After two years of lockdown and doing virtual classes, little miss 8 went back to school at the beginning of March for third grade. (We’re on the Southern Hemisphere school year, starting in March and finishing in December). Last week was the first Friday this school year that found me home at 2.00 p.m.
In the weeks before school started, little miss was excited and anxious. The two of us had been together 24-7 since March 10th of 2020.
So, when March 7th arrived, she was visibly nervous heading off to school, even though she was excited to get back to classes and see her friends. Nonetheless, she had a couple of moments in the days leading up to the start of school when she would simply break down and start to cry from the anxiety.
Working from a coffee shop
Thankfully, there’s a lovely coffee store across the road from her school!
On the first day of school, I spent the day in the coffee shop. I did the same again on the second day of school. By Wednesday, I had permission to go home for a couple of hours, but little miss pleaded with me to spend the afternoon in the coffee shop so I wouldn’t be far away.
In the second week, I mainly worked from home, with a few hours each week spent across the road from the school to give her the security she needed so that all was well.
Within a month, I could change to regular drop-offs and pick-ups at the end of the school day and then to getting someone else to drop her off in the morning.
Basketball after school
In early April, she started having basketball practice after school. She requested that I come at the regular pick-up time and wait until she finished basketball. This meant that I would be at school at 2.15 p.m., and we’d leave some time between five and six once practice was ended.
Typically, I was the only parent there until well after four, when parents would start to trickle in. Admittedly, it was also a great way to talk to her teachers and get to know other parents at school.
But, the most important reason for being there was that she asked me to be close by.
Some afternoons, when I had client calls, I would spend time in the coffee shop. Sometimes, I’d find a quieter corner to read a book.
But it was essential for me to let her know, by my presence, that I was available and she was safe.
Her request for more space
The day has finally arrived when I have been informed that my presence is no longer required.
I’ve been waiting for this day!
But I decided at the beginning of the year that I wouldn’t force separation upon her. We would do this at her speed. When she was ready to say, “I don’t need you here anymore”.
There have been moments when I have wanted to say, “suck it up, buttercup“. And then I remember the years of therapy from sucking it up!
The most important gift that I can give my daughter in these times of uncertainty is the security of knowing that I will be present when she needs me.
What has been fantastic for me to watch is how easily and effortlessly she is letting go and gaining more independence. She’s confident again and heads off happily to school.
I wish more parents could create flexibility in their lives and work schedules that accommodate our children’s particular needs.
These last years have wreaked havoc on our children’s nervous systems. Anxiety and depression are higher than ever.
I was sent off to boarding school at seven years old. We were told to suck it up: what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
I now recognise that my hyper-independence in my early twenties was conditioning when I would never ask for help. I wouldn’t ask for help and support because I “knew” none would be forthcoming.
I don’t want my daughter to learn those same responses to life.
I would like her to know that it’s beautiful to be supported and loved by others so that she is confident in her independence and interdependence.
Today, she has basketball again after school. As she left this morning, I asked her what time I should be there. Apparently, 6.00 p.m. is fine.