This week my daughter Evie started nursery. On the second morning, after being there for half an hour, her teacher suggested that I leave and come back in an hour, as opposed to stick around. Evie was relaxed and happy; she was settling in quickly.
As I went to leave Evie became upset, so I took her down to the loo with me to have a bit more time with her; I felt unsettled to leave suddenly as had planned to be there all morning with her. When we came back, hoping to buy some more time we went guerrilla and hid in the dolls house where I picked up a book and started to read… We were soon discovered though and the teacher gently encouraged me to leave.
So I left. My daughter screamed. I felt weak. I had let my daughter down. Why hadn’t I stood up and refused to leave? It was only Evie’s second morning, surely this was all happening too soon? I immediately called my ex – was I doing the right thing? Would she be alright? He advised me to give her the full hour, he was relaxed which helped. Kind of. The nursery would call me if she couldn’t be calmed. Go and walk he said, I haven’t brought my coat, I didn’t think I needed it I said. Go and have a coffee he said, work he said. Take the hour.
I lasted 45minutes. This is my latest post…
When I returned to pick up my daughter I mentioned to the head-teacher that one of the most important things to me as a mother is that my daughter feels I keep my word with her. She listened to me, acknowledged what I said and then turned around and showed me Evie through the door – totally at ease painting at the easel. I walked into the room and my little daughter, not yet 2 and a half, turned around.
“What are you painting?” I asked, crouching down.
“Mama!” she said. “Your belly, boobies and body!”
I was very big and very brown…
Being a parent: control is but an illusion!
As we left I felt worried about the next day: it felt too soon, too rushed, why weren’t we sticking to the plan? I..e Why could I not spend every morning there until everything was perfect, Evie was totally happy and I felt assured she was going to be alright?
I apologised to my daughter about the change in plans and she listened to me “I was screaming mama,” she said. Her face scrunching to emphasise her point. Which only served to make me think I was a numbnut for leaving and should have insisted on staying the whole time the next morning. If not the entire year.
That night, two things made me change my mind.
One was a chat with a friend who is a nursery teacher and a mum, who I called to sound things out with. Because I want this to go well and if I am being overprotective then I need to do some throwing the net open and be a bit more courageous quick!
Chloe was awesome. She listened to my concerns, reaffirming me and then also letting me see the nursery’s point of view and what their priorities are. Talking to her, I felt listened to and as a result increasingly settled, more so as I listened to her share her own experience of how kids can be different when their mums are there and when they are not. Which incidentally chimed with Evie’s first day at nursery the day beforehand where she had gone with her nanny. Carla left the room twice, once for 10minutes, the second time for 25mins and Evie barely noticed. Also the whole reason the teacher had suddenly said she thought it would be alright for me to go, was because Evie seemed so settled. I needed to trust a little bit more…
The second awesome thing that gave me a shift was opening a book that a friend gave me (thank you Charlotte) by Radhanath Swami. I opened the book and read a story about a boy and a caterpillar and the nature of struggle that made a few light-bulbs go off. Here it is…
A boy saw a caterpillar in his garden. He found the caterpillar in a difficult situation – bound by a cocoon and struggling to release itself. It was not able to come out, but it never gave up its efforts. It tried and tried. Feeling compassion, the boy ran inside his house, got a pair of scissors, and slowly and carefully cut the cocoon. He released the caterpillar.
What did he see when he cut the cocoon? He saw that the caterpillar was developing wings to become a butterfly. And because he had cut the cocoon before the right time, the wings of the caterpillar were very weak. They did not have the strength to handle the weight of the caterpillar and so the caterpillar could not fly.
Similarly, sometimes when we struggle in our lives, it may seem painful to someone who is watching. But those very struggles actually make us strong and powerful. Many people ask, “Why does God allow us to suffer?” We can learn from this story; if the boy had allowed the caterpillar to suffer a little more, then it would have soared into the sky, and flown from one flower to another, appreciated by the world for its colours and beauty.
Mothers: pain killers or distributors?
When I read it, something clicked. Being the mother I am, there is a certain part of me that wants to take away all pain for my daughter. But the truth is, at least I suspect this is what it is, that sometimes I get confused with what is my pain and what is my daughter’s. Clearly my daughter was distressed when I left; whether that was because she was picking up on my own feelings or expressing her own is something that I have to accept as part of the mystery of being a parent. We can never fully know what is really going; only take in the information and trust our hearts to the best of our ability.
Separation can be painful. I think I’m finding this harder then my daughter…
The next morning something in me had settled: I felt confident in my daughter’s ability to be alright, I trusted the nursery, but most of all I felt confident in where I was as a parent: oh such rare real estate!
So as I dropped Evie off I explained to her that I was going to come and collect her at 11 0’clock. We walked into the nursery, and before I could kiss her goodbye she was walking up the stairs, her teacher reaching out to hold her hand as they walked up together. I returned 90minutes later to collect a very happy little girl. She had loved her morning.
The same with her fourth morning; I explained what was happening, she understood and was excited to arrive, exclaiming “nursery!” as we drove in. And I even got blown a kiss as Evie walked through the doors to see the other kids, ready to start her morning. This was her adventure; one we had all been talking about for months. She was ready.
Life: pretty generous when we think about it
When I came to collect Evie later that morning they were all out in the garden. As I walked over life gifted me this sweet tender moment that is going to hang around in the ol’memory banks for a while. I didn’t at first tell Evie I was there as I wanted to watch her and see how she was, so I stood by the gate watching as the kids got ready to come in. One of the teachers was calling out each kid’s name so that they would come and take their place on one of those plastic ropes that nurseries use so that the kids stay together when they need to walk somewhere. Evie was at the front, waiting for her turn to be called. “Come on everybody,” she called out, copying the teacher, her whole body bubbling with excitement. She was so relaxed and happy and as I stood there watching my daughter something kizmick (umm, not actually a word, but am struggling to find one that describes that feeling there that day, so kizmick is standing in till another one arrives) happened to my heart that moment and I suspect particles of it are still wafting down Battersea Park Road as I write…
A gentle man called Buddha said that nothing lasts forever. Anicca (pronounced, ‘ur neech er’) means impermanence; a key ingredient of life. The last two years have swept by. My baby is a young girl and I am learning to let go of the cocoon we built around us, till the day came when she would spread her wings and fly. And so my palms open and close. My heart fills and spills and my thoughts jumble and tumble like corn popping till moments come where a sigh is released and a heart gets filled to the brim as I watch my young daughters spreading her wings; ready to explore this world.
Our children are not ours, “they are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself…” wrote Kahlil Gibrain in his beautiful poem which I include below.
These past few days I have been reminded of this. For here we are alive on this extraordinary planet, changing and unfolding and emerging and growing. And like those roots of the tree that break through the cement path, you and I are each taking one step here and one step there, the longings and yearnings in our hearts nudging us forward towards whatever it is that will be, that wants to be. The ever unfolding expression of life expressing itself through each of us. And how we all play our part in supporting each other.
Teachers, friends and parents.
Happy Saturday all,
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.