Feeling all the feelings
In so many ways it feels like yesterday that I was waiting anxiously for my first child to be born.
After 18 long hours of labour, a little girl entered the World and stole our hearts. We were not to know the greater plan at that stage, which was the fact she was going to be one of four to do that to us. Through exhaustion and tears I recall asking my Obstetrician, several times, is she okay? I can still see his sweet and reassuring smile and hear his words of ‘yes, she is more than okay’.
I am pretty certain that it was the same question I asked after the birth of each of my four children. Are they okay? After years battling fertility issues and IVF, that was my biggest concern, that they were okay and I don’t think I have stopped asking it or at least thinking it since.
It wasn’t yesterday though, it was 18 and a bit years ago and although I look in the mirror at myself and see more weight, more sagging, more wrinkles and more grey hairs, the biggest reminder that it wasn’t yesterday is when I have ‘these days’, these milestones.
I recall her first day of Preschool. She was 3 ½. We lived in the Hunter Valley NSW. I sat, with her 1 ½ year old sister, at McDonalds ALL day, just in case they called me and she needed me and then I would only be one street away. They never called. She was okay.
I recall her first day of ‘big school’. She looked so grown up in her uniform and hat. My gosh, when did she get so grown up? I recall the support of the most caring group of friends I ever had. We all went to a local Tavern and drank tea all day, talking about how grown up our kids were. I couldn’t wait to pick her up. When I did, she was smiling. She was okay.
Then we moved to the Central Coast from the Hunter Valley. Day 1, Term 2 of Kindergarten. I recall that day so well as her teacher wasn’t overly welcoming, I cried in the car after dropping her off, I got nothing done all day just thinking of her and I accidentally ran over and killed our pet cat. But still, I picked her up from school and she was okay.
First day of High School, NSW. We blinked and that happened. Now, she really was SO grown up now. The eldest of four. She was nervous but she was a good kid and with good friends. She was okay.
Then. The next ‘first’ in schooling wasn’t the standard next step. We moved to Tasmania. Year 8. Middle of the year. It was horrible. Hubby still says that taking her on that first day was one of the most traumatic moments for him as a parent. Whilst we loved and chose to move to TAS, it was by far the toughest on her. I tear up as I write this because she wasn’t okay that day and she wasn’t okay for a while as she settled in to her new school and found her feet but because she told us that and we kept telling her it was ‘okay to feel her feelings’, in the end she was okay because we talked and we keep on talking. A few scars along the way, life lessons, learning strength and resilience.
As I sit here typing this, I am feeling all the feelings. It is part of me that is unapologetically me. I feel deeply. I am drinking liquorice tea and eating peanut butter straight from the jar. I am here with my 4 French Bulldogs. My 4 children are at school. This morning was another first. Or a last. Depending on which way you look at it. Both are right.
Today, is the last day of school for my eldest child. Today she REALLY looked grown up and I asked for a photo to mark the moment. She is in her ‘dress up’ clothes, a t-shirt and socks she painted (you need to watch the clip of James Corden and One Direction to understand), she is heading out to have breakfast with her best friend before college. She is driving. Her own car she saved for.
Today is her last day ever of school (yes, she has exams coming up but that doesn’t count!). It is the last day, but I remind myself and will remind her, that it is also a first.
Today, when she walks away from 13 years of schooling, it’s not just her last day. It is the first day of the rest of her life. She is okay. She survived, even doing Year 12 during the Corona pandemic.
As parents we are so proud of her.
I want her to know that it is okay to feel a mixture of emotions. Happy. Sad. Everything in between. It is okay to miss teachers. To miss seeing friends daily. To cry. To miss routine. To be sad that the chapter is over. To be anxious about what lies ahead. To be nervous about exams. Results. The rest of her life.
It’s okay …. and if, for a while it doesn’t feel completely okay, then that is okay too.
But, similarly to parenting, no part of life comes with a handbook. There is no right or wrong. We have good days and bad. Some days we fly through with confidence and others we wing it and just hope for the best.
All of this is okay. It is the time to breathe. To dream. To be proud, to be confused, happy, scared and exhilarated. It is time to listen to your gut, your heart and your mind and be true to yourself.
I have heard many times the quote that ‘school is the best days of our life’ and I don’t mean to be a party pooper but it doesn’t have to be. It doesn’t have to come to a screaming halt and stop there. Yes, adulting is different and being a ‘grown up’ can be scary, to say the least. We have different pressures and expectations and oh so many bills. But we still have choices. We still have so much to be grateful for and it is important to remember this when life gets tough and throws you adulting curve balls.
To my Miss 18, to my beloved nephew who is also in Year 12 and to all the others out there in this same boat.
To all the parents, feeling the ‘feels’ at the moment.
It is okay.
You aren’t alone.
Be proud. Be SO fricking proud.
The road has been long but the journey is far from over.
Be perfectly imperfect, because that is life.
Stop. Listen. Cry. Laugh. Pause. Put your phones away. Prioritise. Take deep breaths. Be aware. Dream. Don’t give up. Communicate. Inspire. Be inspired.
In many ways I fear that I am going to blink, be 80 years old, in a nursing home and see my children as parents and grandparents and wonder ‘where did life go’.
But then again, I also fear that I won’t.
I could only be so lucky. So blessed.
I pray that if that day comes, I still think ‘my gosh, they are so grown up’ and that I hear directly from them, from the depths of their hearts, ‘we are okay’.
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