My little girl is growing up and I’m not ready.
Stop the World, I want to get off.
As another school year is well under way, I am suddenly aware of a feeling of time rushing forward and, while Beautiful Blue Eyes is heading for some big changes in her life, I’m left wondering how I will navigate the next chapter of parenting.
This year feels more of a big step than previous years because Beautiful Blue has moved into Year 6, the last year of primary school. Before the end of October, we need to apply for Secondary schools! Yikes! It seems to have crept up quickly and has suddenly been thrust upon us rather than there being a gradual build up to this point. Maybe it’s because of Lockdown or maybe every parent feels like this.
Whatever the cause, I am struck by how quickly this all seems to be coming; time charging forward like a steam train. It feels like it’s too soon and I’m not ready for my baby to grow up yet even though I’ve been desperate for her to grow up since she was born! Now it’s all a bit too real…I’m not sure I’m ready.
Which I guess, is motherhood in a nutshell for me; The constant push and pull; wishing for things then wishing them away as soon as they arrive; longing for a break from my children only to miss them desperately as soon as they are away from my side. I am in a state of constant internal conflict and have endless mixed feelings about everything in a way I hadn’t experienced before I had children.
It’s not simply the impending end of primary school for Beautiful Blue Eyes that is causing this feeling of rushing forwards, but a few small things that have occurred recently.
One of which was the inevitable Year 5 Science topic of Puberty and growing up with all that it entails for both boys (hair growth, body odour and wet dreams) and girls (hair growth, body odour and periods). Lucky teachers!!
When the email popped up, I had a moment of panic thinking we hadn’t covered much of it. So not wanting the first time Beautiful Blue Eyes hears about erections and periods to be in a classroom surrounded by friends, I broached the subject at home. Inevitably there were the embarrassed looks and the comments of “Err…gross!” which of course is a pretty natural reaction when you’re 10!
Thankfully, the teacher who delivered the sessions pitched it perfectly, creating a matter-of-fact yet nurturing space where the children were encouraged to share if they wanted to whilst ensuring confidentiality. Beautiful Blue came home still embarrassed but with some more information and understanding about what lies ahead.
But I’m not ready for it. Naively, I thought I had a few more years of her being an innocent child; playing ‘It’ at a moments’ notice rather than checking on her bra situation; or planning a dip in the paddling pool based on her monthly cycle; Not to mention the logistics of managing periods. It suddenly feels real and is a stark indicator that she is moving towards a new stage in her life which in turn means new parenting challenges for me.
I’ve noticed an increased need and requests for independence over the last few months too. Requests to walk to school on her own or go to the shops unaccompanied are ramping up, with shopping lists lengthening and less anxiety (on my part at least) about how long she has been out of the house.
I think it’s a question of trust. Or is it letting go? I’m not sure. But it feels like I need to let Beautiful Blue Eyes have these moments of independence to empower her. I can’t control everything which is a hard pill to swallow but it’s the reality we all face and it gets harder to accept that feeling of losing control as our children get older.
I feel like if she can be responsible in these small (and very controlled) ways, then the trust will build and I know she can cope with more. I mean, I’m not close to leaving her home alone while I go on holiday abroad for a week but we are taking baby steps!
I know for some parents, it feels too soon to let their children out of their sight and I get that. But then I think of what I was doing when I was 10. I’d go out on my bike with my friends and only come back for meals; I’d get the public bus to the next town to go to a music lesson; and we didn’t have mobile phones.
I’m not naive. I know The World can be a scary place but I don’t want her to live in fear. The difficult part is maintaining her childlike innocence whilst preparing her for the reality that not everyone has good intentions. I want her to feel like there are things she can do on her own that are safe. By keeping her at home I may be protecting her but for how long? I can’t keep her indoors until she’s an adult!
Now it’s Autumn, we have been looking at Secondary Schools and whilst Beautiful Blue Eyes has another year of Primary school to go, it’s time to start looking ahead to the next stage of her life. I’m definitely not ready for that but that’s a whole other story!
I find myself looking at her sometimes and still see the happy, easy-going little girl that I know and love, and other times I look at her and see the young woman she is becoming and I feel unprepared for what is ahead. The term ‘tween’ feels very appropriate!
I feel a sense of responsibility to get it right for her; to give her the right skills to navigate her way through the ups and downs of teenage life; to teach her how to keep herself safe in a world that isn’t always friendly; to thrive in an environment that can be harsh and unforgiving; to deal with people who aren’t always kind.
And with each passing week, I can feel the apron strings lengthening. Her need for me and my mothering is more sporadic although she has moments of yearning for the physical closeness we had in her younger years. At times, I feel like maybe she is parenting me! She has really stepped into herself recently and is so much more confident and self assured than she used to be. It’s wonderful to see.
I guess I have to trust that she can handle whatever is thrown at her and that I can handle whatever she throws at me (perhaps literally!) as we bravely step forward into the next chapter of childhood…the tweenage years! Wish me luck. I think I might need it!