I've never been a fan of change. I like things how they are, with me in control, knowing where I am and what to expect. It comforts me and keeps me safe. But life is all about change. The status quo is in a state of constant flux, with time ebbing and flowing and bringing new challenges in on the tide of life. Nothing stays the same. How can it?
I am at a crossroads in my life. Nothing major in the scheme of things, but life changing to me. Freddy is going to be going to school in September. Until now, being a stay at home mum to my fifth and last child has defined me. Extended breastfeeding and bed sharing with a boy that never slept through the night has made parenting him an intense experience. But over the months, his reliance on me has become less and less, as my son has found his way towards his increasing independence.
Freddy has not always been an easy child. For a while I worried about him terribly. He was high maintenance, fearful of other people, painfully shy and distressed by new experiences. Someone suggested whether I'd considered Asperger's Syndrome as a reason for his behavior, and I have to admit it had crossed my mind. I also wondered whether the fact that I was over 40 when I had him had possibly been responsible for the way he was. But I wasn't about to label my toddler or beat myself up about selfishly wanting another child late in life. My son was unique, precious and an absolute joy, as long as he felt secure in his surroundings. He just needed to find his way to deal with life outside of his very limited comfort zone.
Starting nursery was a nightmare. I put him in the local setting attached to the Infant School that I thought he would ultimately attend. It is a popular and oversubscribed nursery so I was fortunate to find him a place in the afternoons. However, it was all wrong for him. It was horrendous seeing my son regress further into himself, screaming hysterically, physically hurting himself, stuttering and going rigid with fear. He even became afraid of the people he knew, losing his trust in everything. It all happened so quickly. The negative changes were sudden and extreme. I blamed myself. I felt torn between wanting to protect him and keep him away from the world, and feeling frustrated and angry that he wasn't like the other kids. The reassurances that the nursery made to me before he started, about buddying him up with another child to help him integrate and allowing me to stay if need be, were just empty promises. The emphasis on the setting was school readiness, rigid structure and independence. There was no room for manoeuvre. My son thrived on love, nurture and security. It was too soon to try to make a highly nervous 3 year old into a schoolboy. It was all wrong.
I was proud of myself for taking him out of that place. I thought it'd feel like defeat, but it didn't. I had the power to make a change and I did. I knew however, that it was important for him to take a step towards starting school as he will be just 4 years and 2 months old come September. But he needed the right nursery to help nurture him towards being independent. I found the perfect place, with the perfect people. An emphasis on play and child-led activities. An ethos of love and care, not a hands off approach. Children are cuddled and allowed to go at their own pace. The atmosphere is relaxed. It's fun and friendly. The structure does not consume the children. It's a happy place. The place which turned my son around and made him flourish and grow and become the confident, independent and wonderful little man he is today.
I will always be grateful to them. They have given him so much. Made him realise that he can be happy away from home and away from his family. That he can make friends with other children. Join in and play. He is a different child. A joy. That painfully shy and fearful child is now a brave little boy who will now go up to kids and say hello. Other children want to play with him. It is beautiful!
After our experience of the local nursery/Infant School, I turned down the place we got for him to go there. Someone will be delighted to make use of his spot, as it is always oversubscribed. But it is not the place for us. Instead he will be attending a tiny rural Primary School in a beautiful little village. The ethos of the school is similar to Freddy's nursery. Older kids are encouraged to help and support the little ones in a nurturing and supportive environment. The child comes first and this school offers an alternative to the busy schools with their intimidating playground footfall. He is in an intake of just seven children. I am no longer worried about him. He is going to be OK.
So my son has grown. He has turned a corner and become the child I always knew he could be, helped by some amazing people along the way. But now I find myself without a young child at home for the first time in years. With the prospect of being 'me' again. That is hard to contemplate. The last four years have focused so much on being Freddy's stay at home, full time mum. Trying to find ways to make him happy and get him on track. Now I have achieved that, I wonder what I will do next.
In the past, I have reached this point in my life and made the decision to have another baby. But I'm now 44. I have five children. I'm also a grandma. I have to face the fact that their will be no more babies for me. That part of my life is over. The thing that has defined me for the last 25 years, from when I was just 19 years old is over. It's time to make some big decisions. It's time to think of myself which is scary. I can't remember how to do that! I've not had to do 'me' in a long time. This is unknown territory.
This blog has been my outlet for the last three years, but I know I have recently lost touch with the blogging community that I was once immersed in. I have felt myself become more sidelined from the virtual friendships that I had developed. I have withdrawn more from the personal side of blogging. But it can be lonely sat at my laptop writing reviews and filtering through the hundreds of spam comments that I receive day in day out and feeling no connection to the real people out there. I need to re-engage. Britmums 2014 anyone?? I have also, yet again, self-sabotaged my weight loss and am now once more overweight and unfit! I am just so predictable!! I am guessing that this has all been down to the fact that I am actually pretty scared about where my life is going. That I am going to start to have to do more for myself because it's just going to be me, myself and I, all day, every week day from September. It is however an opportunity. I know that. A chance to re-invent myself and find out who I am. I'm pretty secure in my role as wife, mother, sister, daughter, auntie, grandma...now I just need to figure out what it means to be Wendy.