back to school

Posted on September 10, 2011


It is September, not January which always feels like the beginning of a new year to me.

 The six weeks of summer may stretch endlessly ahead in July, but by the end of August they have vanished too quickly. The lack of routine through the long summer holiday can feel overwhelming and chaotic but these are also precious days, for teenagers are SO bored and SO broke by the end of it that they are happy to talk to you, stay home for dinner even go to the cinema with you. Your kids become your own again.

Then, after a frantic scramble from shop to shop for the right uniform and shoes, ( why do all shops seem to run out of the sensible kind in brown or black in the average size in september?) arguments about appropriate skirt length, how much money to give them for lunch and whether or not they need a new coat – they disappear back to school. You breathe a sigh of relief. They are safe at least. You hope. Then the timetable, curriculum and friendship issues take over. They move up a year and I am reminded that another year of their childhood is gone. 

School seems to map out all of our lives in a ghastly linear way. But it is the way it ticks off the years, reminding us that loss and letting a child go is integral to good enough mothering which is always so poignant for me. As the leaves brown and the conkers form, the house empties slowly of echoes of happy family times.

Teenagers feel that loss too within the gain. They long to grow older, to be able to do more stuff for themselves, but they are also fearful about losing the security of home. The future stretches ahead like a vast void, exciting and deeply scary at the same time. They are and will increasingly be judged on their own merits. Exam pressure mounts, as does competition with their peers. And they feel they have to know what they want to do with their lives, with very little understanding yet as to who they are and where their strengths lie. 

The need for a sense of autonomy and individuality within the emotional connections of family is something we all need whatever our age for the rest of our lives. I have to remind myself of that each September as I wave them off to school. We do not lose our children unless we are particularly horrible to them. We merely give them enough strength in their legs and in their hearts to be able to come back when they need to.


Posted in: back to school