A couple of months ago, I got a telephone call that rocked my world. It was the nursery school we were considering for our son just before COVID-19 put us on lockdown. The question asked was whether we were still interested in enrolling our son there. My immediate response was affirmative and arrangements were made to submit a copy of our son’s birth certificate. I was happy with the school - the facilities were good and it was highly recommended. The following week, my husband, who was unable to go with me on that first scouting trip back in March, was able to tour the school. He too was pleased with the choice. After that visit, I returned to work and out of the blue came that feeling in the pit of my stomach – anxiety with a touch of dread. The visit had made everything REAL. Three months before my son is expected to start school I’m freaking out... just a bit. Random thoughts started racing through my mind:
Coming from a small daycare, how will he adjust to this new environment?
Yes he’s potty trained but he’s accustomed to sitting on the toilet to do his business; time for daddy to teach him to stand instead. Will he be patient enough to ensure his clothes aren’t soiled? How will he manage the buttons on his pants? He’s a picky eater and sometimes I literally have to feed him to ensure he eats. What will I give him for lunch, after all this is the child who doesn’t eat sandwiches or bread for that matter. If we let him take School Meals, will he eat it or just ignore what’s on the plate?
He has a peanut allergy and even though I know the school has protocols to ensure he’s safe my heart is still a bit anxious. These thoughts and more raced through my mind and I had to remind myself to breathe and dial it all back. I was already envisioning a problematic, chaotic future that doesn’t yet exist. It’s moments like this that positive self-talk comes in to play and I quickly reminded myself of the following to control my anxiety:
1. At every stage of parenting there is going to be a challenge, but that challenge can be overcome.
In difficult moments we have to remember all that we’re capable of and the victories we’ve had. Personally, I overcame challenges with breastfeeding, survived his first day at daycare and conquered potty training during a worldwide pandemic. Ultimately, things always seem super hard in the moment, but there’s always a brighter day and our children’s development does not stay stagnant.
2. Children are tough and resilient.
In my anxious state I could already see my child bawling his head off on the first day, but in reality do I really know that’s how it’s going to turn out? He may surprise me and confidently wave goodbye once he sees the other children. After all, this is the same child who is comfortable starting conversations with children that he’s just met. However, even if he does cry, what are the chances that he’ll cry all day? It’s an adjustment that he has to make and he’ll have to do it again at the primary, secondary and tertiary level. Haven’t we done it ourselves and lived to tell the tale?
3. Children sense our anxiety so don’t pass it on.
Recently, I had a confrontation with a close family member that was hurtful and crushing to my spirit. I came home from that experience shellshocked, but I tried to hide it. Within 5 minutes of arriving home, my three year old held my face in his hands and in a voice filled with concern he asked, “Mummy, what’s wrong? Are you ok?” I WAS STUNNED. I thought I had suppressed the inner turmoil I was experiencing but obviously not. My son sensed the hurt that was in my heart. I realised that for his sake it was important that I not feed, and ultimately share the anxiety that was threatening to boil up inside of me. If this new experience is to be a good one for him, then I must exude and convey positive feelings.
4. You’re not alone.
As parents we sometimes feel like we have to manage on our own and asking for help means that we’ve failed. Sometimes just having that listening, supportive ear from someone who’s done it before helps to make the journey easier. So as cliché as it may sound create your own tribe that you can lean on. I belong to a WhatsApp Mummy Group, as well as the FB group Young mUms and I lean on my friends who have children.
Parent Tales also has its own support groups for parents. Very often we don’t need someone to give us an answer; we just need them to listen and let us unburden our load. I’m not the first mom to face this challenge, so I’ll definitely be reaching out to my tribe to see how they managed this phase to make it easier. So how do I feel now? Better! The anxiety isn’t completely gone but I’m managing it; not just for me but also for my son. I’m even feeling excited for him because he’s broadening his horizons. My little baby is growing up. How will it go when September comes? I don’t have a clue but I definitely won’t be pulling my hair out. What about you? PS You may think I forgot the whole drama of COVID-19 and the school protocols but I haven’t. That’s one scenario I’ve definitely turned over to God. Praying for all of the children, parents and teachers in our island and the world.