Saturday, 3 September 2016

Summer holidays, starting school and lost opportunities

I had such plans for the last six weeks.

We had a long list of things to do, places to go. We were going to have so much fun. Above all, I was going to shower my 4 year old with love and affection, filling up her bucket with assurance in the hope it would help her to cope with the behavioural expectations school will place on her.

Instead, I seem to have spent much of the holidays stressed, tense, shouty and angry. And her behaviour has got worse, creating a vicious cycle.

What went wrong?

Maybe I planned too much, overestimated what we could achieve whilst still having much needed downtime. Maybe I underestimated how hard it would be to balance the needs of a 4 year old and a baby, even with my husband on hand for most of the time. Maybe we tried to do too much in terms of housework, meaning that one on one time with the kids was too scarce.

And I know I'm probably focussing on the negative. We have had fun. We've spent time with family and friends, been on a lovely (if tiring) glamping holiday to the Yorkshire coast and enjoyed a few day trips too. At times, it's been great.

But the prospect of school has loomed large. I've been preoccupied with getting her ready - getting her to dress herself, go to the toilet in time, eat sensibly. Worrying about how her strong willed, assertive, defiant and mischievous nature will be received by school. Will her self esteem be crushed as she sees her name on the red traffic light again and again? Will her self-perception as a 'naughty kid', started by nursery, become ingrained? Will they see her as a go-getter who will one day use her traits to go far, or as a nuisance who needs to be tamed?

I set myself a gargantuan task in trying to kerb her challenging behaviour in just six weeks, while also looking after a baby, working freelance and trying to get on top of all the jobs that have been neglected since Ezra arrived in the scene. And now, just days off starting school, I feel deflated. The opportunities we seemed to have at the start of the summer are now lost, and I've not been the mother I planned to be.

I hope my fears about school are misplaced. I hope that we've had enough good times this holiday for Eleanor to have good memories of it. Above all, I hope that she knows I love her unconditionally - even if I shout a lot.

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