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.


Motherhood and the phenomenon of time

Time changes our children at a remarkable rate and time replaces our memories that were once so vivid with ones that have now become a little hazy, much to our disbelief.  Time changes the appearance of our children too. Longer hair, longer legs, a bigger smile. It fulfils for us a wish we made when they were babies, when we could only begin to imagine how they’d be as they grew and what a delight this change is to behold.

As our children approach their next birthday and become a year older, it becomes harder to remember them before, with the newer version of them forever replacing the older one even though really, they’re still the same. Layer upon layer builds up, each day providing new joys, new memories and new things to absorb. Do we have endless capacity to remember each and every change?

Photos and videos we took provide a heartwarming and beautiful way to remember times gone by yet also make us question how we let these moments pass and how, maybe, we didn’t realise then just how magical they were. Or maybe we did? We document first steps, first words, first birthdays, first shoes and first moments of everything in an attempt to lock these moments in time forever because otherwise, they just vanish. We can’t trust that our memories alone will stand the test of time in years to come.

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Newborn Jasmine

Time is a constant in our world and it is always moving forward, never stopping. A second will always be as long as a second has always been and a day, the same length too. Yet on some days time seems to stretch and drag and on others it races us to the finish line. Time reminds us that nothing, be it good or bad, lasts forever.

Time confuses our minds into feeling that the numbers can’t be true. “How can that have happened a year ago?” we ask, our minds searching to make sense of this confusion.  Our brains scramble that this week marks the start of year three of parenting yet day one feels like yesterday and in an instant we are stunned by how much time has passed, the proof being the child stood before us.

Time passing is a reminder of the need to slow down, to pause and to breathe and to take things in just as they are but then we remember that “slowing down” is simply a perception too because time waits for no man. Memories don’t stay as vivid as we believe they will. Not all memories anyway. The details slip away. What age they did that and what age they did this. Some of it is foggy now, not that it matters I suppose, as long as the memory itself still exists. It’s just scary how passing time makes us forget, isn’t it?

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Jasmine at 16 months, appearing to me now to be just a baby

Our children are constantly growing, blooming and changing at a far greater rate than we are, even though we grow as they do. Our child today, at nearly 3 is the same child she was at 2 because she was destined to be this way but who she is now was impossible to know as time doesn’t allow us to truly see into the future but just to live project forward using imagination.

Time makes things appear differently depending from where, or when, we are viewing them. Our once “so grown up” two year old now seems so baby-like to look back on. So small, so sweet and so young. At the time she’d never been as big as in that moment and so in that moment, that’s how she was. Now we are in a different time and therefore my view of that same child is warped and we are confronted with feelings of longing for that once so small child.

This childhood. This precious time of which parents so often speak. It is going so quickly though the speed of time has never changed. It is yet another perception. An interfering emotion. A desire to be able to hold on a little tighter to feelings and moments so that time doesn’t dissolve them as it so cruelly does and perhaps a desire too to speed things up sometimes, the long days, the hard bits, the not-so-fun moments.

We long for a way to be able to hold moments in time forever. That cuddle with arms wrapped round wide, that kiss on the soft and still chubby cheeks, that sweet and curious voice. We don’t want to forget that sentence that made us chuckle or that question that in it’s innocence made us momentarily remember childhood ourselves. Time allows our children to learn, to make sense of the world a little bit more each day. Time gives them the ability to experience life, moment by moment.

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Jasmine, one year ago today

Will time allow us to remember it all, to lock it up forever and have it all to look back on? The sacred details of the most wonderful moments that are a struggle to recall nowadays. Time often seems to be rushing us and it’s hard to keep up. It is the most precious commodity, each day only providing a finite amount, urging us in this quiet way to learn to live fully.

Time gifts us so much and is the gift that keeps on giving. Every day we are granted another day to Mother, to parent, to love and to laugh and to marvel at the funny games time plays with our minds. Every day we are given 86,400 seconds to use as we please. Every day our children live so presently as we, the adults, dart back and forth between past, present and future, forgetting so often that the only time that is truly ever guaranteed, is now.




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