As I write, I am sitting in an empty house. Apart from the cicadas and the occasional drip of sweat down the back of my neck (this Australian summer is a fiery one), there is not a peep to be heard.
It is quiet.
In this quiet house, I’m reflecting on the wildness of the week behind us. My biggest girl started a new school for Year 5, my boy started year 3 and the baby, my Poo Poo, my little constant companion, began kindy. And I started this next phase of my life which, for the first time in a decade, doesn’t involve the very specific and particular joys and stresses of tiny children at my feet all day.
We’ve been preparing for this big shift all summer. I’ve been re-arranging bedrooms, sorting stuff and de-cluttering like a crazy lady. I’ve been labeling, organising and list-making so that all of us can enter the new routine with order and positivity. I think I’ve been trying to simplify and refine our lifestyle because I’ve felt, so strongly, the change in the air and the coming of a new era.
A draft post titled ‘thoughts of a mother during the last week of the school holidays’ never made it online. It was the usual ranting and I never had the time or headspace to write it but my scrawled notes remind me of how I felt – the heat oppressive , the children always hungry, the housework overwhelming. Even though we had a beautiful summer – lots of visits with friends, lots of time together – the ‘mum-work’ was never-ending, and the day that all three children would be off to school, leaving me in the glorious quiet, was like a shining vision of utopia. I thought I would be absolutely partying with my bad self. I dreamed of quiet space to think, freedom to temper boring mundane housework jobs with interesting radio, time to write, a schedule of my own. Bliss!
But last week the shining day finally came, and instead of partying like a crazy fool, I fell to pieces. It was a bit of a shock.
My big girl is off to start a new school for year 5. It’s a city school, much bigger than her tiny, nurturing primary that we love so much, and she is catching the public bus. She starts her day an hour earlier and ends it an hour later, and in the middle she navigates her way though a sea of new rules and requirements. She is so brave, so small, and so tired.
It is, I am sure, going to be a wonderful year, full of incredible opportunities, new friends and experiences, and she has a great friend at her side, which has made the transition so much smoother. She is stepping into her own future and I am so proud. But, my god, what a week it was.
My beautiful boy, going into year 3, has his own set of worries and challenges, and if he could stay at home with me all day, he would. School is not his favourite place, and helping him manage takes particular thought and attention.
Finally, my little one, my darling last-born buddy is off into kindy. She was so ready to start school and has taken to it with gusto, as I knew she would, but friends, the heart-punch of losing that little companion came like a blindside. Because I am always, always craving solitude and time with my own thoughts, it just never occurred to me that being without my little sidekick would feel so sad. The first day that we dropped her at school, I was like a leaky sieve all day long. The tears just flowed and flowed. I felt so fragile, unmoored and weird, and I felt like that all week long.
It’s the end of the beginning. My mistakes, my regrets, my worries, the past, the future, they all weighed heavy on me. There was car crying and then the floppy exhaustion that follows a big emotional release. Throughout it all, there was the mum-work of shepherding the kids into their new routine. Baking and washing uniforms and packing bags. Lots of hugs and long chats.
Rather than feeling like I’m released from some part of my mum-contract as they all go off to school, it’s felt the opposite. My big girl needs me so much at the moment, in ways she hasn’t for a long time. This is fleeting, I know – she’ll get the hang of her new school, the bus, city life, and I can step back again. But for now, looking after her in all the intimate little mum-ways feels really important. I’m trying to do my best at it, to cherish it, as I am with my darling last little chick leaving the nest. It’s bittersweet, and it’s harder than I thought it would be.
But today is Monday, where all the possibilities of the week lie, and I feel good. I hope that the emotional casserole of last week has been turned down to just a gentle simmer. This next era of family life will start to take shape as the dust settles.
I will have that longed-for quiet time to myself. I will be able to stop worrying about the girls as they settle into their new lives, and hopefully my sweet little boy will have a good school year too. And I will have a little space to turn to my own plans and dreams, and I am really, really damn excited about that.
One more time:
If you sent kids off to little or big school this week, I hope you weren’t hit with the same unexpected emotional tsunami as I was. And if you were, I hope you are OK. x