I became a mum at 18 and I was so terrified of doing a bad job. Fully immersed in my A Levels, I approached parenthood like an academic challenge, an exam I needed to study for. I consumed parenting books, I went to every ante-natal class and I felt comforted that if (touch wood) anything went wrong, it would be a fluke and not my fault.
But as any parent knows, there is no formulaic route to being a good parent. Children don’t come with a hand book and I quickly learned that parenting consists of trusting your instincts, keeping your fingers crossed and feeling guilty alot!
I truly believe that if you make a parenting decision based on love, then you won’t go far wrong. It’s served me well – I’ve raised this brilliant young woman.
But what do you do when your instinct fails you? When you don’t know what feels right and no amount of research gives you clarity. Because that’s where we are now, as parents of a four year old, about to start Primary school in just two sleeps.
While I’m confident that a return to college is right for Beth, a sensible young adult, who knows how to be mindful and keep herself safe. I’m not so sure about her sister.
Dorothy’s a little wild thing and her new school is large, with year groups of around 70 pupils. I was surprised to discover that in line with other, smaller schools, she’ll be in a bubble with her whole year group – all 70 children! That means that as of Wednesday, our family is in a bubble with 70 other familes.
As they’re little ones, there’ll be no face masks and unlike some classrooms I’ve seen online, they’ll have round tables and soft furnishings.
And I’m torn.
On one hand I’m so pleased that on Wednesday Dorothy will experience a ‘first day at school’ that will be fairly close to normal. Yes we have to follow a one way system when we drop off and pick up, but that won’t be too weird, given how weird the world is right now.
On the other hand I’m worried. Very worried. I’m worried about all the usual things- the things I worried about when Beth started school. Will she make friends? Will she know who to go to if she feels sad? Will she lose her cardigan on the first day?
But I have new worries this time round, darker ones. Will she pick up the virus and bring it home? Will she hear things from other children about Covid, words that haven’t been as carefully chosen as ours? Will she fall in love with school, only to have it taken away again should another peak cause schools to shut down?
My biggest worry of course is, will she be safe and the truth is I don’t know.
There has been so much information, an overload of information really and a lot of misinformation too. None of it helps. And following my instinct is pointless because deep down I still don’t know what feels right.
No choice made out of love can be the wrong choice – and I love my daughters more than I love the sun in the sky and the air in my lungs. Love tells me that lockdown, isolation and the absence of normalcy is hurting them and they need to go to school.
Beth is a young adult and made her own decision to return to college. It’s one we support and admire given the challenges she’s faced since March. But with Dorothy it’s on us.
So on Wednesday we’ll take her to school – shiny shoes and a cardigan that doesn’t quite fit. We’ll kiss her goodbye and wave her off into a building that we can’t be sure is safe and hope that everything will be ok. I have to believe it will.
If you have children who are returning to school this week, give them a squeeze from me.
Love Rachel ❤️