The tears started rolling last October when Hugo’s year group sung with 7k other school children at the O2. I defy any parent with tweens not to shed a tear when they break into Ed Sheeran’s ‘Castle on the Hill’ en masse! Since then, it’s fair to say I’ve been a bit of an emotional wreck – not just due to Hugo’s perseverance to stay in school (read: not get his troublesome arse suspended), but the year of proud moments and revelations that come, unexpectedly, with year 6.
I just wish someone had warned me last September that Year 6 would knock my mothering socks off – house captain nominations, singing at the O2, SATs revision, SATs exams, school residential trip, school productions, SATs results and leavers events. Not to mention the currently gentle lapping waves of hormones which will inevitably become a tsunami in the not too distant future!
Assisted by leavers assemblies, thank you speeches and farewell parties – all with the obligatory tear-jerking music, which would render tears from a goldfish, and slide-show of pictures, proving they’ve grown from those 4 year olds with hair bigger than their heads and little teeth into beautiful, exuberant 11 year olds with the world at their feet – I’ve become an unstable, snappy, snotty mess; crying at the shear mention of “don’t they look grown up?”
Surely it was only last month Hugo was begging to wear his Ben 10 t-shirt to mufti-day; that we had to have the whole of reception to his party ‘cos friendships were still saplings and everyone was fair game; letting him cross the road to school without holding my hand felt like a step too far in his independence and convincing him to don the yellow chicken outfit to fit in with the other farm animals in the nativity was a doddle.
They might not always consider each other “friends”, but his class-mates are the familiar faces with whom he’s shared 7 of his 11 years They’re the people he feels comfortable enough to just be himself and, without even realising, they know the nuances of each others lives like they will never experience again with a group of 50+ peers. They’ve sung together, learnt together, travelled together, played together and grown together.
As a parent, getting to the end of year 6 is a heart-wrenching retrospective of just how far your child has come. For me, it’s been the first time I’ve been forced to stop. Stop the rushing, the costume making, the lunch box packing, the money handing-out, the form signing, the homework nagging, the uniform washing and school shoe locating. I’ve watched their year 6 production with pride (not just for Hugo but each of those children), I’ve taken the time to write my gratitude to the teachers and TAs who’ve made it possible; I’ve been the embarrassing mum at the leavers’ party drop-off and pick-up, begging for photos and I blubbed my way through the leavers’ assembly.
For the first time I’ve stopped to realise I’ve raised a fiercely independent, beautiful, sometimes rather trying, intelligent young man who’s ready for the next stage of his life (even if I’m not!) – but I’ve done that with the help of his school, the staff and the 50+ children who’ve become his family between 9-3pm everyday. Together, we’ve raised and loved these children, and part of that process is letting them go.
I’ve come to accept, it’s ok to cry. I cry happy tears because I’m joyous that Hugo has even made it through primary school (it was a close one!!) while making memories and friendships to last him a lifetime. But I’m also crying tears of grief.
I’m grieving the little boy I dropped off in September 2011, the one who needed a hug before saying goodbye and searched for my face in the sea of parents every afternoon. It’s all gone by too quickly and for that I’m sad.
I’m grieving the familiar faces of children and parents who won’t be assembled in that place again.
I’m grieving the love and acceptance Hugo’s received from caring teachers, TAs and class-mates – in fear he might not find the same elsewhere.
I’m grieving the chirpy, patient and instantly recognizable voices on the end of the phone when I call the office, or on bad days, they call me!!
So, for now, you will mostly find me crying into my cup of tea, flicking through photos, clutching the amazing SATs results Hugo achieved, while my kind, polite and talented 11 year old looks on bemused. Then come September, I will peck him on the cheek as he leaves the house to catch the bus to his new “big” school – no hand-holding, no taking him in and no book bag. For the next 5 years I’ll glean information about his school life from parents evenings and the online receipt from the cantene; I won’t be able to pair the parents’ faces with their respective child and I’ll be lucky if I know his peers’ names. But this is life, this is parenthood and like Hugo and the rest of the year 6 leavers – I’m learning to grow, blossom and move on with them.
Now to do it all again with Bruno!! I’m not sure I can take it!