Last week Finley had his first morning at the local village Pre-school. This Pre-school is quite old-school and informal. It reminds me of the kind of nursery/ play group that I would have gone to in the 80s. It’s pretty much a free for all, in a huge village hall, with different toys/ games set up and all the kids just crack on and play where they want.
It’s quite charming really. Pretty relaxed and it’s likely that he will be going to school with a lot of these children next year so I want him build some friendships and an association with the actual big school, which is right next door.
I went back to work part time when Finley was ten months old and so he has always been away from us a certain amount of time in the week and is completely used to it. For all he remembers he lives at home with us but has always spent his week days with Grandparents and at his formal Nursery setting. Then when I returned to full time work, he was spending five days a week outside of our home and away from us being cared for by other people, not Mummy and Daddy.
We are both of the opinion that although it was a circumstance bought about by necessity – it has actually benefited him to not be with me all the time. For one thing, to be quite honest with you – I don’t think I’d be a good seven-day a week parent.
Three days, four days, five even but not seven days – twenty four seven.
I have no problem telling you that, I’m not ashamed to say it out loud. I hear your gasp of horror “why did you have a child then?” – lots of reasons actually but it certainly wasn’t to sacrifice myself entirely and hand over every ounce of my being and sanity to another. I have limits and my limits don’t stretch to 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. Not because I don’t love him, not because I am more important or have better things to do. Just because it is what it is, you are who you are and well so far, everyone’s been a winner.
I don’t have enough patience and enough fucking crafty-wotsit ideas to fill up seven whole days. We have three tubes of paint, a box of felt tips and some dinosaur stickers in our ‘Craft Box’ and well, that is as good as its ever going to get folks. I can tolerate all that shit for approximately 24 minutes and then I’m begging for a Netflix break. How would I entertain a three year old for seven days a week? There are only so many soft play centres, so many episodes of Topsy and Tim, so many walks in the woods…
Aside from what a shit Mum I’d be, the other benefits of his independence have been his fantastic relationships with both sets of his Grandparents. With whom he spends a full day with each week. His time with them is completely his own and they have their own routines and rituals and ‘in’ jokes that just belong to them. I never had that with my Grandparents, it was all too obligated and contrived but for him its different and he is very lucky.
He has also established a circle of friends at his Nursery most of them he has known since he was a baby. Being at Nursery since a young age has forced him to be sociable, forced him communicate with other kids and adults. He’s developing a quirky sense of humour that just kills me really, he’s such a joker and I’m sure its something that makes him so popular.
And so ‘Preparing for Pre-school’, wasn’t in any way preparing him for being away from us. He can do that standing on his head. It was more preparing him for a new environment with people he had never met and bloody hell, do I know how terrifying that can be. Being a socially awkward and anxious weirdo myself, I have found that I am therefore brilliant at pre-empting his worries and fears.
I’m the kind of person who worries, worries, worries about something – stresses about it for weeks – but doesn’t tell anyone about it or ask questions and then ends up getting a migraine or not going at all because I can’t cope with the stress of it all. This is exactly the kind of person I don’t want him to be, so I make a point of asking him “Have you got any worries?” and I make time for them.
I don’t believe that boys should be toughened up. I don’t believe we should tell our boys to ‘man up’ or to ‘stop being such a girl’. That way danger lies…
We’ve talked about this Pre-school for a good month before we actually went there, so it wasn’t a shock for him. We also walked by a few times, so he could get an idea in his head of what I was talking about. Of course on the day itself, he wasn’t too eager I can’t lie and tell you that he was enthusiastically bounding out of the house to get there. But we didn’t have any tears, we didn’t have any desperate clinging to my leg or screaming Mummy don’t leave me. After a kiss goodbye he let me go and I went quickly (the worst thing you can do is drag it all out), they told me he had a few wobbles but he was happy enough.
He won’t be too thrilled about going the second or third time I shouldn’t think. I’m anticipating a bit of anxiety but he’ll go and he’ll make the best of it and in time he’ll love going there and make friends and have fun.
And in the meantime we’ll keep talking about it.