Monday, February 02, 2009

It's all YOUR fault

Today was Sapphire's first day at her new school.

She was excited and chattering happily as we walked the two streets to the school, holding my hand and skipping. She was soon lost in the gaggle of kids at assembly and my last glimpse of her was as a blonde head amongst a bobbing sea of dark-blue-and-turquoise uniforms heading to their classrooms.

I felt fearful and tearful and disconsolately walked along Pin Oak and sat on my own at a cafe surrounded by Yummy Mummies sipping cappuccinos with their Fred Bare toddlers and designer-clad girlfriends.

At home, some work was done, but mostly my heart was pounding too hard and fast as though I was about to stand up at a podium and deliver a speech on Quantum Physics with no pants on. I kept glancing up at the clock, yet still jumped up in surprise when my watch alarm beeped at 3:15. Milly ran to the laundry where her lead is kept because school pick-ups mean 'walkies' in her world.

Standing uncertainly under a willow, I eventually spotted Sapphire. She dashed over to me and said, "I didn't have anyone to play with at recess or lunch."

Ooooooooffffff, my heart deflated slowly, painfully. That would be the worst thing for a kid to experience on their very first day at a brand new school where they know no-one. And we were now talking about my kid, my life, my bundle to protect.

"That's not good enough," I said, grabbing her hand. "Let's go to the front office and see if we can catch your teacher and ask him to make sure you have a buddy to link up with at recess and lunch tomorrow."

Sapphire hung back. "But Mum----"

Too late. I was in there, powered by perspiration and anxiousness and the teacher just happened to be standing by the front door. "Er, I'm Sapphire's Mum, nice to meet you. She just told me that she didn't have anyone to play with today. I know you're busy and it's only the first day and there's settling in do and everything but do you think you could kind of make sure that someone looks after her tomorrow?"

He started to say that it was his first day too and he thought that Sapph----

"Please." Over Sapphire's head I gave him my most pleading, tears-not-quite-there-yet stare. "Please, I'm just asking that she's taken care of tomorrow." He agreed distractedly, clearly wishing to escape into the staff car park and away from this particular Helicopter-parent's annoying clutches.

Walking down Wellington Street, I asked Sapphire if she wanted to go down to Racecourse Road and get an iceblock. "No Mum, I just want to go straight home," she hissed between clenched teeth.

As soon as the front door was unlocked, it was clear why. She threw herself on the bed, sobbing. "I HATE this school Mum! I want to go back home, where I belong!"

"I know Sweetie. I know it's been a hard day for you, but----"

"It's all your fault!"

Ooooooooffffff; this time my heart felt as though it was being cruelly stretched and shredded. Oh my god; was I making it worse for her than it really was? Was I projecting my own miserable experiences of starting year eight in a tough Scottish high school thirty eight years ago onto my sunny nine year old? Wasn't this the time for a parent to rise up; to say and do the right thing in order to make such a stressful transition more tolerable and easier for their child? Why was she stuck with such a frigging useless role model?

What on earth was I supposed to say? Besides, my heart was still going Ooooooooffffff. It hurt; physically ached. I felt so helpless; imagine how she must have felt, counting down every single minute of the interminable lunch time so that it would end quicker and she'd no longer have to be sitting on the bench by the water taps alone.

Time to try again. "Look, maybe you need some time to have a good cry, let all your tension and worries out and then come outside with me and give Skipper a pat, hmmm?" She shoved her head under the pillows as her reply. I carefully backed away, closed the door as gently and sat outside with a small white rabbit in my arms, his floating fluff gradually turning my black-t-shirt into white.

Maybe a good cry was going to benefit me as well. So I let myself have one, all sniffly and loud, regardless of whether any of the twelve flat-dwellers on their balconies overlooking our little garden could see me.

There was a tap on my shoulder. "Mum?"

Wiping my nose inelegantly on the back of my hand - like I've told Sapphire not to do so many times - I turned to look at her. "Mum, did you see the note I left you this morning?"

No, I hadn't. "Where did you put it?"

She held it out to me. "It was on the kitchen bench, next to your iPod player thingy."

We sucked a butterscotch each, holding each other's hands.
"Yes, love?"

