Another Parenting Chapter: The School Trip.

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For her first school trip Freya went to…Tesco.

That’s right, the supermarket.

Apparently it was The Best Day Ever.

They got to go through doors you’re not normally allowed to enter, wear paper hats, bake bread and learn about all sorts of food.

It sounds amazing… and not at all like the exact same place we’ve visited almost every week of her life.

I’ll admit I was a little bit jittery about her going but it was just for a couple of hours, she’d been there before and it was only down the road.

I still drilled her full name and address with her a few hundred dozen times and gently talked about stranger danger but all in all I was pretty chilled…well, compared with her latest excursion anyway.

This time they were going to a forest.

A forest 45 minutes away.

In a minibus without car seats.

Along a very busy dual carriageway.

Yes, it sounded like a really fun and educational trip but there was a huge part of me that simply didn’t want to let her go.

“Imagine how I felt each time you announced you were jetting off somewhere remote and possibly dangerous,” was my mum’s input.

It was for work, mostly.

And I was in my 20s and 30s at the time, not FOUR.

But, yes, I can appreciate, now, how it might have been a little worrying for her. Sorry mum.

My dad was more sympathetic.

“I bet you feel like following along behind her,” he said. He was joking, of course, but his  laugh sounded a little nervous when met with my silence as I imagined myself dressed head to toe in black (not sure why as it would be daylight), following behind in the car and then hiding behind trees to make sure she didn’t wander off.

When I discussed it with some of the other mums it seemed like we might get a convoy going.

In the end I did manage to leave her in the classroom on the day of the trip with a cheery “have fun” – even though all of my motherly instincts were urging me to pick her up, run all the way home, wrap her in a blanket and snuggle her all day.

I walked home, via the shop for chocolate, very slowly in the hope that I would see her getting on the bus through the fence. I *might* have imagined seeing the bus pull out and then jumping on and clinging to the back door.

It’s not that I don’t trust her teachers to take care of her. They are brilliant and very experienced, I knew they would look after her. Freya is also used to being outside and exploring without any drama. I’m not sure whether it’s being a former news reporter or just an anxious mum but all sorts of horrible scenarios were going through my head. All day.

Thankfully all was well. Freya said the trip was brilliant and talked about seeing aliens on roller blades (?!). I’m not sure they were supposed to be there but as long as she’s happy.

I know I’m going to have to get better at this; at letting go of the reins a bit more. Although, if my mum is anything to go by, maybe you never get better at it? I want her to be independent and eventually to go off and explore the world. If she wants to. When she’s 30. But it doesn’t seem that long ago that I was pureeing her food and changing her nappy.

Any tips for making school trips easier (for me)? Maybe don’t read the news any more? Pretend to be four and go with her? 

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Talking About Death With A Four-Year-Old.

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“I’ll always be able to count on you, won’t I mummy?” Freya asked.

We were sat at the dining table where she was drawing before dinner.

“Of course. Always.” I answered, gently rubbing her back. She looked up from her work and smiled sweetly. What a lovely mother/daughter moment.

“Not when you’re dead,” she added.

I didn’t even flinch. “Well, no, maybe not then.”

I’m getting used to having my hopefully not impending demise thrust in my face. It’s like some sort of hardcore therapy.

As an older mum, dying before she’s grown is a background worry. It was one of those things that used to keep me awake at night when I was pregnant and a billion hormones were racing around my body causing havoc. What if I’m not there when she’s a teenager; when she goes to uni; when she goes off backpacking (and I can’t go with her); when she gets married? Maybe younger mums worry about that sort of thing too? Maybe having children makes you think more about your own mortality?

People, young and old, die everyday. I figured there was no point in thinking about something I largely have no control over. So I didn’t. Or at least I tried not to. Until now,  when that option has rather been taken away from me.

I know just who to blame for her current fascination with death. I’m looking at you, Pixar and Disney.

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An advert for their new film, Coco, came on television one night and prompted a discussion about Day Of The Dead. I think I did a pretty good job of explaining what it was in a positive and hopeful way – as, to me, it seems like a colourful, life-affirming holiday.

