Of late a familiar feeling has settled into the pit of my stomach. It arrived with its usual punctuality; just as my birthday celebrations had come to an end. Autumn winds have chilled the air and there is a definite sense of things about to change. As a child I was unfortunate in that my birthday often coincided with that dreary period of summer when my mother would begin shopping for school uniforms, books and stationary. Needless to say I hated it. Nothing kills a birthday buzz quicker than trying on your scratchy school skirt and tights….or a well-meaning neighbour enquiring about what class you will be in next year.
However, graduating from school meant I could say goodbye to all that, goodbye to that grey feeling in my tummy and finally enjoy my birthday. I could look forward to the coming of autumn too, the change of seasons and the colourful dance of the leaves as they landed at my feet. Or I could, at least, until I became a parent. Now that grey, squirmy, anxious feeling is back. And this time it’s brought friends!
You see my daughter turned three this summer and will be starting pre-school come September. She already attends a childminder two to three days a week so it won’t be a huge change for her in terms of leaving me or being away from home. However, it will be a big adjustment…for me. It’s the first time I have ever left her in the care of people I don’t really know.
We have been very lucky with our childminder. She is a close friend of mine and I’ve never had a minute of worry when I’m at work about her care. It has meant I can switch off for a while and actually be present in my job.
Honestly, I am not the most trusting when it comes to leaving my child. For instance, our social life has tended to be hampered by the fact that I will only leave her with family when we are having a night out. We don’t have a babysitter in the sense that I remember having one when I was a child. There is no teenage girl next door to pop in or kindly older neighbour. This has meant we have curtailed our outings together; something that has, at times, been a bone of contention between me and my husband. But I knew I would never enjoy a night out unless I left her with someone I had complete faith in.
Now, however, pre-school looms. I am going to have to have a little faith. I have met her new teachers and seen the pre-school. It looks absolutely wonderful and the teachers are warm and welcoming. If only I could shut out that little voice in my head! That nagging, worrying voice which rarely gives me a moment’s peace.
The thing is, ultimately, all of us parents just have to have a little faith. Faith that the world won’t be too unkind to our children. Faith that the people caring for them and educating them will take their jobs seriously. Faith that their childhood will be happy and relatively worry-free. Faith that our children, themselves, will make good decisions and responsible choices.
The really scary thing that we have to accept, however, is that we can’t control everything. We can’t be there all the time and sometimes bad things will happen. This is part and parcel of life. We have all had to deal with the bad stuff at one time or another. Indeed some would argue a life without any kind of hardship might be less well rounded than others. Often it is the tough times in life that really allow us to grow.
I guess what I really need is to have faith in myself as a parent. That I will be strong enough to support her when she needs my strength, wise enough to advise her when she needs guidance and sensible enough to take a step back when she needs to go it alone. I don’t always have the most confidence in my own abilities so I will just need to take a leap of faith!
Wish me luck…