her on to the next lady and so on and so on until she’s 18 and allowed to vote and leave home? It’s crazy. We’ve never spent more than three days a week apart, so this is the first time the scales have tipped and she’s being looked after by other people for more days a week than she’s here at home with me and her brother.
But you know what, I had exactly the same feelings about nursery. The first time I took her to nursery (and no doubt the first time every parent took every child in the world to nursery), I felt like a terrible, terrible person. Leaving my defenceless small human in the care of other people while I swanned off with no baby on my hip (she was 15 months, and I was working rather than swanning, but let’s ignore those facts because the brain doesn’t deal with facts when it’s making you feel guilty for leaving your child that you grew and birthed and love intensely).
And on that first day of nursery, she walked in and barely looked back. And since the ladies there have fallen in love with her – they were so sad to see her leave – and they have cared for her and picked her up when she’s fallen and wiped the (very occasional) tear she’s had while there, and taught her SO many new things, and generally made her the little four-year-old force to be reckoned with she is right now. So really, sending her to nursery was one of the best parenting decisions she’s had made on her behalf, and I’m hoping going to school will turn out as well as that.
Her first day at school was very similar to nursery, there was a casual wave over the shoulder as she went off hand in hand with her friend to explore their new surroundings. She’s talked a little about the food and the new experiences, but mostly she’s just smiled all week.
I haven’t lost my baby. I’ve gained a whole new group of people (whether that’s her friends or her teachers) who will care for her, who will teach her things beyond the remit of my own ability to teach her, who will pick her up when she falls, will wipe tears if needed, and will generally think she’s awesome too.
I’m sure in years to come she won’t be as keen on the uniform or the classroom, I’m sure there will be tears over homework and fallings out, I’m sure there will be drama. But for now she clutches her little book bag like it’s her best pal. For now she thinks it’s rubbish that she can’t go to school at the weekend. And for now and for always I am super proud of my big school girl.
Harriet, Alexandra and Max x