Blank pages and a new pencil case: welcome to a new school year!
So the summer holidays are over and we are being treated to beautiful autumnal mornings with morning mist and long shadows, with the promise of cosy winter nights in front of a log fire. And it’s made me a tad reflective.
I’m sure many people have a sense of things coming to an end in the first week of September-but I have always loved it. Remember the excitement of a new pencil case, full of sharpened pencils and the essential sharpener? (I always longed for one of the sophisticated ones that kept the pencil shavings and meant you didn’t have to make the embarrassing trip to the front of the class to sharpen your pencil into the bin.) There were also new felt tips and a new rubber which of course you were never going to need because you weren’t going to make mistakes that year. And when I was older, there were Post-its. More colours, more options. How wonderful those small simple pleasures were.
A new start
And then there was the blank page of an exercise book. Now that really was exciting: a chance to start again-a chance to get it right! So, as I was enjoying a trip down Memory Lane, it occurred to me that having a baby is like a blank page-it’s a new start, with all the excitement, but also the possibility of making mistakes. How wonderful to have this gorgeous little creature in your life. How fantastic it is to be able to, as Jeni Couzyn , in her beautifully moving poem ‘Dawn’ describes:
..begin my voyage
around your loveliness
again and yet again
as in my arms you lie sleeping..
But of course, as with most things in life, with that joy comes inevitable worry and enormous responsibility, which can sometimes be overwhelming. There are so many questions waiting to be answered on that blank page, starting with ‘Should I breastfeed?’ ‘Has she slept for too long-should I wake her up?’ And a little later, ‘How should I react when my child is pushed over by another child?’ Do you show how upset you are or be polite and say with gritted teeth ‘It’s OK- they all do it-not believing for one minute that your child could ever be that aggressive. And even later, should you move house so that you’re in the catchment area for your budding Einstein to attend an Outstanding school? What GCSEs should you advise your child to take? ‘It’s too early for her to have to make these life changing decisions!’ will be your cry- along with parents everywhere.
And let’s not even start on the questions and responsibilities that arise when adolescence and influential peer groups enter the equation!
There are no mistakes-only lessons to be learned.
But instead of being anxious and overwhelmed about all those blank pages in the book of your child’s life, see them as an opportunity to write the story alongside your baby, toddler, schoolchild, teenager, and even adult offspring. Fill in one sentence at a time, word by word. And instead of seeing yourself as the sole author with all of the responsibility, use the experience and support offered along the way by all those people who will be glad to help.
In the end, the best thing we can do for our children is to give them roots and wings. If your children know that they are loved and that you will always be there for them even when they have flown the nest, you’ll have done a great job! Enjoy the journey.