It’s been a really hard week, both emotionally and physically.
Firstborn started school on Tuesday, a big milestone by any measure. I hadn’t quite prepared myself for quite how much of an upheaval it would be. Firstborn and the Small(er) One have been at a full-time nursery since January which has worked out brilliantly; the staff are great, the location is convenient and the facilities are good. It’s not ideal – they have a long day and I always seem to be rushing from one place to another – but on the whole it’s worked out really well. But this week, things changed…big time.
I arranged to work from home for the week on flexitime to fit in with Firstborn’s new school hours, which involved a major juggle for Alpha Male and I, dropping children off in two different places (at opposite ends of the Borough) then me picking them up at different times and starting to work again once they went to bad. Tricky and tiring, but not impossible.
The first fly in the ointment came when Alpha Male called me practically sobbing on Tuesday morning after dropping the Small(er) One off at nursery. This was the first day that the Small(er) One had to contend with nursery without Firstborn as her champion (the Small(er) One refuses to play with the other little ones at nursery, instead scampering a few steps behind Firstborn’s pack) and it hit her really hard. Apparently, when the Small(er) One got to nursery she immediately went to find her favourite cuddly toy (a stuffed dog which she calls, inexplicably, ‘Donkey’), sat down on the sofa and cuddled Donkey with a dejected expression, ignoring everyone else, shoulders slumped and a faraway look in her eyes. She couldn’t even muster up the enthusiasm to kiss Alpha Male goodbye. The nursery staff told me when I came to pick her up that she was unusually quiet all day and played by herself, refusing to join in with the usual nursery high-jinks.
It carried on all week in the same vein. When I dropped the Small(er) One off on Thursday (Alpha Male having a work schedule clash), she clung to my neck, not crying or carrying on, just holding me very, very tight, which she doesn’t usually do except when she wakes up in the night with a nightmare. The sight of her sitting alone on that damned sofa holding Donkey tight and patting him still makes me want to cry. I cried all the way home and was so upset I had to pick her up early that day. The excited welcome I got when she saw my face at the door made me cry even harder.
Firstborn, on the other hand, started off the week loving school and bouncing around in her usual confident manner. Lunch was an especial hit (pudding every day! And you can have seconds!) but by Friday she was also unusually quiet and didn’t want me to leave her at school on her own. This has carried on all weekend, and my usually confident child who will speak to anyone and everyone about anything that pops into her head has become uncharacteristically shy.
It’s going to get worse. Next week, I’m back in the office full-time without the flexibility to drop everything if nursery tells me that the Small(er) One is hiding in the corner and won’t speak to anyone, and without being able to wait at the school gates for Firstborn, a comforting pair of arms for her to take refuge in after a challenging day.
Right now, I feel like the worst mother in the entire universe. I’ve cried so much this week it feels as if I’ve sandpapered my eyeballs.
Where’s the balancing act? Where’s the middle ground? How can we get through this without resorting to Prozac (me) and avoiding expensive future psychotherapy (the kids)?
Answers on a postcard please. Just address it to Crappy London Mummy - the postman will know exactly where to find me...