…But Not as Much as I Love My Children
In Sweden, a country known for happy children, Volvos and flat-pack furniture, the school system is so different. I started school at the age of 7, after blissful years spent with my brothers and my parents. I had short school days and long holidays. I have memories of days on the beech and playing freely in the woods with my younger brothers. I had a free, and happy childhood.
Or as happy as they come, I am sure we all carry some level of resentment towards having to eat a dinner we did not like or tidy a bedroom which looked like a tornado had hit it.
When I had my own children I wanted to replicate the lovely times I had. I wanted them to feel loved and free. I wanted them to be loud, boisterous and cheeky. I wanted them to be free to grow and develop on their own terms. I wanted them to have a long childhood.
From the moment I held my children I knew I wanted to spend every minute of their childhood with them. I never wanted to let them go, ever. This was especially true with my first born. Of course I happily left her with her father for a few hours here and there but I never spent a night away from her until she was 3 (and that was only to spend time in hospital giving birth to her baby brother.)
The time I have spent with my children feels precious.
When my daughter turned 2, I realised that it was only a year until she would turn 3… and would have to start nursery.
Of course I wanted her to develop social skills past those she had learnt at the few toddler groups we had attended, but the thought of leaving her in the hands of strangers for 2.5 hours a day petrified me. (I am pretty sure I am not the first mother to have dealt with these particular feelings of guilt.)
I kept telling myself that she may not be ready. Even convinced myself that if I saw her shed a single tear I would swiftly remove her from nursery until ‘she’ was ready.
When her first day of nursery arrived, I cried as I brushed her hair, silently snuffling behind her tiny little head. As my husband and I drove her to nursery I struggled to keep it together, reminding myself that if there were any tears, which there were bound to be, I would take her home again.
I was not wrong. There were tears; a hysteric, snotty mess of tears. But not from my 3 year old daughter.
No, she bounded into nursery. Excited and full of expectations. She gave me a quick wave and never looked back.
I, however, just about made it back to the car where I could not keep it together anymore and let out a whaling guttural cry. My poor panicked husband (who had chosen to stay in the car) thought our daughter had been distraught and that it had been awful. I can still remember the confusion on his face when I explained she was fine, happy and smiling.
Looking back now, it makes me laugh. My emotions at the time were probably exaggerated by the fact that I was 6 months pregnant and just a tiny bit over dramatic.
As time passed I slowly came to appreciate those hours of peace and silence. It helped me to feel gathered and stay grounded as a mother. I felt guilty that I enjoyed those few hours on my own but realised they were good for both of us!
When my daughter turned 4 the fears I once felt resurfaced. Suddenly this little girl was going to start school. She was going to be away from me for more then 6 hours every day. It felt too much to take.
I started school the year I turned 7, sending my daughter at the age of 4 felt insane. I fought to let her have an extra year in nursery but lost. I realised that homeschooling would never work and finally sent her off in to the world of full time education.
This time I managed to keep it together. I knew that she would bounce in happily, just as she had her first day at nursery. My beautiful daughter took it in her stride once more whilst I binge ate KitKats to help myself through a long day with out my first born.
Now, as my youngest approaches his third birthday, the fear is once more resurfacing. The idea of letting go of my littlest one is petrifying me despite the fact that I know I will come to appreciate those few hours apart (as will he). But it doesn’t mean that I want to spend any more time away from him or that I won’t appreciate the time I have with both children.
Since my daughter started school there is nothing I value higher then the holidays. I get to hear her little stories and see how her mind is growing, every day. I get to spend time with her, experiencing things with her and having fun with her.
I love the school holidays. They are my way of filling up my “mummy cup” to help navigate through the separation during term time.
It is clear how much time with our children means to us as mothers and how time with their parents means the world to them, so I find it confusing when the end of school holidays are near and there are endless social media updates about needing all day wine sessions to pull through the last few days.
Facebook status updates stating parents can not wait until school is back and they get to send their young children off for the week whilst happily returning to practicing part-time parenting.
Of course I understand that everyone needs a break but why not make the most of the little time together we have with our children?
Parenting is hard and we all need adult time, but reading how parents want their children to be at school for longer days and have less holidays makes me feel discouraged.
Why would you not want to spend as much time as you can with your children whilst they are still young? Before we know it they have grown up and surely we will all miss those innocent childhood pranks. There will come a day (I promise) when we will all laugh at the Sudocrem disasters and cheeky mishaps.
Why are we so eager to send our kids off to be raised by someone else? I love spending time with my children and although I think separation is healthy, I make the most out of those precious holiday weeks.
I absolutely love wine, but not as much as love time with my kids.
(Note from The Editor: Not only is Sofie a regular columnist for The Glass House, she also runs her own ‘gentle parenting’ blog. Pop over to thegentlemumblog.com to read more of her musings.)