So first day back at school for the kids, after a what feels like the ‘Endless Summer’. My version has much less to do with surfboards and sand dunes and far more to do with navigating life with three extremely independent children who are all currently suffering from ‘Post Moving Stress’ syndrome (I made that up, not my fault that someone copied my idea).
I have decided that this is a condition that can affect anyone after moving house and area. Its symptoms include: Violent outbursts, a dislike of parents (apparently I’m a ‘Nerd’ and have been liked and have been disliked on and off throughout the summer, it’s hard to keep up). Sufferers will also be prone to extreme and frequent changes in character, these can happen suddenly and take you completely by surprise.
I wouldn’t say that it has been a bad summer, we have had some brilliant adventures, it’s just that within those adventures there has been a certain amount of navigation and negotiation happening to keep everyone bright and breezy (where possible).
But today is different. My younger two went back to Primary, new teachers and still relatively fresh friendships. They were nervous and excited. I however, must admit to having a large sense of relief, which was only slightly spoiled by a deep seated fear for their safety and well-being (that I keep telling myself is unreasonable). I mean you don’t generally have shark attacks in an Urban, Outer London playground do you?
Then I dropped my eldest off for his first day at Secondary School (High School for all you Americans, or just my sister-in-law who probably is the only American that reads my blog…at least I hope she does :)). Ben being rather unusual was not nervous. Last night he said to me:
“Mum, I don’t know why people keep asking me if I am scared? Or telling me that I must be nervous. I don’t feel like that, I am just excited.”
I told him that it was because he was weird, but that it was O.K. cause I was weird too. Might not have been good parenting advice, shouldn’t try that at home. I’ll let you know if those words had a lasting effect in 10 years time.
Well, he wasn’t worried and he wasn’t clinging to me for a hug at the gates, he just went merrily off chatting to the first person he saw. People tell me this is great and that I should be proud. I am proud, but I want screaming, clinging hugs and tears. I want him to shred his uniform and beg me not to leave him. Anything to feel wanted eh? So I did what any parent would do, I reminded myself that I was now a free person, I could do what I wanted with the day ahead of me…I could do anything!!! I went to Tesco, to get the food shop.
In Tesco I complimented myself on being a great mum, how confidently I had left him, how certain I was that he would be ok and how I wasn’t like all those other mums wearing dark glasses, staggering away from the school gates, but then I found myself in the small pets aisle. My eyes misted over, I felt dizzy. I was going to cry! In Tesco, I was going to have a full on wailing cry fest! I told myself:
‘Pull yourself together! Buy a Guinea Pig’
BUY A GUINEA PIG? WHAT? Yes, clearly I needed a Guinea Pig, it would be fun wouldn’t it? All the sawdust and little treats, a sweet hutch to decorate, a bow for it’s neck. And then it would leave me,. Yes that Guinea Pig would up and leave, and it might even call me a ‘Nerd’ or prefer the company of others. No I wouldn’t buy that Guinea Pig, ungrateful little thing! Then I saw it… I was experiencing a full on bout of ‘Empty Nest Syndrome’.
I talked myself out of Tesco and went for a Coffee. People feeling unsettled should not be out grocery shopping.
It’s such a funny thing when your kids go back to school. As a parent we suffer from such a mix of emotions. We love them so much and we want the best for them, but we also grow to need their love returned. Kids do return that love in their own way, sometimes in a completely unique way to each other. We need to look out for their love languages and enjoy those moments of affection.
We are also so used to looking out for their safety and well-being that it is hard to entrust that care into another’s hands. Especially when we have experienced times where they have missed out on the care that others should have provided. Today I am going to pray: that God will look after each of my children. I will remind myself God has my kids in the palms of his hands. I am going to re-read and think on Psalm 139 (Message version, Eugene Peterson):
‘Oh Yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God- you’re breathtaking!
Body and Soul, I am marvellously made!
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watch me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life spread out before you,
the days of my life all prepared,
before I’d even lived one day.’
I figure if God knows us like this and he knows my children like this, then he will look after them each day, that he will know what they need even more than I think I do. Thank you God, that I can give you my big heap of worries and that I know you will step in to help.