This week you go to school—big school. The one we pass every day.
You see the huge, impressive building with a funky steel roof, multiple floors, and huge playing fields.
I see a tiny, little boy being swallowed up by endless corridors, lost in multiple classroom confusion, struggling to navigate your way from room to room, your eyes prickling with tears in panic.
You see a smart, grown-up uniform, a brand-new pencil case full of exciting new gadgets and a pair of slip-on, big boy shoes.
I see your comfy, wipe-down, collarless play clothes swapped for a rigid and enforceable uniform. I see the stress of forgotten P.E. kits and your little hands struggling to master the Windsor knot after sports practice.
You see a huge area to explore at break and feel so independent being able to pick whatever you want from the cafeteria for lunch, empowered with your special payment card.
I see no lunch ladies watching over you, no healthy choices being thrust upon you, no wooden climbing frames, or painted friendship bench to protect you from being lonely.
You see all the grown-up kids and think they look so cool; you can’t wait to be mingling with the older year groups and meeting new people.
I see six-foot 17-year olds, pushing and swearing around you. I see bigger kids lurching over you, saying things, and showing you things I am not ready for you to be exposed to.
You see an 11-year-old boy, strong and eager to take on the next chapter. I see my baby leaving the safety of his primary setting and being thrust into the big, wide, scary world.
You are right—I am wrong.
As you sit and excitedly pack your pencil case, as I iron your shirts and we talk about all the brilliant new friends you are going to make, I mask my fears for you. You have no idea they are there. I will never project my fears onto you, only encourage what you see—that is my promise.
I am your mommy and you will always be my baby, and I will always do the worrying for you. Behind a forced smile, behind a motivational speech, behind a closed door—that is my job. You will never see what I see; that’s my fear, and I own it. Fear that’s born of love, and one day when you are waving your little ones off on their first day of big school, you will know.
How I wish I could stop time for a little while longer, shield you from negative external influences, be the barrier between your heartbreaks, keep you secure in our bubble a few weeks more, protect you a little longer. But I cannot, I will not—because you are ready.
I see you.
It’s time to cut the apron strings and let you soar, dive into new interests, carve out a new little world, and meet some of the “other” people who will shape your life forever. How lucky they will be to meet you and have a little piece of you in their lives too.
I hope you make friends for life, friends you can look back and laugh about your teen years with when you’re in your 30s and beyond. I hope you celebrate milestones with these friends and help each other through good and bad times. You will need them. They will be important.
I hope you fall in love and meet someone who makes your stomach spin and your heart race for the first time, and I hope you write their name in the back of your textbooks and enjoy all of the endless drama that only teenagers in love can create.
I hope you find a subject you are inspired by, discover some fun in learning, and understand that you are whatever you want to be. It’s all inside you. I will be your biggest, loudest cheerleader. I hope you retain these learnings and use them to make the world a better place. I hope you work hard but understand you are more than an exam result, and that, pass or fail, there are always options. I will always help you seek these out—if, of course, you want me to.
I hope you retain your creativity and sense of adventure.
I hope you are kind.
I hope you are happy.
So, big school, I bestow my little boy onto you, with your endless corridors and threats of detention. I send you him in his innocent state and pray that you protect and nurture his beautiful spirit. Be a place of happiness and good memories; be a hub of knowledge and learning. Inspire and encourage.
He is ready, and so I surrender—he is yours.
…until I pick him up at 3 p.m.