Eh? Who is this child? This is the kid who, until age 2, would get down on his hands and knees to go over our front door step (a drop of three inches). So enamoured by his mature attitude, we decided we would run with it. He would wear his helmet, and any injuries would be fixed with a cuddle and a Bandaid.
Within a few attempts, Boy 1 was riding his bike On His Own. Turns out he was ready, all it took was a little supportive push. We told him he would probably fall – this happens to everyone – but if you keep practicing, you get better.
I wish every new development was as simple as this. A month ago if you asked me how I felt about Boy 1 starting school next year, I would have waved it off: “He’s ready. He’ll love it. I’ve got two more boys in the pipelines, so my nest is far from empty”. As we draw closer to the end of pre-school, I’ll admit to being worried.
Boy 1 had his first transition session at the school a few weeks ago, an afternoon story-time session squeezed in between crèche and dinner. I took all 3 kids, the double pram, flurried in the library 5 minutes late, and took a seat. The story was fine, Boy 1 joined in and answered one or two questions, despite appearing apprehensive.
When it came time for the pre-schoolers to pair up with a grade 3 buddy, I found myself circling the group like a sheep dog, trying to round them up. I had one eye on Boy 1, the other on Boy 2 (who thinks he’s off to Big School too), and Boy 3 on my hip. I wanted to make sure Boy 1 wasn’t left out, that he remembered to speak loud enough for people to hear. He looked so small, his mouth so tiny, so firmly shut. I wanted to speak for him, to tell the big boys how to pronounce his name.
I was the only mum doing circle work, everyone else stayed back and let the kids sort it out on their own. That’s when it dawned on me: Boy 1 will be going to Big School On His Own. I will not be there to wipe his nose, open a stubborn muesli bar wrapper or remind him to turn his listening ears on. My only contribution will be to pack his lunchbox, provide him with clean clothes and be a smiling face waiting for him at the gate at the end of the day. Although I will be relieved of one third of my mothering duties for 6 hours a day, my boy – my gorgeous blue eyed boy – will go from being my wingman, to flying solo.
I am terrified. Friendships scare me most of all. He will be hurt, called names, at times excluded from his peers: this happens to everyone at some point. Or worse, maybe he will become a cool kid and bully not-so-cool kids. It will all be out of my hands, and the older he gets, the less I will be told what goes on at school. How do I teach him to be strong, but stay the sensitive, observant little man? That it’s OK to cry, but you mightn’t want to do it in front of other kids because it may mean getting picked on?
Today Boy 1 went to a birthday party, and one of his pre-school friends told him his red party mask made him look like a girl. He burst into tears for several minutes, and while I comforted him and told him not to worry, what I really wanted to do was to be a smart ass to the 5 year old who made the dumb comment. It made me mad, but I tried to shrug it off. Dumb comments are a specialty of boys, and my boy doesn’t know how to cop it on the chin. This makes him innocent and kind, but also a target. Do I teach him how to have a sharp tongue and rebuff the stupid comments? Or do I say ignore it, it doesn’t matter?
School feels like we’re taking the training wheels off this little person and rolling him down the hill, and not being there to catch him when he falls.
Go nuts: give me your best advice for handling school transition. Tell me how to raise sensitive, nurturing boys who are strong enough to withstand some ribbing.