Motherhood, fear and overthinking: the school decision

We are in the midst of making one of the most important decisions we have ever had to make so far for Jasmine, her Primary school choice, and the significance of this decision has been weighing heavy on my shoulders. This is the thing with parenthood, isn’t it, that as they happen and as they unfold, particular moments can bear so much significance that they can become all-consuming. Over the last few weeks and months, ever since the day the letter arrived telling us that it was time to choose Jasmine’s school, I have spent many an hour considering this decision to the point where at times, the enormity of it all (or so it seems) has become overwhelming. I have not been able to switch off my over-analysis of each detail, each conversation and each classroom and have become ‘stuck’ on issues that have left me feeling exhausted, depleted and confused. I have sought reassurance from family and friends, hoping that someone would just say something that would ultimately help me decide. Yet deep down I already know that no matter how difficult it seems now and no matter how much it really does matter to me (and Jasmine), significant choices and significant moments in our children’s lives don’t stay significant forever. The choices, big decisions and memorable moments that once too all felt so mega, are now just smaller parts of our bigger journey, most likely etched in my memory as a Mother and erased almost entirely from Jasmine’s.

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So why then, despite knowing this, do I find myself so stuck when it comes to making Jasmine’s school choice? Why the overthinking to the point of driving myself crazy with it all? Why can’t I just make the final decision? Of course, I want the very best for her, just as all parents do for their child. We all love our kids beyond measure. We want them to thrive, reach their potential, succeed in life and ultimately to feel safe, secure, happy, loved and understood, be it at school or at home. But there’s just something so big about choosing a big school, after all, it’s where Jasmine, and then Summer, will soon be spending the majority of their time throughout their childhood. It’s the place that will harness what will hopefully be their love of learning, nurture their individualities, challenge their ever-developing brains and provide a well-rounded, fun, supportive and engaging environment, right?

But I am still terrified of getting it wrong. Even when being faced with the fortunate option of various good schools, I am still afraid to make the wrong decision. There is no crystal ball with Motherhood. There is no way of seeing our kids in the future or truly knowing that they’ll be “just fine.” Everything feels like a slight gamble, as if we’re placing bets on the best chance of a win, without ever really knowing what’s around the corner. It is certainly all a big exercise in releasing control over the things we, well, cannot control at all.

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So whilst I do think that careful consideration of a school choice and trying to find the best fit for your child (especially if they err on the side of sensitive) is vital and ultimately a huge expression of our deep love for our kids, there are several things that have helped bring my crazy overthinking brain back to more of a neutral place:

  • School is a big part of a child’s life, but it isn’t everything. There will be plenty of time and opportunities for Jasmine to learn from us as her parents and from her wider community and for us to enrich her life with a variety of experiences that will also forge her sense of identity, her desire to learn and play, and encourage her to embrace her uniqueness.
  • In a world where millions of children, and even more girls, are denied access to education at all, being faced with choosing between one good school and another becomes a relatively good problem to have. Sometimes looking at the bigger picture can really help to tone down our very valid, but often exaggerated concerns.
  • I trust in Jasmine’s ability to thrive, just as she is now, and to develop resilience when things don’t quite go to plan. I know that wherever she goes to school, not everything will always be plain sailing and that is, just life.
  • I trust in my ability as her Mother to nurture the child I know and love more than anyone else in the world. I know that I will sense her happiness or unhappiness and I know that I will always advocate for her, support her and be a part of her school journey with her, wherever that may be.
  • The significance of this decision will fade over time. As she brings home her homework and talks about her friends, as she learns to sound out words and learns how to add numbers, the weight on my shoulders will lessen and the joy of watching my first baby enter this huge new chapter of her life will take over instead.
  • It is a privilege to have a child whose “normal” needs will be met without me needing to fight for her. There are parents out there, many of whom I know and work with, for whom this decision really will be a monumental choice and where each and every detail about a school really can make a difference for their child.
  • I recognise the role of fear in the mix of this decision and I know that fear is our mind’s way of protecting ourselves from things we cannot predict or control. I fear her reaction to another big change, to bigger classrooms and to pressure to perform. I fear not being a part of her day or that she won’t tell me things that happen. I fear that I will miss out on her, hugely. But I also know that FEAR is just false evidence appearing real and the antidote to fear is to not only lean into it but to trust in the gut feelings that exist within us too, that everything will be absolutely OK.

When there is fear, there is work to be done on ourselves so that we can ease into these moments with greater understanding, focussing more on our children and their reality than on ourselves and the projections of our own fears. No one said it would be easy but it’s difficult because we care so much and that certainly makes me feel better.

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