When Belle left primary school, it hit me a bit harder than I had expected. I’ve never really been big on ‘firsts’ – first day of school, first whatever else – they are exciting and fun but never moving.
But when Belle finished primary school, it suddenly hit me that I had no children left to watch in school nativities. No more primary school sports days to go to. No more having to ingratiate myself with the other parents on the playground so as to arrange play dates. Nothing.
It turns out that ‘lasts’ are a bit more moving for me than ‘firsts’.
And then she went to secondary school and every day is an achievement just to get her to go, so that’s a distraction. Bee finished her A-levels and graduated and all of those things are okay because they aren’t the END. Bee can finish things and that’s okay, because Belle stills gets to do them.
Last night Belle brought home her school report for the end of Year 10. It was part of a big pack of information about school uniforms and newsletters and a calendar for the next academic year. I have a paper diary, because I can’t get my head around not writing down dates with a pen, and I have an academic year one because it seems to fit better.
I picked out the calendar and got a pen, ready to write in dates of note. I started at the end, (I don’t know why really, but I do the same with magazines), and the first date was GCSE results day.
I text Bee.
‘MY DIARY GOES UP TO THE DAY BELLE GETS HER GCSE RESULTS. I AM NOT READY TO NOT HAVE ANY CHILDREN LEFT AT SCHOOL AND TO NEVER HAVE TO GO TO A BORING CONCERT OR PARENTS’ EVENING.’
I worked my way backwards, writing in all the dates – prom, (when did this become a thing?), theatre trips, the summer show. Suddenly I had the urge to go to a dance performance EVERY NIGHT even though every time I have ever been to one I’ve wanted to slip into a coma until it ends. (Apart from Belle’s bit obvs.)
I text Bee again.
‘I just put all the dates in for next year. Last dance show, last Christmas dinner, last carol concert, last whispers of the illusion of youth.’
That will be it then won’t it?
It’s a bit worrying.
Bee was born when I was 17, so I’ve never been a grown up without the structure of the 9 am – 3pm day and the school year worked around summer holidays, half terms and INSET days. I’d always thought I’d be absolutely fine once I was on my own, but as it ticks around I’m beginning to wonder exactly how quickly the novelty of a mid-week, mid-term lie in will wear off? What will I do when it gets to 4pm and no one is asking me what’s for tea?
Being a parent has totally defined my adult life but I feel like I have changed a lot in the last few years. I feel a lot more self-accepting and confident in my own abilities and experience. I feel, finally, like I just about know what I’m doing, but what use is that if there is no one left to pass the wisdom on to?
Is it age I wonder or experience? Does it take this long, no matter how old you are, to feel confident as a parent? Is it normal to feel like you’re just getting the hang of it as it’s all coming to a close?