My youngest daughter and I are still in that bubble. Our slow, giggly, fun loving and ridiculously sheltered bubble. I cherish these moments, maybe more so than I did with our first daughter because I know how quickly it changes now. I now know how fast these moments pass.
The days where we had no plans, where pajamas were an all day thing and the only upsets we had involved the wrong food, sh*tty teeth or a wet nappy. I knew the script, I was safe with her upsets because I could always fix it. A cuddle, a change of snack, calpol or a swap in nap time. It was simplistic kind of problems we faced. I maybe didn’t know it at the time but I had a handle on it, I always had an answer.
Our seventh house move and we’re onto our eldest daughters third new nursery/preschool environment. Not one transition has been easy. I remember at a little over a year and half, she had started two half days a week at a local nursery. It had been her and I, 24 hours of the day every day since she was born. There was no regular in her life but me. She cried every morning she went, for two whole weeks. I let her go into another woman’s arms sobbing and I left her. Instinctively I knew she’d be ok, I knew this was good for her. It was good for me but oh man did it hurt. Oh how I had to fight my body from turning to comfort her. Something inside me told me we needed this, something deeper in my heart was telling me this was right.
The results? The reality of those tears? After those first few weeks she blossomed. She jumped and coo’d to go back to her friends and this new playful environment she’d discovered. She fell in love with this new part of her life, as did I. A few months passed and her sister was born. I had relief instantly. For the multiple days we spent indoors with her tiny baby sister nibbling on my bloody nipples (quite literally), I knew I could count on the incredible ladies over at her nursery to provide all the fun my sleep deprived and knackered body couldn’t. I look back now and I wonder how on earth I could have done it without that link. If I had taken Molly from that woman’s arms on that first day and kept her home to raise two kids under two independently with an undiagnosed mental illness. If I had taken all that responsibility and lay it all on me. I know now, asking for help is crucial to a happy parenting life. It is not a weakness, it is the reality of life – at some point or another, we need it.
Reflecting back to this first experience helps me to rationalize what I’m facing right now. Preschool chaos.
In our new home here in Devon, settling in has taken longer than any other move we’ve had. We’ve made friends, our daughters have found their little routines between preschools and toddler groups but something just isn’t clicking. More so, we’ve come to recognize how settled we’d become in our previous home in Yorkshire and how lucky we were to have so quickly created a network of wonderful people supporting and surrounding our family of four. We miss it. Our eldest transitioned into her old pre-school in Yorkshire as one of the youngest at two years of age and she loved it, from the word get go, she loved it.
We don’t have ‘roots’ as such for the girls. Scotland was our roots but the girls were born in England, have been brought up in England and have not stayed in a town for any longer than a year at a time. It’s a strange feeling because we don’t know what ‘home’ will eventually pan out to be when my husband retires and the kids really seem to be planting roots all over the UK. All we know is, there was a sense of comfort in our previous Yorkshire life that we so deeply want to find again. We’re starting to appreciate that we need that comfort surrounding us to feel contented with our traveling lifestyle.
In the place we currently call home, we’ve got a new issue, an issue we’ve not yet faced until now. Our confident, compassionate and caring three and a half year old has begun to lay some sentences on the table. Sentences I didn’t think I’d be facing so early on. Sentences that have made me question if kids are as resilient as folk like to say they are. It’s filled me with regret of moving, guilt of pulling our children away from special friendships and deep anxiety of what move to make next. These decisions are impacting our kids and it’s all on us. There’s no guide book for this.
“I don’t want to go to my new preschool, I get hit and pushed. Can I go to my own preschool, the one at our house far away?”
“Mummy, is our old house with the brown sofas in the same green and blue world that this house is in?”
“Can we go back to our old house, I miss my house.”
“I don’t like this house, it has cracks and somebody has lived in it.”
“Can we go see Ruby (her best-friend) tomorrow mummy and it will be the bestest day ever!”
I found myself crying this morning as I dropped our eldest off at Preschool. I heard kids crying before she’d even made it through the door and I knew, deep down this environment wasn’t for her. It’s hurting her. I felt it, I felt her fear and I felt pangs of lies as I told her she’d be OK because really, that’s all on the people who I entrust her with, as soon as her little hand lets go. I felt like I was throwing her little free spirit into a cage. This feeling was new, this feeling was far from the exciting little walks we’ve always had when heading to her previous nurseries/preschools. It was guilt ridden.
