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'My tears when I wave my daughter off to school for the first time will be for me' says one Gloucestershire mum

By The Citizen  |  Posted: September 03, 2014

Torin and Mirissa Dunn

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THE big day is here. Wearing the shiniest shoes she has ever owned, my little girl, Mirissa, is about to skip through the school gates.

I’ll be helping her find her coat peg and trying very hard not to cry.

And that is how we will begin the daily routine set to last the next 14 years.

For me this is the second time round. Four years ago my son started school, and I remember it felt like ‘my first day’ too. Walking into the playground I felt just as nervous and shy as my son might have felt at starting ‘big school’.

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In fact my son actually coped better than me.

He skipped out a couple of hours later saying; “Mummy I didn’t learn anything.”

It was me who was emotionally fragile. I felt the ‘big wide world’ encroaching on our family.

Up until then, I had been the centre of his world, making all the decisions about his day-to-day life, friendships and experiences.

Now I was about to hand my precious child over to the ‘system.’

His teacher seemed great and professional, the school is lovely, but still I felt apprehensive.

He was about to spend six hours a day, five days a week in this classroom with 30 other children. And even though he’d been going to childcare since he was a baby, it felt extreme.

Now my daughter, Mirissa is about to follow in his footsteps.

My little girl is going to ‘big school’ and I’ll be wrestling with my emotions all over again.

But it’s a bit different this time.

I’ve learnt a few lessons.

I still feel that the school system in the UK is; “too much, too soon”.

I’d like a gentler start for these little four-year-olds.

It seems wrong that the only choice is to send her to school for 30 hours a week.

The system is designed for the benefits of working parents not the needs of young children. A more gradual start would give her the time to enjoy a little more childhood freedom and family time.

But I know that’s a radical thought, and we have to accept the circumstances of the time.

And my son has thrived at a good community school. I can see the huge benefits he’s gained from broadening horizons. He has good friends and a sense of community. He has learnt about all kinds of things, from ancient Egypt to tropical rainforests, as well as how to be a good team player.

And I know my little girl will enjoy all those opportunities too.

So I am less fearful of school than when my first-born started.

No, my teary eyes will be for me.

I’ll have to fight very hard not to be overwhelmed with nostalgia. As a part-time journalist I have been lucky enough to enjoy days at home with her each week. So school marks the end of toddler groups, play dates and spontaneous picnics.

But realistically I know that I also spent much of that pre-school time going to the supermarket and getting housework done while keeping a toddler occupied. I’m not going to fall into a rose-tinted reverie.

No, my plan is to look forward and after eight years of motherhood to pre-school children, I’m focussing on the next chapter. With a bit more time on my hands, new opportunities beckon.

And I’ve given myself a list of jobs, starting with some much-needed DIY to fill the little bit of extra time I’ll have on my hands.

School is simply the next phase, for all of us. My role as mum isn’t diminished, it will simply be slightly different.

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