So D-day is upon us and we find out today where Spider-boy goes to school. And the likelihood is he will go to a school that on paper is quite poor sounding, but in reality, well, has nice classrooms a good vibe, kids who like it there and is the school nearest his house.
I’ve been crying and weeping and feeling some how sucked into a chaos of bad thoughts. Is it depression or me that is barking? Have I finally lost the plot? Will he be cherished? Will he be safe? Will he learn enough? Is life always unfair? Have I well and truly fucked everything up? Will we pay the mortgage.
I’m not really crying about his school, although I have a lot to rant about regarding school ‘choices’ and how they aren’t really choices for most people. I think I’m crying because as a working Mother I do feel strange that my glorious not-yet-four-year-old who is still working things out and exploring and not quite ready for the socialisation of school is leaving.
I worry he’ll offend people, won’t make friends, will be too clever or not clever enough. I worry he will be led astray or pull others in the wrong direction. In short; that he’ll be me, all over again. I appreciate how narcissistic this is, and how unfair. Spider-boy is his own person, his own precious self, how dare I project onto him like this. But when I see my side of the family in his squinty smile or over sensitivities, his temper and his raucous jokes I see the little girl with a long fringe and her hand up for every answer, upsetting some girls without realising it and being in trouble, crying into pillows over what others say and, perhaps crucially, a girl without a Mum at the school gates to stick up for her.
That isn’t a slur on my mother. I don’t know why it worries me at all, in fact, as I know from experience she worked but was always present at my schools and in my school life. Wonderfully present, actually, especially with books and reading and chatting about our days. My mum did stick up for us. Always, like a mother bear. Sometimes even if we were wrong. She used to ring up the school and have guts for garters. I’ll be her, I’m sure, or at least hope.
But I also know having not your mum collecting you means you need to foster a form of independence early. As a child I learned the hard way that unfortunately this independence of spirit isn’t appreciated by some grown ups when you are nine. I once engaged in a huge stand up row with a mum at the school gates who told me off for something. I felt the sting of injustice and shouted back saying she shouldn’t be telling me off as she wasn’t my mummy and things escalated on the street by the school into a row between my impervious upstartish spirited defence of working women and her criticisms of parenting which would produce such a wretch (all implied criticisms of my mum for being at work). It earned me a reputation as a loud mouth and unruly.
I like to think it spoke to a strong sense of justice on my part and my love for my parents: even now I’m fully grown and more nuanced I still think the school gate mum who picked me out, knowing I had a childminder not my mum there, was swooping down on an easy picking.
I think my concerns also speak to other fears and worries too – my sense of impending doom and confusion about whether I am making good enough choices across the board. I have another lad ready for nursery soon. I feel I’m placing him on a track which leads away from my cradling arms and out into the world. I know, know, know this is the aim, and am desperate to see my little birds in action as the glide from the nest and soar. But it feels so soon. So I cry and ask myself should I work? Should we be living in London? Should we both be working? Am I sacrificing someone to my principles and, if so, who (me, my husband, the kids)? Are we doing enough? Will I wind up on *happy* pills and in therapy forever, always broken and wobbling slightly wishing I could stop the world and get off for a bit?
Mainly though the naval gazing shows me how much more than Spider-boy’s first school this has become in my head. And reminds me that I have no right to project so much onto him and that for all the tears on my pillow last night D Day must be about a blue polyester sweatshirt with a nametag ironed in it which I know he’ll wear with pride. About my son’s teacher and peg and classroom and pencil case and all the things he will understand as positive about this transition. Things as his Mother I must forever now defend and cheer and praise because they will be a part of who he is and the last thing he needs is my anxiety rubbing against his plimsolls in his PE bag come September.