I wont lie to you, I have really been struggling this last few weeks. I think it has been creeping up on me for the last couple of months now, finding myself feeling a little more subdued, slightly more anxious, a lot more tearful! Ive walked around in a daze, feeling that familiar sense of dread in my stomach that something terrible is about to happen, battling against the negative thoughts in my head.
I’ve found myself panicking about how fast the time is passing. How the minutes, the hours, the days seem to blend into weeks, months and years. I’ve wracked my brain for memories that are fast becoming blurred and jumbled, desperately trying to claw them back into touch, to remember all of those moments that have passed in the blink of an eye.
Several times I have found myself sat with my finger hovering over the dial button for my doctors surgery, questioning whether I need to adjust my medication, whether things are spiralling out of my control. And then I realised that actually, I don’t think that it is to do with being depressed at all, not really. I think that it is just about feeling sad right now, and perhaps I’m not the only parent feeling that way?
Because the long and short of it is, my baby boy, my beautiful little first born, is leaving primary school this week and whilst he is more than ready for it, I most certainly am not.
This last few weeks I have found myself mentally chalking off the days, fifteen more days to go, fourteen, thirteen, twelve….each day one step closer to the end of an era. I have found myself crying in the aisles at Tesco as I chose “Thank the teacher” cards and presents to say goodbye. I cried at the Leavers Concert, cried when Lewis even mentioned the Leavers Assembly and almost hyperventilated when he began to sing me the songs they will perform on the day. “It’s not the end, it’s a new beginning”. And as he danced around the kitchen, singing away in a silly voice, I just wanted to grab him, hold him tight and tell him to please stop growing up so fast.
Seeing him try on his school uniform last week almost broke me. He stood there, his trousers trailing along the floor, the tips of his fingers just peeping out from the arms of his blazer, his shirt hanging down towards his knees, and he beamed with pride. As I pinned on his tie and straightened his collar I remembered his first day of school, how I had kissed that beautiful little face goodbye, watched as he walked through the door and felt my heart break in two. And yet this, seeing my baby in his shirt and tie, leaving primary school, it somehow feels a million times worse.
Out of all of the milestones we have faced so far, I think that this one has been the hardest. Primary school is such a lovely cocoon of safety, of play, of friendships and innocence. I watch Lewis with his friends and I have to refrain from telling him that this, leaving primary school, is so much bigger than he can ever imagine. Never again will he spend every hour of every day in a class with thirty of his closest friends. Never again will he know the name of every child in his school, the name of every teacher, know every inch of every part of the school. He may go from being the top of his class to somewhere in the middle, go from being the schools football star to perhaps not even being selected for the team at all. He may start secondary school with one group of friends and most likely leave with another.
And there will come a time, a few weeks from now, when he shall come home talking about his new friend “Ben” and I wont have a clue who this child is! I wont know who this “Bens” parents are, where they are from or the family background? And that is one of my biggest fears of secondary school, of a life that we as parents know very little about. The choices that our children make in these next few years will affect their entire lives, lay the pathways ahead and influence their future in ways that we can only imagine. Every day I hope and pray that the values and good behaviour that we have instilled in Lewis so far will be enough to allow him to sail through high school making the correct choices, choosing appropriate friendships and making the most of every opportunity.
Because as much as I’m not ready for it, I have to admit that it IS an amazing opportunity and I think in many ways that has added to the rollercoaster of emotions I have been experiencing. Some days I find myself crying with sadness that my baby has grown up far too fast, and other days I am crying with happiness that he has so much ahead of him, so many exciting times and new opportunities. And I love that Lewis has chosen to go to the same high school as Gaz and I, it means the world to me that we will share that, and yet our experiences of the school will be so very different. I envy him the education that he will receive, so very different to the one that we had with our pencil and paper, sat at a wooden desk, bored out of our minds. These days its all about practical work, hands on learning, the teachers are younger, more approachable, more exciting.
Its very hard for Lewis to imagine a school where he shall spend his days doing science experiments in the labs, doing sport in a state of the art gym, learning languages, media studies, making music in the recording studio. Days out at high school are a world away from the days of a trip to Blackpool zoo or at the most a Manchester museum. Holidays at high school rival any family holiday that we have been on, skiing trips to the alps, french exchanges and italian retreats. When I tell Lewis about all of these amazing opportunities ahead his eyes are like saucers and when he asks will he be able to go on these visits and holidays, although they will surely cost the earth, I tell him of course you will. I want him to get everything he can out of his high school life because in five years time when he leaves high school for college, I want him to look back, as I did, and agree that actually, high school was the best time of his entire life.
I have friends who tell me that this time next year I wont recognise my child from the young boy who has left primary school this week. I can’t bear the thought of him shooting up almost as tall as I am now, sprouting hair on his top lip, spots across his forehead and a deep voice that I no longer recognise. And it’s not just the physical changes either, they tell me that the mood swings and attitude come hand in hand with high school. They scare me with tales of how the initial tiredness and over-excitement leads to all kinds of arguments, that the stress of homework can launch a full scale world war across the kitchen, that new friendships and influences can trigger attitude problems to rival Kevin the Teenager. And those same friends tell me, “At least you still have your three babies”, and I agree, thank God for them or I may actually have a full on breakdown, but still….Lewis is my baby too. Always.
And so I know that come thursday when we go to watch the Leavers Assembly, I shall undoubtedly be a wreck. I shall watch my boy stand arm in arm with his friends, sing their hearts out and know that never again will we have this moment. And on Friday when he comes home from primary school for the very last time I imagine that he will have tears of his own. As confident, excited and grown up that Lewis may think he is, leaving behind everything you have ever known for the last seven years is a big deal. And I’m sure that I will be waiting at the gate to give him a big hug, tears and snot streaming down my face, feeling that my heart is breaking for the hundredth time as he cries in my arms.