School: Why Does it Feel Like Goodbye?

Today is T’s last day at nursery. His last day. How did that happen? I remember viewing his nursery and getting butterflies in my stomach. It was perfect, and the people were perfect. He then started just before his first birthday (as he decided to arrive late and my maternity leave ended just before his birthday) and what followed was the most wonderful three and a bit years.

Nursery was like a second home and the people like an extended family. They changed countless nappies, saw some of his first steps (maybe even his first, but they never told us!) and watched him as he weaned. They cuddled him when he fell and taught him so many amazing things, and for that I am eternally grateful.

I remember his first day like it was yesterday. He was so small. He was “still” breastfeeding and he was barely crawling – Chubby McSitstill I used to call him. He didn’t start walking until he was 15 months – something that staff were equally over as overjoyed about as we were. Anyway, I digress. I don’t need to fall down that memory wormhole.

So, despite T being so ready for school and feeling incredibly excited about starting next week, why does it feel like one massive goodbye?

As we come to his first day, instead of nervous excitement, I can’t help but feel genuine sadness.

I’ve felt like this for a few weeks and I haven’t been able to put my finger on why I’ve feel so sad – just thinking about him starting school brings tears to my eyes – but as I hung up his last pair of school trousers the other day, which replaced the last pair of chinos that no longer fit him from the hanger, I realised that school signified a huge end of an era for us.

I then read a blog post by Alison Perry and then everything slot into place.

For the past four years it’s been me and him in the mornings before work three days a week, and for at least two full days the rest of the week – even longer when we were on maternity leave together! No matter what, we went out, explored, socialised, had cafe dates, got stuck in slides in the local soft play and generally lived off each other’s energy and company.

But now that school is on the horizon I feel that this will slowly come to an end.

Sure, we’ll have the weekends I’m not working and a brief evening or two in the week, and of course family holidays, but that’s it, and it’s a hard cookie to chew.

I should be excited about T starting this huge new chapter in his life. Excited about the things he’ll learn and the friends he’ll make. And to a degree I am. I am so excited to hear about his day and what funny things his friends have said. I’m excited to learn new things and saying “they didn’t do that when I was in school” several times over.

But…

I can’t shift this overwhelming feeling that I will no longer get to do certain things with him, which I guess – if you were to sit me on a therapists couch – balls down to only being able to have once chance at this parenting malarkey. One chance to see first steps. One chance to breastfeed. One chance. One opportunity to experience it all. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure parents with two, five, or ten children will also go through this wave of sadness when their child starts a new chapter, but for us, as a same sex couple with limited opportunities to have another child, I feel that when T stopped doing something, whether it be a gurgle or the way he chewed his pasta, that was the last time I will ever experience that – and the same goes for when he starts school – and it hurts.

I hurt because I worry about whether I’d made the most out of our time together, whether I was present enough, whether I could have done more? I don’t want to turn this post into a #CherishEveryMoment style post as that sentiment alone can place a huge amount of pressure on parents to “enjoy” every moment of being a parent despite that not always being the case, but for me I do wish I’d done more. What, exactly? I don’t know!

I guess what this comes down to – if this post even makes any sense still – is that now T is leaving our routine for school I will no longer have the chance to experience the things that we did before. No more mid-week coffee dates, no more empty parks (not to mention cheap holidays!), no more lazy mornings where he’d help me scoop (read: eat half of) an avocado for breakfast. No more ‘us’.

I know this sounds absurd, of course there will be times where we’ll be together again, where we can have hot chocolates together, where we can do all the things we did before school, but for me it won’t be the same. I’ve heard from many parents that school changes them and this truly scares me. I worry that T starting school I will lose the boy I’ve had for the past four years.

That I will, indeed, be saying goodbye.

One thought on “School: Why Does it Feel Like Goodbye?

  1. Caitlin says:

    I don’t think this sounds absurd at all. I feel your sadness and I think it makes perfect sense. Even though I now have two little ones, I still feel that sorrow when every little milestone is passed – though I agree that it does seem harder with an only…just one chance to breastfeed, crawl, walk, etc. This stat constantly rings in my mind as I parent: 75% of the in-person time you will ever spend with your child happens by the time they turn 12. I agree that “cherish every moment” is unrealistic and unhelpful, but I try to remind myself that I’ll miss all the hard things in just a few years. Hugs to you as your nursery days end.

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