Thursday, 19 April 2012

school rules

So we had the school decision today. All the mums are a-flutter with relief or panic. Phones are buzzing, allegiances forming, plots hatching about the outcome – over which we have little or no control.

Snooks has got in to our second choice - second choice on the form though actually the Engineer’s preferred option. It is the school which first offered Snooks a nursery place, which we turned down in favour of the smaller, cuter and arguably more insular place where he has been for the last eight months. As you know, it has not been an easy ride and each bump along the way has often led us to ask “Did we do the right thing?” When we filled in the form my main motive for putting it first was to avoid wrenching Snooks away from familiar surroundings and faces for the third time in his four years. We now have that prospect again.

However it is not all bad. He has done it before. He now already has under his belt the knowledge that he can walk into an institution where he does not know a soul, leave me at the gate and cope with it. It is not something I ever had to do. With older siblings and a teacher-mother, I always had a family member in the building. My first school friend, who is now Snooks’ Godmother, did have that experience. She was the eldest in her family and her teacher-mother refused to teach in the school where she was a pupil - a wise move in my opinion. The Godmother, whom I befriended on our first day of school used to abscond every lunchtime and was frequently found, aged four, taking the shortcut home through the local council estate. I vaguely remember looking for her in the afternoons wondering where she had gone. At four you don’t take these things too personally. Nevertheless she herself is now a primary teacher of 20 years’ standing and a knockout Godmother. She credits my mother with inspiring her to teach.

In the build-up to this nerve-wracking day we visited her in the freezing northern hail where I was given a crash course in How to Steer Snooks Through the Ups and Downs of Life. It seems I was a little unprepared. At each story of injustice, rejection or just plain meanness I related about Snooks’ social experience came the reply, “That’s just life.” I learned a lot during our short stay in between riding through a storm on the East Lancs Railway, playing with a Black Hole at Jodrell Bank and watching Snooks fly off a roundabout powered by the legs of a gang of excitable orthodox Jewish children who happily let him join in their game. I learned these things; kids are mean, life’s unfair, we are not always happy and that he will learn from all these difficult experiences how to cope when they crop up again. It suddenly became very clear to me that by trying to protect him from hurt, I was preventing him from learning how to handle it. My deepest fear - that at some point in his adult life he would feel too sad to go on - was driving me to deny him the very thing he would need if that ever happened.

So Snooks will be taking his thickening skin and his emotional toolkit on his next adventure into the Big School with its three storey building and high electric gates. Hey, they have a hot air balloon on their jumpers, loads of bikes and pictures of the planets painted on the playground. What’s not to love?

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