bout a year ago, I wrote a blog post about those words that most of us parents hear on a frequent basis “It’s just a phase.” Whether you’re in an early phase of being woken every night with a new born, you’re dealing with a toddler phase where your two year old is exerting their authority by tantrumning all over the place, or maybe you’ve got teens and you’re trying to survive a grumpy, hormonal phase. Whichever particular phase you might be living through right now, you probably have a good idea why. Little Johnny is playing up because he’s teething or Elsie’s grumpy because she’s missing her dummy. But what about those phases where you have absolutely no idea what’s going on and why?
I’ve recently had a long weekend break to Spain with friends. A break WITHOUT kids!
I don’t do this sort of thing very often. In fact, since having my youngest back in 2013, I think I’ve had a total of three overnight trips away; two with my husband and one last year with friends. Why? because I guess, like many other mums, I feel guilty for taking time off. Guilty for leaving my children, when looking after the kids, feeding them and getting them to and from school is primarily MY job.
And before I went away, as with those three other breaks, I felt anxious before going; anxious about sorting out the childcare, anxious about ensuring that every day life complete with school runs and dinners would continue without too much disruption. I also had my usual thoughts about dying. For some reason, whenever I’ve had a break without the children, especially if this involved flying, I imagine scenarios where the plane might crash or an accident happens and I’ll never see my kids again.
We’ve had two nativities to watch in the past week. Our eldest was a narrator and our youngest had her first school nativity as an angel. I don’t know what it is about watching your child in a nativity that is so emotional; my husband and I were both tearing up. Is it pride at how well they’re doing? Amazement at their confidence? Wonder at how much they’ve grown?
I wrote about the 7 Things to Love about a Nativity a couple of years ago when my eldest daughter first started school. It’s true, who doesn’t love a nativity? It definitely gets you in the festive spirit and it’s also an emotional rollercoaster: feeling proud and emotional too.
Now that both my kids are in school, they seem to have a far busier social life than me. Every week at least one of them has a playdate with friends and this is on top of the usual after school and weekend clubs. I like my main purpose is to taxi them around to their social activities or collect them from friends’ houses.
Bearing in mind our youngest is still only four, I find it amusing that she trots off to other people’s houses without any care or hesitation. She had her best friend from her class over to play the other week and we were on constant countdown for weeks until the day would arrive!
Playdates for me seem to have their definite advantages and disadvantages so without further ado, here’s The Good, The Bad and The Ugly side of playdates:
I’ve been a bit quiet on this blog for a while now, it has felt more than just a common blip of lacking inspiration. Perhaps it’s the changing of the seasons, but I suspect the main reason for feeling a bit strange is due to our youngest, Eva having started school in September. All through the summer I knew it was coming and felt emotional about not having my little side-kick around anymore. My husband watched me like a hawk during early September in case, I might have a bit of a slump.
The truth is that I was busy. I had a sudden rush of freelance work on and lots going on with project kitchen extension. So I relished the new found freedom of “getting stuff done” without the constraints of having to constantly think about Eva. And then in October it all came to an abrupt halt. The work dried up, the kitchen was finished and I felt lost. I had a delayed reaction to missing Eva; the pang of not having her around anymore suddenly kicked in. I missed having my little person with me again. I’d go shopping and the sight of other mums out with their little girls almost sent me wailing.
It occurred to me that whilst I missed having HER, I also missed having a sense of purpose. What was my role now?
This week, as most children go back to school, I’m aware that this is my last week with Eva at home before she starts Reception on Monday.
I can’t quite believe we are at the point where my baby, my youngest will be off to school.
Starting school is a big step for all children and let’s face it the parents too! For most children it’s a longer day, there’s uniform to get used to, a new place with a new teacher and new friends to make. It’s exciting and daunting at the same time. We had some odd behaviour from Eva over the summer which was down to her being anxious about school and feeling a bit lost. More recently, she’s been excited about things like her new school shoes and being at the same place with her big sister – Alice. But she still has her moments; just this week she has had quiet periods where she admits to me in a little voice that she’s nervous. After a week of refusing to go to bed, I finally lost the plot with her last night only for her to break down into huge sobs and tell me how she was scared about starting school and how much she’s going to miss me. It broke my heart and no matter what I said, she just continued to howl!
