Our eldest started secondary school this week. Gone are the days when I dropped all three children at the same school at the same time and picked them all up from that school at the same time. That lovely, safe bubble has popped, or should I say exploded. And it’s affecting us all.
Obviously, it’s having the biggest effect on our eldest daughter. She’s going somewhere new and doing so many new things every day. She’s having to get school transport, which is a totally new experience. She’s having to be brave every single moment of the day; speaking to new friends, new teachers and working out where to go, what to do and when. She’s having to get used to a longer day and a different lesson timetable. She’s gone from being a big fish in a little pond at primary school to a little fish in a big pond at secondary. The rules are stricter and the uniform is smarter.
Whilst our eldest daughter is the one tired out from processing all this every day, it’s also having a lesser impact on our younger daughter and son. They’re going under the radar a little at the moment as we concentrate on their big sister, but they need attention too. Our younger daughter might claim that she’s not missing having her big sister bossing her about at primary school, but there’s undoubtedly a wider emotional gap between the two girls now. I remember when my own big sister started secondary school. Overnight, the four years between us suddenly seemed more like eight as she moved into a different world that I wasn’t privy to. Our son says that he’s missing having his biggest sister at school, though he can’t tell me why.
And then there’s us parents. We now have a child at secondary school, which is mind-boggling enough. But the list of other worries is endless. Is she making friends? Is she managing to get some lunch and does she have someone to sit with? Are the older kids exposing her to stuff she wouldn’t hear or see at home? This is the first time one of our children is properly going out to fend for herself and it’s terrifying. Add into this that she seems to grow up before our very eyes every day at the moment and this is an emotionally charged phase for us.
However, we’re not alone. So many parents up and down the country are going through exactly the same at the moment and that’s reassuring. I was starting to think that I was being a total wuss about this and that I just needed to put my big girl pants on and get on with it. Then, our son had a hospital appointment yesterday and I overheard two members of staff discussing the their own children’s transition to secondary school. And speaking to other mums, I know they feel the same.
Our daughter is adjusting to a new school with plenty of emotional support at home and a loving home environment. She has a wider family network that is sending her messages of good luck and asking how she’s getting on. I feel for the children who are facing this transition with an unsettled home life. Children whose parents are perhaps struggling to buy all the equipment their children need or are unable to provide emotional support to give their children the resilience they need to cope with this stage of life. Or children who finish an exhausting day at a new school and have to go home and be a carer for a parent or their siblings. How much harder is their transition to secondary school?
In our house, I know that after a couple of weeks the dust will settle and we’ll all adjust to the new routine. The younger two will get used to not having their big sister at primary school with them. We’ll all get used to our new morning routine. My husband and I will (eventually) get used to our daughter, and indeed all our children, getting older. Our eldest daughter, growing more beautiful inside and out every day, will hopefully settle into secondary school life. And our crazy parenting journey will continue down this sometimes bumpy track, sometimes smooth road.