The School Mum

Last Friday I became a different sort of mother.

I became the mother of a primary school child.

I have no idea how it happened. He was just a premature dot in my arms in a moment that felt like yesterday.

But somehow that small dot has grown and he no longer really fits in my arms.

And that small kid walked into the big kids’ school, still comparatively rather dot-sized against the big grade sixers, an independent and savvy little man ready to have his own whole new experience.

I won’t pretend. It was me who was a mess, not him. Sure, he was hyperactive and his listening skills had been thrown to the wind with all the excitement and curiosity bubbling inside him as we walked to school.

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Still, he was composed and confident. And I was in a heap with an anxious racing heart.

Will he make friends?

What if he was on his own in the playground?

Will he sit still and listen to his teacher?

Will his little voice be heard?

Will he want to go?

What on earth am I going to put in his lunchbox everyday? 

Was my mother’s gut right in sending him early?

Had I made the right decision about the school?

Had I done my job properly?

Knowing I had no idea of the answers to these questions racing through my head made me anxious, really bloody anxious. I wanted to vomit in my hand, an urge I thankfully contained.

We walked into his classroom, his teacher and many of his classmates already in there. There was an art and craft-making table right at the door. His little creative eyes fell on the table and he was off. Texta and glue and tape all over his hands within seconds. Another few minutes later, and my young man had forgotten I existed. He was confident and ready for me to leave. I kissed his forehead, told him I loved him and felt the tears swell in my chest.

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It was exactly the start I wanted him to have, the confident response to his new environment that I wanted him to experience.

But still my heart fluttered. And it fluttered all day as I filled my day with dazed, sweet nothings; too distracted to think or do anything much and too focused on the 3:30PM school bell.

His father was picking him after school for his weekend with him. I would not usually impede, but on his first day I wanted to see him when he came out. That in itself, the two of us being in the same place for one of our son’s special days, was massive.

The bell went. I waited at the door.

He was as hyper coming out as he was going in, his thoughts all over the place. There was no sense in how his day went, no verbal indication that he had made it through the six hours unscathed, and no confirmation that my worries were unfounded. We found his father waiting outside, our son beamed at both of us.

I kissed him once more on the forehead, told him I loved him and left none the wiser but with a little hope in my heart that his smiles and all that was unsaid was enough to know he was okay.

He returned to school on Monday, happy to go but still with little words to express his experience.

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Until 3:30PM on Monday when all of his words and feelings and experiences flooded him. I could tell the minute he came out of class that he had a lot to tell me, that he was ready to articulate what he thought about his day and the place and this new life as a school boy.

He bounced out of class. His face full of expression that he couldn’t wait to unload, and when we got in the car it burst out in a babble of fast-words and excited sentences and exaggerated pauses.

“I did sport, Mummy. A whole hour of sport and we played this really cool game with beanbags and hoola hoops and I’ll tell you what happened, mummy…” He was breathless but I was excited.

“Tell me, darling, tell me all about it.”

“Well we had these hoops on the floor and we had to throw the beanbags and try to get them in the hoops. And we ran, we ran lots and lots. Do we have any hoola hoops at home, mummy? What about beanbags? We’ll need to get some beanbags, too.”

I was right there with him, mentally racking my brain for the location of the hoola hoops in the garage and what we could use for beanbags.

I asked him about the playground and who he played with and who he talked to.

“I made friends today, mummy.”

I let out a breath of relief. Phew.

“I made three friends today. But I don’t remember their names.”

Precision. Three friends exactly. I liked it.

“That’s fantastic darling, really fantastic.”

And the stories kept coming. They came out in the activities he wanted to do when we got home, influenced by his day’s learning. They came out in the discussions he wanted to have and the vocabulary he wanted to use. They came out everywhere.

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That night we filled out the first page of his reader log. We pointed to the words, highlighted the repetition of sight words and we got excited about writing his comment, filling out the emotion face and writing the number of the days in the right hand side column. And we skipped to the sticker page to see what he had to look forward to when he hit 25 days of reading in his log.

And the rest of the week continued in this way.

The stories came. Snippets of memories scattered in conversation as we made a healthy apple cake for his lunchbox snack or built robots with mobilo.

On Friday afternoon he had his first school assembly, which I attended. I heard words like confidence, resilience, compassion and risk taking. I heard more about the IB (International Baccalaureate) values that sang to my heart when I first went on a school tour. I saw kids already presenting and sharing their ideas in front of the whole school and I heard a pianist playing uplifting music and the students exited the building at the end of assembly. My heart sang.

And by the time the end of his first week came, I realised that all I needed to do was trust and have a little faith.

Not just in the school and my son, but also in my mother’s gut.

Everything was in its right place. Everything.