This is a picture of my first baby a few hours after he had just been born. He is now ten years old (so he looks quite a bit different now than he does here), but this baby is still how I see him. I think this is how I will always see him, but the reality is he is growing up. This means he is starting to want more independence and I am really struggling with that fact at the moment.
I gave birth to my oldest son (DB1) when I was 19 and I don’t know if being quite a young mum has any bearing on my worries. My childhood, and all its ups and downs, are still very present in my mind. I wonder whether this causes me to worry more or if this is something every mum feels just as anxious about. I have been quite protective, and I suppose I’ve tried to maintain his innocence for as long as possible, but we are definitely getting to a point where this is going to have to slowly start to change.
He will be starting secondary school, high school, big school (whatever you want to call it) in September which is a huge change. It has been hard enough choosing a school for him to go to, let alone accepting he is ready to go to one. I used to work in a secondary school and I cannot believe he is as old as those children I worked with. They were teenagers! He is in his last year of primary school though, which means he does need to start to get ready for the move otherwise it will be an even bigger shock to the system.
We have finally made the decision and applied for schools, but it is still a worry. I keep thinking have we made the right choice because there is so much to consider. Exam and OFSTED results are one thing, but the pastoral care and feel of the school are so important too. When you go to a school, you can definitely sense whether it would be the right place for your child. Our problem was there were two schools we got the ‘feel’ for and even after all the positive vs negative comparison charts (I love planning and organising a little too much), I still worry about our decision. As much of a choice as it was for us, it was also DB1’s. After all he will be the one going there for potentially seven years. So, I keep saying to myself that as long as he is happy with the choice then we will be happy. It doesn’t stop the ‘mum worry’ though.
After starting to come to terms with my son’s impending journey into secondary education, I have also had to start to allow slightly more independence. I say slightly more because he is only ten after all and I still have over two years before he is officially a teenager. This independence has been incredibly gradual. It has been hard because some children in his class had this independence all at once as soon as they started Year 6 or even before. Every child and parent is different though, and I feel for DB1 taking things slowly is the right thing to do. This has resulted in many strops recently, but I know I’m doing the right thing.
The first step has been the addition of a mobile phone. We tried to put this off for as long as possible, but for our own peace of mind we had to give in. It is an incredibly cheap and basic phone, that is used only to ring and text us. When I went to buy it from the shop and requested this phone, the salesman did comment something along the lines of “Do you hate your child?”. I might be paraphrasing, but it had the same negative connotation for how terrible he thought the phone was. We do take it off DB1 when he is home because otherwise I get woken up at 5:30am by a phone call or a text asking, “Can I watch TV?”. Now, I have to say if I am to be woken up by a child at this time asking that question, I would much prefer the terrifying outline of said child staring and gently tapping me in the dark, than my ring tone going off at full volume an hour before my alarm is due. So far, besides the undesired use of the phone as a means to make demands, it is working out well and it has been used as intended.
The hardest thing has been allowing him more freedom. This has consisted of letting him play out with his friends more freely and walking to and from places that aren’t that far away on his own. I know some children his age have been doing this for a while, but I do suffer from anxiety which makes me worry so much more. This is where the phone has become invaluable. He is able to keep us informed constantly of where he is and what he is doing, and although he is never more than a few minutes from home, it does reassure me.
I don’t think I will ever feel completely comfortable when I am not with him, but he is getting older, so it is inevitable that he is going to start to spend less time with me. I know it is only going to get worse, but after speaking with my mum, I was reassured slightly because she used to feel the exact same way when giving me more independence. She never felt comfortable and always worried (actually still does) but knew that children need their freedom to grow.
I might have called this post ‘Learning to Let Go’, but actually I have realised that as parents we never really let go of our children. We simply take a step back and hold on just as tightly from a distance.
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Thank you for your support.
Mrs P x x x