For me, it’s going to take some getting used to as well. I will need to adapt to not having any little people around with me during the week anymore. Wednesday was always the day that Eva and I spent off together and whether it was a trip to the park, an outing to the supermarket or just getting on with chores at home, I will truly miss having my little side-kick around.
When the girls were babies, I can remember my Nan saying that we should enjoy our children as much as we could before we lost them to school. I know what she meant. From Monday the girls will be at school for most of the day and for most of the week, leaving me to pick up the grumpy, moody, scrappy bits in the morning and mid-afternoon.
When I had both girls at home there were many moments of hard work. There was a point where both were in nappies and like most other mums I had to deal with tantrums, potty training and fighting. It was exhausting but equally, it has gone in a flash. I can’t believe that come Monday, they will be gone.
As I sit here and marvel at how it can be possible to have exchanged nappies for school uniform in such a short amount of time, I can’t help but wonder whether I could have made more of those early days. Could I have done more? Could I have played with them more? Could we have done more trips out? Could I have spent less time on my phone and given them more of my undivided attention? I guess I’ll never know, but it’s no good looking back, we can only move forwards.
Looking at The Positives
I know that next week will be an emotional time for Eva and for me. It will feel almost like grieving knowing that I won’t have them around during the day, but I’m determined not to be too depressed or too nostalgic. Here’s some of the positives that I need to remember:
- Eva is more than ready for school, she’s quick, on the ball and wants to learn.
- Once she’s in the routine of going every day, I know that she will love school.
- This is my time. As a friend recently said to me, the world is my oyster. I can focus more on my freelance business, go shopping, do some more writing, try to exercise more or whatever I want.
- Weekends will be more precious.
It will definitely feel like the end of an era next week when Eva starts school. I know that it will be an emotional time, but it’s the start of a new chapter with hopefully lots to look forward to for both of us as well.
Wish me luck next week!
On Sunday you will be six!
This year will always be remembered for how much your confidence started to bloom. Last October, almost ten months ago – you changed primary schools. I can still vividly remember being a nervous wreck the week before we broke the news to you. Knowing what a shaky start you first had at primary school almost two years ago, I was dreading the move. I couldn’t eat or sleep and wound myself up in knots about it. You weren’t very happy once we told you, but on your first day you practically skipped into your classroom with the two girls who were watching out for you and you never looked back! Yes there were some off days, but on the whole I couldn’t believe how smooth the transition was. I guess it was eased by the brilliant staff and school as well as some fantastic new friends.
We’re all so busy these days aren’t we? Trying to balance, family, work and kids can be a nightmare (especially in the summer holidays), but we seem to have passed on our busyness to our kids. And with stats and research saying that more kids than ever are stressed, this isn’t necessarily a good thing.
We’re now three weeks into the six week holidays (how’s that going for you?!) and I’m really trying to get a healthy dose of activities and downtime into the mix. Don’t get me wrong, childcare for many parents means kids have to be at holiday clubs or activities for a lot of the week. I get that. But are we putting too much pressure on ourselves and our kids to do too much during the other times too?
Are you pleased to see the arrival of the summer holidays or does six weeks with the kids around feel you with dread? I’ve got to say, I always look forward to having a break and having the girls around even if they do drive me crazy. But I know a lot of other parents I’ve spoken to recently are dreading it. Why? Because the thought of six weeks trying to fill days with activities sends them into a tail spin.
Charlie at Mess Merlot recently did this great post about planning for the holidays . It’s a way of making sure you get a good balance of “Out” days and “In” days as well as keeping an eye on the cost. I truly believe for the sake of kids’ mental health, that they shouldn’t always have back to back activities planned in. It’s important for them to have some down time and a rest. This brilliant article highlights how kids need to have some moments of boredom in order to ignite their creativity. To find their own things to do.
We are lucky that we are having a two week break in Devon this year. After that, the girls and I have started making a list of the things we want to do over the remaining four weeks. Here’s some of our ideas and they shouldn’t break the bank!