Red-Light; Green-Light: My Daughter’s First Day of School
Where have the last four years gone?
I cannot sleep. Today is A’s first day of formal education. In the next hours she will wake up an enthusiastic 4 year-old, clueless as to how different her life will be going forward. Together we will go about getting her fed, uniform sorted, hair brushed and making sure she is ready for the day ahead.
I am incredibly thrilled for her. She will learn to read, write, explore her interests in after-school clubs, make new friends, figure out where her interests lie and learn how to tie her own school tie. What character will she choose for World Book Day? I can’t wait for all of that.
At the same time I am worried. She will have to assert herself, get involved, ask questions, take initiative to make new friends (without me), line up for school meals on her own, change in and out of her PE uniform in 4 minutes time and cope with the more rambunctious in the group – all whilst (I hope) remembering to be a loving person (and drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration). I wish I could be a fly on the wall watching it all, but I accept that when I ask her what she has done she will likely say “nothing” or “I don’t know.” Because those are the things that children say.
While I know that school is the best place for her I can’t help but cry. Five days a week during school hours she will not be my responsibility and that saddens me: last minute decisions to trek into London’s arts museums on Wednesday mornings, late pancake breakfasts on Thursdays or staying out late weeknights because we can – that is all gone. She will be required to be at school and my responsibility will be to make sure that she is well rested and prepared for that. Our weekly baking and art activity will fall second to her own school assignments which might possibly interest her more and (I am in full tears now) I cannot believe that the years have flown by so quickly.
Her moral character, even at this age, will be challenged. I know this from my own school experiences. Children are confused and often unkind as a result. My goodness, is she ready?
I did not take to motherhood easily in her first year. I was overwhelmed by the life change and switch in focus from my agenda to hers and I went back to work far too quickly as a result. But somewhere along the way, I began to understand and accept and enjoy my parenting role. My focus switched 100% to listening to my children’s needs and communicating with them constantly. I stopped working and have never regretted that decision. When I did that my life changed wholly and more than a responsibility or task, my children became my companions, and for, especially the last 3 years, we have been feeding off of each other and sharing experiences. It has been great. I am having a hard time letting go of what I love, spending time with them.
What will it be like now that I will only have 1 child at home and 1 at school (and one in the belly)? What emotions will we all experience? I am sure that at times my eldest will be overwhelmed and manifest her emotions in anger and moods. My youngest might feel ignored and I will feel lost, displaced. I understand all of that and just like I expect her to be a good person at school I will try to be a good person at home in handling all of this.
In a few hours, I will joyfully brush her hair into pigtails (as she has requested), place a striped blue hair-band on her head and take far too many photos of her in uniform, marking her first day of school. I will walk her to her classroom and give her a big kiss and hug goodbye and once back in my car I will have a very intense cry and leave it there, accepting that my role as a parent will have changed but knowing that I will not be any less important in her life.