But then, later, as we all sat snuggled together in the warm, darkened living room in the wind down before bed, she shocked us when she said to Mark: “If you die, I’ll be fine because mummy will be here to look after me.”

It was the almost “nur nur ne nur nur” way she said it that took us by surprise. I turned from raising my eyebrows at Mark, back to Freya to try and find something appropriate to say. Before I had chance her little face crumbled.

“But…but…if you die,” she said to me. “I will be all on my own.”

Big fat tears started rolling down her face. She looked utterly heartbroken. And then, suddenly, I was crying too.

Wait, what. No. That isn’t supposed to happen – although she had just tapped straight into one of my nightmares so maybe it’s forgivable?

I wiped away my tears and Mark and I both worked to reassure her that we are not going to die and, even if we did, she has lots of people who love her, including my brother who has already agreed to raise her should anything happen to us.

It seemed to sooth her.

We’ve had further conversations about what happens when you die. I was actually worried about this – as someone without any religious faith – but I’ve been able to talk to her about all sorts of beliefs (it just so happened that our local mosque was holding an open day so I was able to take her there too as part of our general learning). I explained that when she’s older she will be able to decide what she does or doesn’t believe in, just like I did.

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She seemed ok about it but the four-year-old mind is a mysterious beast and now, every so often, she’ll just randomly drop it into conversation. We might be talking about something completely unrelated or be in the middle of the food shop. At first I asked her if she had anything else she wanted to say about it but it seems she just wants to let me know that she knows. It’s like living with some sort of mini Grim Reaper.

Now most of our conversations go a bit like this.

Her in the middle of dinner: “I’ll miss you when you die, Mummy.”

Me: “Thank you. Eat some more peas.”

I know it’s fairly normal at her age to start thinking about death but have any of you got any tips? Anything specific I should or shouldn’t be doing?

Little Hearts, Big Love

 

Parenting: Will I Always Be One Beat Behind?

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It was like being in a cool band where she was the lead guitarist and I was the drummer; Freya brought the melody, excitement and showmanship but I provided the beat for her to follow.

I was looking forward to getting back to that over the Christmas holiday – the first proper break she’s had since starting school full time in September (we went away at half term) – but I think we had what can safely be described as some “creative differences”.

While I was playing pop music, Freya strayed into heavily metal. We tried to jam together but we sounded terrible – and like a lot of bands, felt like going our separate ways.

I’ve read so many Tweets and comments from parents saying how much they hated their children going back to school today. Before the holidays I thought I would be among them but, frankly, not only did I want her to go back to school, she couldn’t wait either.

And that makes me really, really sad.

Motherhood isn’t for everyone – and, in the last couple of weeks, I’ve questioned whether it should have been for me. Maybe those two loses before Freya were actually someone, somewhere, telling me I wasn’t cut out for it? I know that’s a silly thing to say but her first year was hard, hard work. We came out the other side stronger and even as I struggled I knew just how privileged I was to get this chance.  As she grew, our relationship did too. We had fun, we explored, learned together – even surviving the terrible twos relatively intact.

Then it was time for school – something that she was ready for, even if I wasn’t.

She has loved most of it and perhaps I was naive to think that we could just slot back into our old band when we’ve both being doing some solo stuff for a while now.

Over Christmas, we still went out and explored, splashed in muddy puddles, had playdates and enjoyed ourselves but when we were at home it seemed like she missed the schedule of school, of having a million things to do and right at her finger tips. We would paint and cook and craft and play and have iPad time and read but, whereas before that would be spread across the day (or more like different days), this time she was done in 15 minutes (from 5am).

I know that some of it was just the excitement of Christmas but there were several points where I just thought ‘I have no clue what to do now’ and because of that she went into meltdown. The last couple of weeks have not been my finest as a parent. After she had gone to bed, I would look at her, peacefully asleep ,and the guilt was almost overwhelming. It felt like that first year all over again.

Just when I thought I was getting the hang of it and keeping a steady rhythm, the song changes and I’m left a beat behind again.

The thing is, I want to be in our band but I’m not really a fan of heavy metal and it doesn’t seem like she enjoys pop anymore so I’m not sure where that leaves us? Maybe we need to explore some other genres.

Anyone know anything about jazz?