Until you become a parent you don't know the true emotion that comes with truly knowing you would do absolutely anything for another person. That overwhelming feeling of raw love that meant quite simply life wouldn't ever feel the same again. Of course, it doesn't come instantly. When my eldest daugther was born and was placed into my arms on that cold Christmas Eve morning in 2010, yes, I had never felt anything like it. But that true love, that fierce, protective motherhood instinct- that develops over time. It happens quickly and you only really notice it unless it has reason to show itself. It may not even be over anything particularly worth being concerned over, perhaps your only just toddling little girl may get pushed over in soft play, but even that stirs a tiny feeling deep down inside. Those butterflies, that raw emotion, that protectiveness that comes wtih being a parent. The one that you can't quite put into words, even if you tried.
As parents we just want the best for our children. The very best. We want them to be happy. We want them to have the best start in life. Ultimately it's about choices. Do we breastfeed or bottle feed? Do we sleep them on their backs because that's what they tell us to, even though they go down happiest on their tummy? Do we give them 'food from a jar' when all their friends are being baby led weaned organic vegetables? More often than not it's about guilt. The guilt is a constant part of being a parent. Are we doing it right? Are we being the best we can be?
We all have that dream for our children. That dream of them doing the things we didn't quite manage to do. The things that may have made us sad in the past, we don't want them to have that. Name calling, teasing in the play ground, the bullies at school- we pray that they don't go through a similar fate. We want them to fly. To soar. To be the very best they can be. We want them to have the opportunities that we didn't, whatever those opportunties may be. Way in the future, I have a funny vision of sitting round a table somewhere with my girl's, just as I myself do with my own Mum today. We are chatting over a glass of wine, and there are little grandchildren running around our feet. Of course, that might not be what they want. Their dreams may be different, they may pursue a completely different path. But whatever happens, whatever they want to do, as a parent ALL we want is for them to be happy.
As I write this post it's 1.10am. A few minutes ago I tiptoed into my girl's bedroom, as I have done almost every evening for four years. Nothing out of the ordinary, except this time I pause a little bit longer when I kiss my biggest daughter. She has kicked off her covers and her legs are contorted into a funny shape. Her arms are thrown over her head and her wild, unruly curls are splayed out across her pillow. I place my hand on her chest and feel it rise and fall slowly. As I often do, I marvel about just how much she has grown up, it's hard to fathom her as that tiny baby we bought home from the hospital that day. I remember being absolutely terrified of putting her in the car, even though we live about five minutes drive from the hospital. We must have checked the car seat about ten times, and I hobbled my post c-section body into the back of the car, just 'in case'. I didn't even want to let her out of my sight for that five minute journey and sit in the front. It felt a strange mixture of emotions- utter joy and sheer fear, taking this little being home to start our lives together.
That strange mixture of emotions is back again.
Like countless parents up and down the country, I have waited up to check on our primary school application. Refreshing the screen about a hundred times even though it wasn't yet midnight, that strange feeling of emotions that so often comes on my motherhood journey is there again. And after one more refresh, at 11.57pm we were told the news. We didn't get her into our first choice school. Nor our second. We got into our third and final school, our catchment school, one that we really only put down because we were told not to waste a choice. My intial reaction was disappointment, real disappointment. So I cried. That feeling in the pit of my stomach knawed away at me, making me feel truly upset. Because yet again, it comes down to that same old thing- we would do anything for our children.
It was inevitable we we were going to get that school. Deep down I knew we would, but I was still hoping and crossing my fingers that we would at least get our second. We are lucky to have an education system in place for our children, I know that. We are lucky for a lot of things. This isn't about that. But walking through that school a few months ago, both myself and my husband didn't think much to it at all. It's under achieving in all areas according to it's reports, but again I don't know enough about the education system to know what this means. All I know is walking around there, we just didn't get a 'feel' for it like we did with the others. There were parts we just weren't keen on at all. It just didn't feel like the vision I had of my little girl going to school, I couldn't imagine waiting at those school gates for her to come out, in her little school uniform, her hair blowing behind her, and her face all flushed red with excitement as she ran to me at the end of the school day.
But fate has done it's thing and Mads will be going there in September. It's the next morning now and I am a little embarrased to admit that I have shed a fair few tears. I know deep down how lucky we are that she even has the opportunity to go to school in the first place, but I can't help but feel a huge amount of disappointment. I have spent the night tossing and turning, discussing possible solutions with my husband- but deep down realistically I know that I need to resign myself to it now and accept the fact. I need to start seeing the positives.
Because that's the thing. That little girl asleep in the room next to me- she doesn't know all of this. She doesn't know that her Mummy spent half the night crying. She just knows that come September she is going to 'big school'. We drive past the school that she got into every morning and she always points out 'the big boys and girls'. She doesn't know what the future holds for her, what school entails, what she will do all day. She just is excited and happy about the possiblity of going. She's completely innocent, unaware of the bad in the world, and just perfectly happy to give anything a go. She sees the joy and positives in everything.
So that's what I need to do. I need to suck it up and see the world through my little girl's eyes for a change. To be excited about the next chapter of her journey. Yes it's not quite the journey we had planned for her, but she will continue to make us proud as she does every single day. I will stand there with all the other mums, waiting for her to excitedly to run out the doors and tell us what friends she has made. She will pull artwork from her bag that she has done that day and we will display them on our kitchen wall like they are masterpieces and works of modern art. We will help her with her writing, her reading and her maths, and do the best we can by her, just as we have done every day since she was born. We will have life experiences, make memories and raise her the way we are already doing so, outside of those classroom walls.
We will continue to be the proudest parents alive.
Really, I think I am just feeling a little nostalgic and sentimental right now. These milestones are passing us by at a rapid rate and it's hard to fathom that it wasn't yesterday that we took her out of that car seat on that first trip back from the hospital. When school seemed like an eternity away. I'm not entirely ready for this stage of our lives to be over, and I am not sure I ever will be. But that's life and we will enjoy this Summer and make it a happy few months of memories. Although I am a little sad about it all, I'm also incredibly excited too.
And come September we will start this new chapter in our lives. And I know my little girl will soar and grow in whatever environment she is placed in, of that I am confident.
Because we will continue to support her always.