Her new preschool is very different to her last. It’s one small room, a lot of kids ranging from 2 to 5 and there’s no free access to play outdoors. It’s a huge change for her and although she would never put up a fight to go, she now walks in defeated, which is painfully worse. Most importantly her relationship with the the preschool is so entirely different. Everywhere she’s went up until now, there was an apparent sign of affection and love. She’d come home speaking of the cuddles and laughs she had from friends and teachers. Here, it’s different – she says nothing. We’ve tried to teach her to say “no” when another child is hurting her, we’ve spoken with teachers and we’ve given every confidence building chat we can do to ease her tension. The thing is, she is confident, she is happy. She’s just not happy there.
I have a different feeling to way back when she first left me at that very first nursery. This feeling is far more painful, far heavier and far harder to hide. It’s a feeling thats not shifted since she started here, I feel she needs me to turn and get her, she needs a different path. I feel I should turn this time.
This isn’t it a ‘suck it up, she’ll be OK Mama’ moment. This is different. She’s not coming home and blossoming, she’s coming home and acting out of character. She’s withdrawn, she’s angry and she’s confused about why she’s being hit and shoved. I know she’s two tiny steps away from walking into that preschool and letting all hell break loose. I know these situations she’s faced with on the daily are forcing her to be a kid she’s not and she is fighting so hard to resist her urges to fight back. As am I. When she got home today, she’d confirmed it. She’d been hit – again.
A mums intuition is never wrong. The biggest thing I am still teaching myself as a parent is to understand the difference between a struggle to adapt to the next stage in my kids development or when to address a situation that’s no good for their development. I reckon it’s the biggest conflict I’ve faced with myself and that crazy voice in my head. To know when to back the f*ck off in order to let them grow or to know when to wade in and f*ck sh*t up. It’s a hard call at the best of times. The best way to tell the difference between your intuition and your fear is to feel where it is. Your fear is that voice, the one telling you that you’ll fall before you’ve even taken a step. Your intuition however, is deep inside you. It’s felt in the heart and has power to shut out the noise we so often find ourselves fighting in the forefront of our minds. That f*cking voice that won’t let us be at peace.
I guess that’s why I ran to the PC today to write. I wanted to shut the voice out and let my heart speak. It’s loud and clear and it’s telling me change needs to happen. It’s telling me it’s OK to act this time and it’s OK to change what’s not working for us.
Last year my counseller tried to encourage me to look at myself with love and adoration. Sad to say, for me – it was a hard task. I was asked to look at myself like you would a beautiful rose. She explained that in order for me to blossom, to grow and to be the best version of myself – I had to ensure that the environment round me was good. If I wanted to be the best mother and the best wife to my husband, I had to ensure that all weeds that surrounded me were removed before they had a chance to strangle me at my roots. I was responsible for ensuring my environment was full of nurture and love. The quote I am going to share with you, is a life changer. I am a big believer in the law of attraction and shortly after my husband and I had had a chat about our daughters predicament, up popped this quote on a friends page. The quote that changed my perspective of myself last year, the quote that led me to caring for myself better than I ever had.
“When a flower doesn’t bloom you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.” – Alexander den Heijer.
We’ve known for a while now what to do. This isn’t running away, this isn’t being a ‘helicopter parent’ or shielding our daughter from the realities of life. This isn’t saying that her current preschool is sh*t or the teachers aren’t doing their job. This isn’t hating on the kids going through that hard phase of hitting, nor is it hating on their parents who are probably on the same darned emotional rollercoaster as me. This is acknowledging when something needs to change for her. Whether that’s to cut it out or have less of it. She is not yet old enough to make these decisions on her own and I guess that’s where the emotions came from this morning. Her little heart is in my hands and every day, that petrifies me in the most nicest way I can explain. It’s the most wonderful, beautiful responsibility to be given but it so painfully difficult to know whats right sometimes.
On this occasion, we’ve opted to have her at preschool a lot less and with our wonderful child-minder more. It’s a good balance for us all and the option is there, so we’re taking it.
I guess I’ll end this with a little vote of confidence to anybody quivering over taking their kid out of preschool, shortening their days or swapping their environment for something a little different, something that suits their roots best. Like most parts of parenting – the parents know best. All our kids are so wonderfully different, so why should we expect them all to fit the same set-up? Why do we look for others to give us some sort of approval? The answer is, we shouldn’t. Nobody knows your kid better than you. There’s no shame in changing a situation for our kids if the outcome is far more colorful than the path they are currently on. I guess whilst they’re this age – you could say we are kind of like their hired gardeners? They are not yet quite equipped to know what the difference between a flower or a weed is, nor do they have the tools or knowledge to deal with them. They don’t see the dangers if a weed is left to wrap itself around the stem of a flower. So we guide them, we help them whilst they continue to figure it out. That’s parenting.
A sh*t lot harder than gardening might I add.
*Have you ever faced a similar situation? If so, I’d love to hear about it!