What it feels like when your last child is starting school

Amanda Blair tells The Weekly what it's like when your last child starts their first day of school
Starting school

I started crying in early December. Beginning as a single tear, it quickly turned into deep sobs.

Sobs that left me gasping for breath and looking for a quiet corner to hide in. Sobs usually reserved for a tragedy.

Yet this was no tragedy – quite the opposite. Everybody was joyous, excited and eager, except for me.

I didn’t think I’d be one of “those women”. Previously I’d scoffed at “those women” presuming they didn’t have enough going on in their lives. I’d made the assumption they were deeply unhappy with their lot and that this teeny weeny event was the catalyst for all their angst to come spilling out.

Yet now I know that none of this is true. I’ve been upset for weeks and I’m not unhappy about anything (except war, famine, homelessness, my fat thighs and Firass Dirani’s seeming disinterest in having sex with me)

Moreover, this event isn’t teeny weeny at all. I take it all back. It’s enormous, horrifying and catastrophic, and I’m not sure I’m ever going to get past the pain of my last child starting school.

This never happened with the other three. I was so desperate for them to start I didn’t even stop the Tarago on their first days; I just opened the convenient side door and threw them out with a kiss and a Vegemite sandwich.

I was so keen for them to put down the poster paints and pick up the phonics that I even tried to enrol one of them a term early by claiming they were “gifted”.

And yes he is – with a mother who can argue very convincingly – but his gifts didn’t show up in the Mensa test.

Yet my little girl, she’s different. She’s my baby. She’s the last one. Since the day she was born, she’s watched her siblings pack their lunches and carry their bags to this magical place called school. Off they’ve gone, one by one, three little ducks going out each day, over the hills and not so far away. It’s her turn now and she’s so ready to go – but I’m not ready to let her.

For it heralds the end of a big chapter in my parenting life. One that was often annoying with its gifts of half-day pick-ups, head lice notifications and scorn when (again) I was the only parent to forget fruit for the kindergarten shared plate lunch.

Yet mostly it was really sweet, as were they when showing me they could write their names for the first time. Or when they read me their first few learned words and almost burst with pride. Sweetest of all was the look of excitement at 3.15 pick-up when I knew that, even though they were having a ripper time at kinder, I was still their number one piece of play equipment.

Yet that will change now. I’m cutting the last umbilical cord and she’s off. Quickly, she’ll move on and create a new world. One filled with friendships experiences and adventures and none of them arranged by me, unlike all those play-dates.

She’ll live in a world where I’m on the guest list but not on her A-list. She’ll need me, but not necessarily want me, particularly through the teenage years when everything I do, even how I breathe, will be embarrassing. And that’s okay – I have to let go.

I’ve done a good job nurturing this feisty, funny, confident five-and-a-half-year-old, who stands in her uniform, the hem of which I’ve taken up by 12cm, assuring me her new school bag isn’t too heavy, even though it’s more than half her size.

I offer to carry it for her. “No Mum, I’ll be okay. I’m a big girl now.”

I know, sweetie, but that’s the problem.

You’re a big girl and I’m crying like a baby.

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