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Thursday, 16 April 2015

Kid, you'll move mountains!

I spent all day on Tuesday crying. Serious snot and tears - the kind of leaky eyes you can't turn off. Sounds like something terrible must have happened, right? But it didn't, not really. Sprout just went to school.

'Just'. What a deceptive little word! There was nothing small or simple about sending my not-so-little son off to school. I thought I managed quite well really, after all - I managed to walk him to the door, and leave before I cried. I held it together while he lost it and made sure he had his Baa-baa (the grotty old toy sheep he's adored since birth) clasped tight when Bean and I left. I even managed not to cry while Bean had a wailing tantrum about being separated from his 'best friend in the world and life'.

But my eyes betrayed me barely an hour later, sitting in a cold church hall at our local toddler group. Despite battling valiantly to hold back the flood, those determined tears started leaking out all over the place and I had to admit defeat. I was truly, truly sad. Hunkering down with Bean on the playmat, I asked him solemnly whether it was ok for us to go.

Looking up at me and considering the situation carefully, Bean replied, 'We go to Nana's house?' Sensible boy.

There are days when a support network make all the difference. My parents have been a cushion, a safety net, a sounding board and a home for us over the past three years. Even though the boys and I no longer live with Nana and Grampa they are a huge part of our family life. We all know that when the going gets tough, it's time for a cuppa with them. Even Bean, who's only two!

Sprout going to school has hothoused some very complicated feelings for me over the past 9 months. I deferred his place back in September, hoping against hope I would be able to find a way to carve out time to home-educate him. I am a passionate advocate of 'education otherwise' - all the various ways you can school a child without actually sending them to school. Since before he was born, I've anticipated doing something alternative with him and his brother when the time came. Well, it's come. And I have to accept that right now, I am not in a position to give either of them the time and attention they deserve to be unschooled, or home schooled, for now.

As the tide of emotion subsides, I have been reflecting on what sending the boys to school means to me and my sense of who I am as a parent. The funny thing about parenting is that no matter what you do, there's a hell of a lot of compromise involved. The parent I imagined I would be sure as hell isn't the parent I've turned out to be. Some of that is the oddness of life, happening to us. Some of it is simply realising I am not entirely cut from the tie-dye hippy cloth I would like to be. Some of it is the parenting I had as a child escaping out from inside me. It's not a question of blame or fault, it just is.

Not that I was able to see that in the moment. To tell the truth, I slipped into resentment and anger almost as soon as I started to cry. It was easy to blame my lone-parent status for having to let go of my dream of unschooling the boys. Just as they both wailed 'it's not fair!' to me, my heart cried back 'it's not fair' in reply. I stamped my feet and hot, frustrated tears streamed down my face. This isn't the life I planned. Why me? Ahem - well, why not me? There is no guarantee that being a two-parent family would have handed me my dream lifestyle on a platter. In fact, a brief assessment of reality suggests it never would or could have been that way. 

Life is good. There, I said it. I'm off the pitty-potty and pulling those big girl pants back up (yet again). Actually, three days in, it's great. Bean is thrilled to be the centre of attention. He went swimming all by himself with Nana today. His bright eyed breathless excitement about it all took me straight back to the two year old days of Sprout learning to swim with his Dad. The odd wrench of it not being me who gets to teach him (this time it's work that has stood in our way) but the same 'guess how much I love you' realisation that this is a wonderful time to be two. To be loved. To grow. As for Sprout, he read - yes, actually read - a book to me tonight. Sounding out every single word on the page letter by letter until he worked out each word by himself. There's no question he is hungry to learn. He was thrilled with PE (hula hoops and pretend crocodiles, the joy!). He has made friends with lots of kids. He seems to have grown up overnight into a proper boy, all traces of pre-school wiped out. He comes home sweaty, smiley and full of chatter about the adventure he is on. 

It is safe to say that today is their day, all that remains is for me to get out of their way.  

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