Can you feel those worms, darling? The ones crawling in deep down in your tummy? Can you feel them squirming around and making you feel a little bit funny?
Don’t worry, they are called nerves. They feel pretty horrible don’t they? I understand that they make you feel a little bit sick; I can see your eyes look wider than usual when you ask me questions about starting school in September.
Nerves are good.
Nerves show that you care.
Please don’t ever stop caring.
Nerves have followed Mummy around all of her life. They follow her into interviews, they accompany her whenever she starts a new job and they linger in the corner of her classroom at the start of every new school year. She feels them in the pit of her stomach when she speaks in assemblies and they play havoc with her voice when she wants to speak up for herself.
They show she cares.
They show up whenever she feels passionate about something.
I can see that you’re passionate too and I love that about you.
“Is it September yet?” you ask me daily.
“No baby, it’s still August.” I say. “Don’t wish summer away. I’ve waited so long to share it with you.”
“I’m looking forward to big school, Mummy,” with your eyes wide, you try to assure me.
I smile because you are so much braver than me. That part of you must come from Daddy.
A few days ago, I took you and your brother to the park. As we entered, we were greeted by three children chanting both of your names and the eldest girl came running up to you with a big smile on her face. My heart began to sing a little. I asked her name and if she was in Lower Foundation at your school and she told me that she was. Looking over to her mum, I smiled and walked over to her standing and pushing her youngest child on the swing. We struck up a conversation and she was lovely. I asked if her daughter was looking forward to starting school in September, and that was when she told me they had moved and her daughter would be attending another school in another village in September.
Such a shame.
A number of your friends in Lower Foundation are going to different schools and the thought of it makes the nerves start fluttering slightly deep down in my stomach because, despite you not moving schools, you may have to start your friendship circle from scratch. You, my dear, appear unfazed by this fact
“Even if they say no (to making friends) at first. I’ll wait a bit and then ask them again.”
Oh God. Stop pulling at these frayed heart strings of mine.
At four years old, I can see myself standing beside a wall on my first day at primary school with my only friend next to me. Together, we are looking on at two girls – twins in fact – running around a bench chasing each other. How I longed to be like them and know some of the other children in my school. (One of the curses of being an only child, perhaps?) Nerves ate away at me that day and I ended up crying. The second day was much the same and again it ended in tears. I can’t remember the third day or the fourth, but that’s because I made more friends and I began to settle. The nerves vanished and I loved school and would continue to love it until the day I left at sixteen to go to college with the twins I watched running around a bench all those years earlier. And what became of the girl who stood with me by the wall as I looked on through teary eyes? You saw her yesterday; you’re friends with her daughter. Alas, you won’t be going to the same school in September; I hope your friendship defies that obstacle.Taking what I learnt from primary school, I shouldn’t be nervous for you should I? Instead, I should tell you that the friends you make there could be the friends you make for life.
I try to hide my nerves from you, but you overhear me talking to Daddy about them.
“I don’t have any ‘Mum friends’,” I say. “I’m not from round here.”
“You’ll make them,” he says.
“When? I am never at the school gates.”
He tells me not to worry and that I will see them at school events or at the park or in and around our village. But, this just makes me realise that you haven’t really played with anyone your own age this holiday because we don’t live on a street with children. I remember when we first moved into our home, your Granddad expressed his concern that there were no other children living nearby. I didn’t really think much about it because you were eighteen months old and waddling around in a nappy. Now that you are almost five, I can see that spark of independence in your eye and I know you should be out playing with children your own age. This understanding hasn’t hit you; you don’t notice that the majority of our neighbours are retired, so it doesn’t bother you…yet. Guilt eats away at me over the fact that other than playing safely in the garden or at the park, you haven’t experienced the joys of ‘playing out’. You haven’t soared up and down the street on your skateboard; you haven’t raced your friends ’round the block’ on your bike; you haven’t made a makeshift shop at the end of your drive and sold junk to passersby and you haven’t shouted what you think are hysterical witticisms (but, are actually annoying) at loved up teenagers across the road, who just want a couple of hours away from their parents.Therefore, I worry once more that in this carefree summer, as you stand on precipice of a new beginning, you may fall into the space below because you haven’t quite got all of the friends you need to catch you yet. I feel that this is my fault for working a lot and for taking piles of books to mark at children’s parties when I should be mingling with the other parents carving out new friendships and arranging play dates. Perhaps it’s both mine and your Dad’s fault for choosing the quiet street, the safe street, the street where we can look out onto fields as opposed looking out onto a pair of loved up teenagers sitting on a bench, holding hands just trying to get a couple of hours alone away from their parents. Perhaps we should have considered what you would want from a house and a street.
“Kids don’t really play out anymore,” your Daddy assures me.
Isn’t that such a shame?
Playing out helped me make more friends and cement the friendships I already had because the games we played out on the streets forced their way into the conversations we had at school in between learning the alphabet and reciting our timetables.
I wonder, do your nerves start to rear their head when I ask you to blend a word for me? I think I sense a sudden panic when I ask you what d-o-g spells over and over again. You know that Mummy teaches English and you’re eager to please, so rather than concentrate on the letters, you spurt out random words in quick succession. You sense the apprehension in my voice as I quicken how I say ‘d-o-g’ ‘d-o-g’ and then you just laugh and tell me that it says ‘dog’.
“Oops!” you say. “I’m only kidding. I know what it spells.”
On your last day in Lower Foundation, I was able to pick you up from school because I too had broken up for the summer holidays. Your teacher came out to see me and I thanked her for everything she had done for you over the year. I wasn’t feeling any emotions over you finishing Lower Foundation, after all, you would be returning in September. No big deal.
Your teacher told me that you are a good girl, a kind girl, a girl who knows right from wrong. She told me that you played with all the children in the class and that you showed compassion to others when it was needed. Finally, she told me that you would be in a class with some older children when you start your Literacy lessons in September. At that statement, my vision blurred as my concern for you washed away.
As it turns out, you do know your letters; maybe you were just kidding all along. I had no need to feel nervous for you.
However, no matter what path you choose in life, I will always feel those little worms.
Because they show I care.
When you’re standing at the gates on your first day at school and you can feel the nerves creeping into your tummy.
It shows you care.