Jess shares her experiences one week into her first born starting secondary school.
When I had my first baby back in 2009, I used to imagine him growing up through the years; it was easy to visualise him turning one, two and three. I could even visualise him going into Reception Class at the age of 4 and starring in the Nativity at age 5 but any event past that felt like a blur, a passage in time that other people would warn me about but would never become a reality and none more so than the day he would start Secondary School.
Last week, this unimaginable moment became reality and whilst I knew I would shed tears whilst waving him off at the school gate, I would like to share with you some unexpected challenges I experienced along the way.
1. The guilt of watching your child say goodbye to his friends weighs heavy
Despite choosing the Secondary School closest to our home and only 3 miles from his primary school, there were no other friends or fellow pupils going with him. In the last six months, this has caused a lot of anguish and resentment. “Why can’t I go to the same school as my friends?” he would ask daily. At times, I felt like backing down on our decision and giving in. But I knew deep down that the choice we had made would be best for him and he would make new friends soon enough. However, that does not remove the guilt you feel watching them say goodbye to their friends at school for the last time.
2. The uniform and equipment list is endless!
Blazer, tie, trousers, shirts - no surprises there but when I read he would need a Food Technology Apron, PE shorts, PE t-shirt, Outdoor Tracksuit and PE socks, my brain felt frazzled. Throw in a list of equipment needed in his pencil case and a stressful visit to the shops to find a very particular (and expensive!) brand of school shoe and I was reaching for the wine! I knew this would take time, energy and a dent in our savings to sort out. I have been told this list is short in comparison to some schools so all I can say to fellow parents is, be prepared.
3. Summer School - Yes Yes Yes!
Some secondaries run a Summer School for the new Year 7 pupils, which usually comprises of a week of the holidays spent getting to know each other and the school. As well as other activities and fun along the way, this week was absolutely crucial for my child to find his way around the setting and make some new friends ensuring his first few days in September were easier.
4. Breakfast struggles
In our house, we have “worry aches”; those little niggles in your belly that make you feel sick and unsettled. Unfortunately, this has then made breakfast time a bit of a battle. The temptation has been to sit him down and force him to take mouthfuls of cereal (he was going to need to fuel his body and brain adequately for the day ahead) but my better judgement told me not to draw too much attention to it. Instead, I encouraged him to sit at the breakfast table, have a glass of orange juice and discuss his nerves with us rather than bottle them up. When that didn’t have him reaching for a bowl, I slipped a Granola Bar into his backpack and hoped he would eventually find his appetite again.
5. The instant changes
My mum once told me that you lose a little more of your child with every year of school and with only a week of secondary under our belts, I can absolutely confirm this is true. When I say "lose", I don’t mean literally or in a negative way but instantly, overnight, in a blink of an eye - he seems older. He’s speaking slightly differently and mentioning names I don’t recognise. He is standing a little taller and practising his tie in the mirror in his bedroom. He is Whatsapping his new friends and arranging to walk into school with new faces. I am left looking on, in awe, did I really produce this not-so-small human!?
I realise this may all be in my mind (he can’t have actually grown up more in a week!) but reflecting over the last year, our relationship has definitely changed. He no longer comes to me to tie his laces or wipe his nose but he does join me on the sofa of an evening to chat and laugh. We will bond over funny memes or giggle at jokes on the TV. We will talk at length about friendships, relationships and the future, we share music tastes and recommend new artists. Then there are times when he will barely leave his bedroom and cannot bear to tear himself away from his computer games and times when I am comforted, and appeased, by the little golden moments when he will find me and ask very discreetly for a cuddle.
I don’t know how he will change further over the next year, how he will develop and grow as a young adult or how this will affect our mother and son relationship but one thing I do absolutely know for sure, whilst he is no longer my little boy, I am so incredibly excited for the journey that lay ahead. For him and for us.