As the mother of the eldest child on this site, I try to share as much of our family’s experience of with a secondary school starter as I can. Parents like ourselves are often so busy parenting day to day, hour to hour that planning too far ahead or even imagining the not-too-distant future can be difficult.
When my boy was five, I could not imagine what life for him as a 12 year-old, Year 7 student would be like. It was light years away and I welcomed any form of insight I could grasp. But now we’re here- and next month, he will be thirteen. We’ll be parenting a teen. I’ll just let that sink in for a moment.
Certain things remain fairly constant. Gains are slow but meaningful. The hurts sear my insides; the joys have them soaring. He needs me more involved in his life than his peers. He doesn’t realise to what extent; he doesn’t know half of it. I don’t even know how involved to be.
Last week I read a beautiful post by the mother of a teen, who mourned the loss of her dependent, innocent child. She was wistful and saddened by the distance that was growing between them and the things she would no longer be party to in this new dynamic between them as he grew into a man, but this is what life does. It was touching, but also so very stirring for me. I related to some, but the rest was just a contradictory mess in my head and heart.
My boy will still need me for much longer. He is still naive and his interests reflect that. A friend commented that he needed to clear some boxes of toys from his room. This was unsettling. “I don’t want my childhood to be over!” he wailed to me later. In so many ways and for some time yet he will remain our reliant boy in a body that’s growing at a remarkable rate. He’s desperately upset that he’ll be taller than me. He checks our eye levels with distress. He doesn’t know it yet, but with respect to this I don’t go barefoot near him now because I think he overtook me while his Dad and I were on holidays this month. He doesn’t want to grow up too fast. He doesn’t want the expectations to shift too rapidly, he wouldn’t know how to handle them.
All parents deal with dilemmas of teaching their children independence. We need to decide on a constantly moving basis, how much to hand over and when. Starting secondary school this year has brought a massive social shift and an influx of words, phrases and concepts that are new and daunting. The constant swearing upsets him. I’ve had to explain some high school vernacular to him that parents generally don’t utter, let alone detail! It can be disturbing for both of us but we both need him to be prepared.
This term, he finally relented to walking to school. One day he left while I was dressing his sister. I saw he’d forgotten his lunchbox. I dropped it in to the office. The next day, it happened again. I took to the Facebook Page for advice, because I was stuck. Only those who’ve walked in my shoes can really get this. When do we let them fall, when it is so much harder for each of us, parent and child? One response sang out louder to me:
Leah said: Is working on the walking enough for now? If giving him some grace on the lunch means the walking isn’t derailed it might be worth it?
I rang school and they said, drop it in, and we’ll see if he comes by without us calling him. I was a bit uncomfortable, but it felt a good in-between step I could live with.
It wasn’t about one lunch. It was about this Mummy heart never knowing when to step back and allow for a fall. I don’t do tough love well. I can’t be running the show backstage forever, either.
When he came home, I asked him what happened with lunch. “Oh, I forgot it so I went hungry. I’ll just eat now.” Just like that. He was fine. That can happen too.