I’m in a strange mood as I write today. I think this is what I used to refer to as “relaxed” but I’m not entirely sure? It’s been so long I can’t remember what it used to feel like.
Yesterday was kiddo’s first day at his new SEN school. This was the big one. The second biggest life changer we had been fighting for (behind the diagnosis). So you can imagine my surprise at how nervous and low I felt about the whole transfer from mainstream as Monday approached. I just couldn’t understand it, this was what we wanted?! And getting a space at age 3 was so rare. I should have been dancing in the streets?… but I wasn’t.
That Monday morning I packed up all kiddo’s bags as usual. I turned around and there he was standing with his huge brown and blue eyes smiling up at me. “School?” His voice was so hopeful, I don’t know how I swallowed my tears. “Yes, school today” I choked, and into the car we went. As I drove further away from the school he had grown to know and love, the guilt I felt surrounded me like an unforgiving fog. All those months building a relationship with his 1:1, learning to understand the building and my joy at hearing him say “let’s go have some fun!” as we approached our normal parking space. Gone. I’d destroyed it all with this decision. I knew it was the right one, the school agreed, the county agreed. But I was shouldering all of the responsibility of what he was about to face. A new school, a new class, new routines. I felt sick.
As I walked him over to his key worker on that first morning I felt numb. It was one of those “you’ve got to be cruel to be kind” moments where you genuinely worry that you’re just being a bit too cruel. As I turned to leave, the screaming began. It cut through my heart like a lightening bolt. But I kept walking and I drove away with a tear balancing on my cheek.
I headed to town. Why? Because I genuinely had no idea what else to do. This was the longest time I had had away from the kiddo apart from when he had been with his grandparents. What on earth was I supposed to do with four hours of free time?
Naturally I headed for a coffee shop. After ordering a bucket of hot chocolate that Willy Wonka would have been proud of, and a cheeky muffin, I sat and watched the world go by. It had been so long since I had noticed people. Just going about their day. Who knows what weight they were carrying on their shoulders. But they carried on anyway. I sat and wondered about what the kiddo was up to. And then it dawned on me. Is this what being a typical mum was like? Going about your day and occasionally wondering if your child was warm enough, hungry, left out, listened to, happy or crying. It was totally out of my hands. No 1:1 for me to rely on now.
It was like an out of body experience. I felt like I was floating above everyone. I was having to learn how to browse a shop all over again. And escalators?! How long has it been since I’ve used an escalator??
Now I’m not saying I haven’t left the house in almost four years, but my life has been confined to places where kiddo is safe. And shops and the town centre was most definitely not one of those places.
As I wondered around the dazzling Christmas displays all my thoughts slowly glued themselves together. The guilt I felt. The wondering thoughts. Browsing in a shop. I had become a mum. Sunday night I had gone to bed a social worker, paediatrician, occupational therapist, teacher etc. and Monday morning I had woken up a mum. Kiddo was now in a place that handled the admin. A place where they would manage his education. A place where I didn’t have to worry about his behaviour and challenges. From now on I would drop him off, go about my day (hey, even my house might get a clean!) and then I would collect him. I could enjoy my down time without having to coordinate his complex caseload anymore. Our time together was our time together full of fun and play.
I didn’t know this existence was even an option. It’s going to take a while, but I’m going to have to teach myself and remember how to be an individual separate from my child. I guess most people go through this at the end of maternity leave. For me, it’s a new beginning. A chance to bring my stress levels down a notch and improve my health. To learn how to be a mum.
Thanks for reading,