IMy daughter went back to school today and I am at a loss. Sad. Anxious. Lonely. Missing her. Miss J has gone back to school and taken a little piece of my heart with her.
I have been reading and writing about coronavirus – at work and on my blog and on social media – for weeks. Thinking about its impacts. Working through its implications. Talking about how it is changing everything around us. Then one big impact hit me right between the eyes this morning.
The virus – with all its nasty, unfair, unkind, ugliness – has brought one positive, one golden opportunity for me: the chance to spend the last nine weeks – all day, every day – with my little girl. With my mini Dr J. With the person who has brought such light, joy and delight into our lives.
Miss J is six and so has been in school for two years and before that was in nursery and pre-school. We have done the first day at school thing at least twice before and have dealt with the separation anxiety and the cutting of apron strings things when your little person takes a few tentative independent steps in their life. But this has been different. Partly, it is because she has just – today – started a new school which brings a whole set of new things for her and us – that’s for another blog. Partly it has been very personal for me this time.
When Miss J started nursery, pre-school and her reception year at school, I was there. Involved. Often on the school run but I hadn’t spent every day of the first three and a half years of her life with her, as Dr J had done. I am very proud to have played a full, active, co-parenting role in her life and been present on her little journey so far. But it is not the same as Dr J’s early years involvement. When I went back to work – two weeks after my paternity leave started in 2014, Dr J was at home. Full-time parenting. Full-time care giver. Full-time mum. Over the next few years – partly helped – if that is the right word (!!) by my breakdown, I was at home – working at home a fair bit – but I wasn’t the key figure in getting washed, dressed, fed, exercised, entertained, educated and enjoyed all day, every day. I got my fix each day but I was busy earning the pennies.
As our reset lives have developed – very happily and by design – Dr J is the one with the big job and the pressured diary and I am the one who is the school runner, the chef, the hair washer and drier, the entertainer. It is a lovely thing to be able to share that role which Dr J made her own in those first 42 months – she set the bar impossibly high. I will never reach that bar, but there again, she will never be able to sing as badly as me; make as many funny noises or talk in so many strange voices as me – all in the name of entertainment. We are a wonderful team and I am lucky to be able to play the role in Miss J’s life that makes me happy. A role I could never have played if I had stayed on the toxic corporate conveyer belt on which I had envisaged spending the rest of my working life.
These last nine weeks together have been blown in by a very ill wind but have been a blessing. It has been very tough balancing work (it has not been quiet at work following the pandemic outbreak) with parenting and managing my mental health but it has been worth it. I have loved it. I am lucky to have had it. All the daily walks in the park during full lockdown; the project Mc2 lunches (it’s a Netflix programme about four girls who are scientists and secret agents, obvs); afternoon games in the garden; trips to the shops as we count the number of dogs we spot – and try to scheme to convince Dr J to let us have one (without success); quiet time to talk, to listen, just to be together.
As I watched her go up the steps today and into her new school playground I felt a tinge of sadness. A gulp. I was closing a chapter which we will never reopen. Yes, we have the summer holidays coming up but it won’t be the same. This was a unique few weeks; once in a lifetime circumstances; a one-off moment. I waited – out of sight – for as long as I could this morning to assure myself that she was ok before walking back to the car. A lump in my throat and one tear fighting to get out of my left eye.
As I have written before, part of my story is my separation anxiety and attachment disorder which means I fear losing those closest to me – fear being abandoned by those I love. Meet any child whose parents divorced when they were very young and spent years working out how to process multiple parents and they will likely have a version of this story.
Dr J and I are pleased that Miss J is back to school – six months without any schooling at her age would have not be great for her. We know that others have different views and I hope we can all agree to respect each other on that one. But as happy as I am to see her back in the school saddle today, a little bit of me has died today. I am here at my desk at home, working in peace and quiet; no giggly distractions; no fun ideas to take me away from my emails; no-one hiding under my desk whilst I’m on a call, tickling my feet and making animal noises to make my laugh; no-one appearing behind me to see my colleagues on Teams or Zoom.
It’s all so quiet today, apart from a little ache I can hear inside. Thankfully, I am picking her up at 15:15. It can’t come soon enough to mend my slightly broken heart.