Starting School: From a Mum’s Perspective

Holding my arms parallel on the steering wheel, I lowered my head between them and cried. Part of my life was over. I felt like I held a small bird in my hands. The little bird I tended, taught and loved since birth. Then, lifting my arms high, I let the bird fly out of my palms.  Out, out into the blue sky: so beautiful, yet so full of danger and uncertainty. I’m talking about my daughter’s first day of school.

One should suppose that starting school is a big step for a child. This is true. However, it’s also a big deal for mum. Well, it was for me.  As I sat in the car crying (after I dropped my daughter to school), a myriad of concerns flooded my mind:

  • We she have friends?
  • Will she run out of the school grounds on to the road?
  • Will she have a toileting accident?
  • Will she even know where the toilets are?
  • Will she be kidnapped?
  • Will people care for her? Like her?
  • Will she be bullied?
  • Is she emotionally ready?
  • Have I taught her enough life skills?
  • Have I done enough? Have I done enough? Have I done enough?

Once the thoughts started, they circled in my head in a myriad of irrational voices. These thoughts almost compelled me to run back to the classroom, grab my girl in the too-big uniform in my arms and take her home again. You see, up to this point, I had much of the responsibility of nurturing my child. I was her world. I adored her. I raised her. There’s something about letting a big part of that go that is absolutely terrifying! However, it was time for my daughter to try her wings.

Every Mum wants her little bird to fly. It’s what we strive for. We want our kids to mature being able to make good choices for themselves. But for me, when it came to actual letting go part, I felt torn. I wanted to celebrate, and yet a part of me needed to grieve (and worry a little).

I’ve done the “first day of school” 4 times now and cried (out of my child’s presence) every time. I’m not someone who is prone to crying but leaving my child at a new place, with new people gets me, deep down – you know?

Here are 5 things that personally helped me, and my children take this step.

1. It’s their job

On the first day of school there is a huge element of trust on the parent’s behalf.  It’s reassuring to know that it is a teacher’s job to care for and educate our children. They know what they are doing and I’ve met so many wonderful, caring teachers over the years. 

2. Make yourself known

The first day of school is not the right time to have a lengthy conversation with your child’s teacher. However, a quick introduction can set your mind at ease.  If there are particular issues you want to cover with your child’s teacher, make an appointment at the earliest convenience.

3. If your child cries

Leaving your child crying on the first day of school is heartbreaking. I know because I’ve done it. My eldest daughter embraced school like she did most things: with open arms. However, when it came for my second daughter to attend school, it was a disaster. I didn’t see it coming because she was so excited about school…and then it was time to leave.  The teacher had to pry her off my leg! It was horrible. Below are a few things that helped me through the situation:

  • Prepare: Be positive about school when preparing and during those first weeks. Continue focusing on the fun parts of school each day and celebrate any artwork brought home.
  • Assure: Tell them you love them and will be back for them.
  • Leave: Usually there is a settling time where parents can stay at the school to read books or play puzzles. I enjoyed this time with my daughter but if I drew out the goodbyes when it was time to go, it was worse for all involved. I found it best to leave quickly to allow the teacher do their job.
  • Check: Leaving my daughter crying was heart wrenching. I didn’t torture myself all day wondering if she was distraught but phoned the classroom after 30 minutes to see how she was. She always settled in beautifully.  To this day, that crying child is the one who enjoys school the most out of all my children so there you go.
  • Address:  Address any fears. For my daughter, after a week of settling in, all was wonderful…however, if she continued to I to cry every day for a long period I would talk to the child’s teacher to find where to get further assistance.

4. Have someone to talk to

Talking to, or catching up with a friend for coffee after I dropped my child to school was reassuring. Moral support goes a long way.

5. Grieve and celebrate

I gave myself permission to feel sad and experience the sense of loss.  I also celebrated the fact that my daughter had the opportunity to take another step towards independence.

It was bitter sweet moment: watching my daughter walk into the school gate on the first day of school. I felt so very proud of her, and yet I felt sad saying goodbye to a chapter of my life.  My little bird was learning to fly.

The little girl I’m talking about is not little anymore: she is entering grade 8. I’ve watched her learn skills and gain confidence through the years and there’s an element of disbelief that we are here at the next stage already!  This time, I won’t cry.  No. I have full confidence in her as she steps out into this new stage of her life.  She’s her own person as she strides out, but I will always have her back.


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