"I'll be braver tomorrow. I'll do what you say and I will ask someone if I can join them and their friends."

"Oh sweetie, it will be better at school tomorrow and you'll----" She stuck up her hand to shoosh me.

"Mum, enough. Let's talk about something else now, OK? Didn't you say that you wanted to try that green curry paste we got from the Chinese market yesterday?"

I chopped up two cloves of garlic and a huge brown onion, feeling so grateful that they made my eyes all red and watery.


delamare said...

Kath, you've made me cry too (but that's OK). For what it's worth, I'd have done exactly the same thing. This is tough, but you will get through it. It just would be a lot nicer if the getting through it bit was behind you and Sapphire...

Miles McClagan said...

To whom it may concern - I had to change schools, no, countries AND Schools 3hree times. It was bloody awful, especially in Scotland, where I had to walk down a carpet like a bloody guest on Parkinson for an introduction in front of everyone...

However, what is good is this is a chance for wonderous re-invention. Trust me, those kids are trying to figure you out, so you can become an entirely new person, which is fab. For a glorious 6ix months in Burnie, I was worldly cynical guy, and I was cool. I blew it, but I suspect whatever you re-invent yourself as, you won't blow it, because I'm a bit of a benny, and I suspect you aren't...

I'd like to close by saying, if you need to have a laugh at this fraught time, in the last frame of Teenwolf, one of the extras has his pants down right in frame. Cheers me right up.

Yours, MM (not Mere Male, obv)

Catherine said...

My heart goes out to you both...your feelings were my feelings last week, and even today, when Bojangus is with his dad, I was dying to ring him and find out if his day went well. At this time we just want to protect them for all of this...but there's nothing much you can do, although I do think talking to the teacher was a good idea...pity he didn't arrange playmates HIMSELF on the first day though. Hopefully he gets more thoughtful as he goes on...

Anonymous said...

No doubt about it - when you're young there's a lot of comfort to be found under a pilllow.


Kath Lockett said...

Thanks everyone. Today's note from Sapphire said:
"I love you so much, and I'll ask someone to play."

Yeah, my 'advice' was as lame as the L'Oreal ad - I told her, "Look you are worth it. You are WORTH trying harder for. Tomorrow, forget your shyness and ASK to join in."

Fingers crossed.

ashleigh said...

Yep, fingers crossed. It will be hard... and figuring out the right crowd will take a while.

Grit your teeth... twill be different at the end of term, just the getting there is likely to be a bit fraught.

Some consolation might be a few other parents who might be a bit like me and SWMBO. Youngest came home from school telling us about some kid who nobody would have anything to do with (new, or some such). We said "well why dont YOU do something about it?" He did. They're still friends - that episode was about 6 years ago!

drb said...

Yes, it is tough, very tough for both bog and small but it too will pass.
Hang in there!!

word verification: exubbita

River said...

Gosh, this made me cry. As I read further and discovered it was the teacher's first day too, I thought that maybe he didn't know that Sapphire was new to the school AND to the city, so didn't think to ask were there any new kids and who would like to help them today, tomorrow, the whole week....
I know how hard it is to walk up to kids you've never seen before and start conversation, heck, I still can't do it now. Really young kids don't seem to have much trouble, but it's not so easy in a school where all the kids seem to already have their groups. I'm glad Sapphire has decided she'll try again and I'm sure she'll have friends in no time. Those other kids were probably wondering if they should come over and talk, maybe hanging back a bit shy themselves, wondering what sort of person this new girl is.

River said...

I'm a day behind here, it's Tuesday already, so how did she go???? Anxiously waiting....
(fingers crossed...good news, good news, good news...)

Sig said...

"as though I was about to stand up at a podium and deliver a speech on Quantum Physics with no pants on"

I'm going to have to throw this reference into a conversation today Kath!

Kath Lockett said...

G'day Sig, welcome back stranger! You can use that line by all means, but I insist on sharing the royalties 50/50.

goeastyoungwomantodubai said...

Awwww. I think I feel more sorry for you (not meaning I don't mean sorry for her though.)

It's more painful watching someone you love suffer than it is for the person it is happening to.

Had to laugh at the end when she told you to zip it and refocus. That was hilarious! That girl's gonna be alright!