It’s my (not-so) little boy’s last day in primary school this week, and to say we are feeling all the feelings surrounding this would be an understatement. I have seen the social media posts before, where a parent expresses their feelings and emotions around this, and this is another reminder that you cannot know what another person is going through until you have been through it yourself. You can try, you can empathize, but there is nothing quite like experiencing it firsthand.
School serves as such a structure for your life when you are a parent, your plans are determined by term times, non-uniform days, collections, school club dates, remembering Wednesdays are swimming days, and ensuring your kid does their reading before book change over day until you wake up one day and it’s Christmas. Therefore, ensures that the years when your children are in school go by so fast and yet it is also true that the mornings of the school run can seem so long and drawn out because life is complicated like that.
I’ve been told by other mums with older children that secondary school is a different beast.
In that, it's purpose, alongside education, is to develop their independence which in turn means you take a back seat. I know that things can be multiple things at once and so I feel so excited about this new adventure he’s about to embark on whilst also acknowledging how sad it is. Those relentless days of school runs (because now he’ll walk over with friends) and nativities (that by the way he was never a fan of and so, therefore, there's a sense of relief that he won’t have to partake in school productions at all because he’ll never ever volunteer for them) will be behind us and they will be replaced by a different kind of relentlessness and believe me if pre-teen is a window into what to expect from the teens years, I am fully aware the next few years will be no joke.
And I suppose what I am trying to say is I’ll miss it.
I’ll miss those early years, the ones I have spent literal years trying to break down the expectations on mothers to remain grateful all the time and to know it's imperative to acknowledge the reality of that phase in life. That it is hard and beautiful and too much and everything you ever hoped for and more, and having moments of struggle does not make you a bad mother, it makes you a human, who is finding it hard because it is hard and often impossible and yet she is still getting up and trying again. An experience that everyone is having and yet we are shamed out of telling that story, just in case we come across as ungrateful or if just in case someone questions the love you have for your kids, or my favorite one is… ‘well you made the choice to have kids’. Yes yes, I did Karen, a decision I stand by and would never take back, but cleaning sick and shit and snot up day in and day out can take its toll. Because I think separating the two things is important; I love those kids more than I ever imagined, the sacrifice in all areas is worth it and I’d quite literally die for them BUT parenting can break me sometimes, sometimes I don’t love parenting but that doesn’t mean I don’t adore them.
That all being said, I’ll miss them days, with my whole heart. I have always been aware of the privilege it is to be a mother but that keeps growing as these boys grow. As I watch him develop meaningful friendships, take on huge challenges; like walking into a new secondary school alone and stick to his passions and work through the tough days and be present on the good ones, I could not be prouder of him as he is right now. And acknowledge that there is such joy in being able to joke with him now in a way that we couldn’t before, have deeper discussions about life and the world and watch him become more independent. I am genuinely enjoying this stage.
But it’s also knowing that these milestones’, the last days at school and the first days at the new ones serve as a reminder that this is all temporary, it’s all happening right now and once it's gone it’s gone. And I don’t say that to beat myself up because I have found it hard and bedtime can’t have come soon enough in those toddler days, but actually, because it’s exactly the same message now as it was then. Which is to acknowledge that life can be everything at once.
I often question my nature in that I am so acutely aware in the moment of the sentiment of it, and because of that life can be quite painful, I’m not missing that last time my little boy asks to be picked up or the last bottle before bed, I feel it all and it cuts me wide open. And apparently, that’s how we should be living our lives, by being present.
Being present is no easy task, but easy isn’t the goal.
No one has promised it would be easy but feeling it all and being present with it is the only way because I know I’ll look back on these days, just as I am about those early days, and know I was right there with them. I think that is the goal, the privilege, and the joy of this parenting stuff, is being right there with them.
I have often thought I’m not good at endings, I have struggled through them, I cried when I left school and when I left jobs and I feel the breakup of relationships like bullets to my soul. I even cried at the end of the first series of Big Brother (I’m fully aware of how unhinged this is). But I’ve come to know that I’m doing endings right. Because I’m aware of the gravity of them and because it’s a clear indicator that I gave a shit. That I was all in, that I gave it my all.
I suppose what I’ve learned over the years is that, after all the endings, whether it be school, a job or a relationship comes a new beginning and that endings have been the starting point of the creation of the most beautiful things in my life. But you can’t know that until you have been through it, so I’ll be there with my bear, to help him process the endings and to be awake to them and then to embrace a new beginning with an open mind and a sense of wonder and excitement.
And I’ll remind myself that there will of course be 9 million more series of Big Brother and you will give up on it way before it gives up on you, reminding me that endings are not always a bad thing.