Yesterday, it has to be said, was not my best day.
As predicted, Oscar was beyond nervous going to his new school.
As we walked down the drive together he gradually took his hand out of mine, because none of the other kids were holding hands with their mums, but at the same time he shrank down into himself and became littler and greyer and quieter…
By the time we got to reception he was monosyllabic.
I left him in the capable and friendly hands of the head teacher and his form teacher. He was holding it together.
I had the morning to fill with errands which kept me sane and not dwelling too much on how he was getting on. I took myself out for lunch, and just as the waitress brought up my plate, the phone rang. It was the school.
Oscar has a tummy ache and a headache. We wanted to check with you whether he has been ill the last couple of days. He’s pretty distressed and won’t eat his lunch.
I tell you now that it is entirely possible for a heart to sink and break at the same time.
I knew it was nerves. I knew he had to stay. My instinct was, of course, to rush round there and hide him in my trouser turn up for eternity. I didn’t. I discussed it with his teacher. She wanted to keep him to the end of the day. I totally concurred.
The next three hours were some of the hardest I have spent, emotionally speaking.
I had to collect him at three o’clock. When I got there he was eating his lunch in with the head teacher and chatting away to her as if he’d known her all his life. Which was quite reassuring. She kept hold of him while I had a chat with his form teacher. She was absolutely lovely and had done and said everything I would have in her position.
After we’d had our chat, I was reunited with Oscar and we sat in reception waiting to get some paperwork before we went home. Every single member of staff who went through that space as we sat there made time to come and talk to Oscar, remembering his name, checking he was alright. As we left, the head came out and shook his hand and told him how proud she had been of him for being brave and sticking it out.
We talked about it on the way home. Oscar maintained he really was poorly and not nervous. I remained unconvinced.
We talked about what it might be like in September now he knew what to expect. He did not seem thrilled at the idea of returning.
He was pretty emotionally battered by the time we got home, as was I. We were both pleased to drop the subject.
Then at bed time last night he came running to find me, flung himself into my arms and absolutely tore himself to bits sobbing. All his fears and anxieties came tumbling out and my heart broke for him all over again.
We had lots of cuddles and a serious talk.
It is much as I suspected. There is nothing wrong with his new school. Everyone was lovely to him. He even made friends, but it was very big, and very overwhelming, especially at lunch time when everyone was milling around en masse, and most importantly it was very not HIS school.
His current school is safe. It’s where his granny works, and his mum helps, and everyone knows him, and he knows everyone. His best friend in all the world goes there, and his sister goes there, and it is as reliable as day following night. He loves it – which I couldn’t be more grateful for. It is wonderful when your child loves their school, truly it is.
It does make it difficult though, when change comes. As far as Oscar is concerned, his current school is the best, so why change it for something which may be worse? Even worse, why change it for something so unknown and untested? It’s not even as if his sister has been there before him and can show him the ropes. It’s all down to him, for the very first time in his life.
It is safe to say that my son is not a natural pioneer.
No change would be an easy change for him, but I remain convinced that leaving him there until he has to go up to the local high school which is an all boy’s school with over a thousand pupils in it, would be one of the cruellest things I could do for him. I think going from the loving, nurtured environment he is currently in to there, would probably cost me about four years in therapy fees.
That’s not to mention the fact that Jason has just signed up for another three months in Germany, so my life is not about to get any easier. Sadly for Oscar, it is important for both of us that he continues being very brave in the face of adversity. Bless him.
I would not wish what Oscar went through on any child, but the fact that he did go through it yesterday gave me a real chance to see how his new school operated under difficult circumstances. It is always tricky negotiating distressed children who you’ve only had the chance to know for a few hours. It is equally difficult negotiating distressed parents who may be more distressed by what you are telling them than their children. I think they handled the whole thing admirably. I cannot fault their care of him, and under all the misery that yesterday spawned, the one thing that stopped me from tearing my hair out entirely was feeling that nothing happened that made me question my choice of new school for Oscar.
Which is good, because had it been otherwise I think I might have taken to drink.