Audrey Starts School!

Audrey holding a picture of me at primary school

I’ve just dropped off a piece of me in a classroom with lots of people I don’t know. The little lady has started reception at primary school.

My daughter is friendly, kind and gentle. She loves imaginative play and reading books. She likes routine. I have no doubt that she will enjoy school, I’m just not sure how much I’ll enjoy her being there!

Anyone who knows me that I will cry at TV programmes, songs that come on the radio and a fleeting thought about someone’s sad situation, so it was a huge surprise that I didn’t cry today dropping Audrey off at her first day of school.

Several factors helped – school drop off is not a romantic, sound-tracked moment.; it’s carnage! We went as a family, with a child in a buggy and one on the loose, we battled through a crowd of legs and shouting and hugging and hellos and goodbyes to get to her class. Also, Audrey was very excited. She managed to (almost) walk all the way there (major achievement) and she jumped, sang and hugged her way down the road, she was genuinely happy to be going to school. It’s tricky to feel the true emotion of a momentous occasion when you are in it. It’s actually easier for me to be tearful anticipating it or reflecting on it.

And so, here I am in a cafe. Ted and Rex are off shopping (typical boys!) and Audrey is in her school classroom, with her teachers.

Of course I can’t help but reflect on 5 years with her. 10 months of maternity leave of just us, followed by a mix of us and nursery, us bump and nursery, us Rex and nursery… and now Audrey has her own thing, she is a schoolgirl!

“They” say it goes in a blink of an eye. I don’t know if  I feel quite like that, but I do feel immensely proud of Audrey and how far we have come from tiny baby on oxygen to confident 5 year old.

As I analyse my feelings, I can see what is creeping in… I felt it during maternity leave with Rex. She had her nursery days and we went to groups but I was suddenly a different mum, I was seemingly a mum of one typical child but that was not my whole identity. She is a part of me, a part of me that I am truly proud of and it can feel very strange to be out and about without her. What a mix of emotions this brings and a new chapter for us all – I have handed in my notice at work and plan to work on freelance writing. I am very lucky to have a supportive husband allowing me to take this leap and it also means that I can be there to drop off and pick up Audrey from school.

Happy September and good luck to everyone in their “firsts”, I love autumn and I’m feeling so very happy that its crisp and sunny outside and the leaves will soon be crunchy under our feet. My favourite time of year.

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Eyes

In my day, it was called a lazy-eye or being cross-eyed. Apparently we now call it a squint, so Audrey has a squint.

If you had told me years ago that my child would have a squint, I’d have been pretty upset about it. It wasn’t exactly a blessing as a child and I have always thought how unappealing it must have looked – people cross their eyes to make an ugly face and well, that was my face!

I have memories of being bullied about this at primary school (under 10 years old), as well as at secondary school, but at a very young age it didn’t bother me. Although I do remember one incident from when I was probably around 6, when I was at home crying to my mother because a boy had been teasing me and calling me cross-eyed. I recall my mum telling me that the children were teasing me because they were jealous of my “beautiful eyes and lovely long eyelashes” and I just thought she was deluded. Because it certainly didn’t feel like I had beautiful eyes.

After some time with glasses and a patch, I had an operation around the age of 4 to correct the lazy eye. Shortly after, my other eye decided it too couldn’t be bothered to work in conjunction with the other one and face forward, so I had another operation shortly before my 8th birthday.

I don’t remember the first operation as such, just being in a bed with my parents at my side, constantly doing crosswords or playing this join the dots game my dad always played (that was a little like noughts and crosses). Oh and I think my parents’ best friends bought me a Minnie Mouse cuddly toy back from Disneyland around that time. Other than that, no pain or scary memories.

The second time I remember more clearly. I had a private room (with a TV!), I made friends with an old lady down the corridor (most other patients were there for cataracts), people gave me presents (I got a personalised Peter Pan book, very cool) and I had a terrible reaction to the anaesthetic. I awoke and became some sort of crazy angry child, thrashing my arms, trying to rip the patch off my face, shouting I was going to be sick… no I’m not… I still remember it so vividly and how my mum said I shocked all the nurses as I had been such a lovely little girl who turned!

Anyway, funnily enough, the fact that I’ve been through the operation (twice), makes the thought of Audrey needing surgery not such a big deal, my main worry would be her being on the receiving end of any bullying.

Although my operations did much to ‘clear it up’, my eyes were (and still are), subject to the odd turn in. It was always bad in photos (and I hasten to add I have never been able to control it and was only semi-aware of it happening) and if I have to look someone in the eye from a distance, I always worry it is going to happen, even though most people who have only known me in the past 10 years or so say they have never seen it happen.

But as anyone who has lived through secondary (high) school knows, if you have an obvious “flaw” of any kind, you are screwed. And it’s difficult to forget how brutal teenagers can be. Around the age of 12 or 13, a song came out called ‘Kriss Kross’. Wow, spectacular timing. It was sung at me a lot. There was also a horrible girl who used to ask me what it was like to have “bumble bee eyes” (wtf??), her profile now sometimes pops up on Facebook as someone I should befriend, ha. 

Eventually my eyes were getting better and better and people seemed to have short memories as the bullying faded away. Luckily, shortly before turning 15, our dog bit me and I had a hideous scar on my lip as a new focus for the haters (!); but that’s another story…

Anyway, what’s odd is that I don’t think Audrey’s squint is ugly. I sometimes forget she has one (at her last eye appointment we were asked if she squinted less whilst wearing her glasses and neither my husband or I could answer the question). I’m actually surprised by how little it bothers me.

But then sometimes one of us takes a great photo of her and there is the squint… And I think; “If only her eyes were straight, that would be a lovely photo”. And I feel bad about that. Because it’s not a big deal and like my mother before me, I genuinely think Audrey has the most beautiful eyes. 

The fact is, kids are bullied even if they have no obvious things to pick on (maybe they are too pretty or too thin or too clever), so we can’t do anything to protect our little ones from the harsh realities of school life. But as I passed a noisy school playground the other day, picturing what Audrey might be like as a little girl in her uniform, I decided she will be ok no matter what life throws at her, because she is awesome and she has so much love in her life.