Monday, 19 November 2007

Growing up

I watched my son walk up the road to his school this morning, his stride brisk and confident, red rucksack bobbing on his back. I kept watching until he blended in with the crowds around the gate, before I turned away, inwardly infused with motherly pride and - quite frankly - relief.

It's been a bit of a breakthrough. It's not his first day at school or even his first day walking to school, but it is the first Monday for ages that he has gone to school without a fuss: no tears, no tirades, no point-blank refusals to go.

He's ten years old and has always had a bit of an issue about school. Every first day of term or half term we've had a battle with him. But just recently it got to the stage that every Monday was a struggle, if not every day.

We've tried to understand, but it didn't make much sense: he's a good pupil, he does well with his work, has strong friendships, appears to enjoy school while he is there and swears blind that no-one is being nasty to him (pupil or teacher). He simply says that he hates it and that's all.

Wrestling over the problem one night, I began to develop the seeds of a theory. He's a sensitive soul and has always found separation - goodbyes - difficult. He was a very clingy baby, had difficulty going to playgroup when he was two, and often hated being left at a friend's house or a party (so I had to stay) . On the other hand, up until recently, he seemed to adjust to school life quite well - even when we went to Abu Dhabi.

Following this line of thought further, I realised that it might all centre around the separation routine. At Infant school I dropped him right at the door of the class so his teacher could take him off. That was easy, because he was distracted and didn't tend to look back. At Junior school, up until recently, we had adapted into a different routine. I would stand at the gate with him until the whistle blew for them all to file in. Usually, his best friend would arrive after us and would stand with him. My son liked - and needed - this routine. If anything was changed, he became agitated and upset.

But a couple of months ago, his friend began to be dropped at school much earlier and was already running around with the others when we got there. This was when my son started to get upset. And I can understand it now: alone at the gate, with his mum, my son battled with the problem of keeping to a vital routine without the back-up of his friend. His need for me was now exposed and, in his own words he felt 'like a baby' .

We talked about it. I offered advice, techniques, alternate scenarios or possibilities - he didn't want to hear of any of them. But I had a plan. I thought it would help if I dropped him off and he went straight into school - just like he had done in Infants - rather than waiting, tremulously for the whistle to blow and building up to that moment he hated so much. In collusion with his teacher, we engineered it so he would have to go in early to help her set out the chairs.

The first day of chair monitoring was a disaster. He was more upset than ever and I had to walk him right into class with him in floods of tears.

That night, we had a rethink. He told me he hated the idea of seeing me walk away or even leaving me in the school grounds. And then I realised. He might find it easier to say goodbye, as long as the school was not in sight. So we agreed to try a new routine. I would walk him half way to school, over the busy roads and leave him by the corner. He could then walk up the road by himself. If he turned round he wouldn't be able to see me and he wouldn't be saying goodbye anywhere near the school.

The first day was a bit shaky and his bottom lip trembled, but he didn't cry and he didn't turn back. Today, a week or so into this new routine, I know we've cracked it. And even though it wouldn't be a big deal for some kids of his age, I'm so proud of my son.


Tina said...

Oh that's fantastic! Well worked out you, you're such a good mum!

belle said...

Proud of your son? I should say so! And you should be proud of yourself too.

Swearing Mother said...

Ooo I remember those days so well, I used to wait until I was in the car and have a good boo myself on occasions.

debio said...

Pour yourself a glass of something by way of celebration and a pat on the back!

Proud of your son - proud of you....

This separation thing is such a, well, a 'thing'. I still hate to see daughter walking away and love to see her walking towards me; boarding school beckons and I simply just don't know how I am going to live through the first goodbye.

Manic Mother Of Five said...

Ah my first time over here and as a mother to many, I applaud the sensitive way you have handled this. Isn't parenting a minefield - all mine are wilding different and the "tricks" that work on one would be hopless on another.

Oh well, I guess it keeps us on our toes!

Suzy said...

Congratulate yourself for having the insight and the love to conquer this and not just let it go...

You've put the pieces together so elegantly, although I know it must have been difficult to see where the missing link was.

Lovely post.

Thank you for stopping by my blog and commenting. Your comments make so much sense.
It's tricky to try and remove yourself from your own mother's perspective. I'm trying though...
Thanks again!

Self employed mum said...

Hi, just stopped by via Suzy, thought you dealt with this very well. I have a 10 yo son who like yours is very sensitive, although he has no issues going to school, thankfully, he will not go other places apart from football training. He is going away with the school in February for 3 days and 2 nights, he didn't want to go and it has taken some amount of persuation about the fun he'll miss etc etc, we had to start the process last February and he has had practice sleep overs with friends and now joined the youth club we are getting there slowly but surely and seems like you are too.

Flowerpot said...

you should be very proud of you, too. Well done both of you for working that out!

Mid-lifer said...

Tina and Belle, thanks, but I wish I were a good mum, seem to have been nothing but stressed and sarcastic recently, but hey, at least I got this right...until the next drama!

Swearing mother, I have a runny nose in the winter anyway, so I can disguise getting all weepy myself.

Debio - that glass beckons...boarding school...scaaaaary.

mmof - five kids...aaaargh. Hats off to you and thanks for visiting.

Hi Suzy, lovely to see you here. I enjoyed your blog so much. It's so moving and it helps me see that despite all my parental failings (of which there are far too many), at least I never stop showing my love to my kids.

self-employed mum, your son sounds very similar. Mine will sometimes do after school sports but it depends if the coaches are 'nice' to him. Away for 2 days - yikes, that would be a massive breakthrough. Let me know how it goes!

And flowerpot - thanks

Crystal Jigsaw said...

Don't kids make our lives as parents so hard! Or perhaps it is us parents that make our childrens lives so hard? Whichever way around we wish to see it, our children are paramount in our lives and their happiness is always at the top of a very long list of prioritized issues. Your son sounds like a loving, sensitive and adorable ten year old. And you are obviously a wonderful mum.

Best wishes to you both, keep us posted how this pans out.

Crystal xx

Omega Mum said...

Well done, you. Not easy. Were there any other changes in his life at the same time? My son approaches any developments with fear and loathing. His teacher hasn't been away unexpectedly - that can do the trick if they're fussed about routine?