My oldest child started elementary school this year.
It was a big event for me as elementary school was not the same as the kindergarten he had been in during his earlier years.
To me, kindergarten was akin to a nursery where the kids learned via play activities, crafts, basic introduction to languages, and other studies, and the teachers there played dual roles as educators and also as babysitters.
Then in the year he was to turn 7, he started his formal education.
In elementary school, the teachers are no longer babysitters, the hours are longer, the classes are bigger with more students, academic performance is prioritized, and sometimes kids may even get bullied.
Hence a level of independence is expected as they go into this new school era.
So I was nervous for him, and anxious as the days drew nearer to his first day of elementary school.
The day arrived, and I took leave from work to be close to his school, in case he needed me.
His uniform looked oversized on him, we had bought a size or two larger on purpose, knowing he would grow into them.
Even his school bag was large on him, so we got him a trolley bag that he could pull, to reduce the weight of his new school books on his back.
We walked him to his school entrance, and let go of him as he went the rest of the way to his class, alone.
The weeks went by, and we somewhat normalized the new routine. In the morning we would send him to school first, then his sisters to kindergarten and a babysitter, and then the adults to work.
But even after a few months of him starting big boy school, I still have some amount of anxiety every time we drop him off at school early in the morning.
On a typical day, I would walk him to the school gate, I’d tell him I love him and he would enter and turn back to wave goodbye to me from inside. Then he walked to his class amidst a crowd of students and teachers surrounding him.
I will stay back a minute or two and continue to watch him from the school gates.
He was going to be on his own for the next ten and a half hours, as he would go to an after-school care center when school was dismissed. There he would stay until 5.30 pm, and we would only see him after work.
These are some of the thoughts that run through my head as I watch him walk towards his classroom.
“Will he make new friends today?
Does he have enough tissues to clean himself up after eating?
How about his nose, he had a tendency to get nosebleeds on occasion. I’ve put an extra face cloth in his bag in case he does.
What if he breaks his face mask straps, did I pack a spare in his bag?
Will he have a stomach ache in school from having milk in the morning?
Will he also then have enough tissues to use in the school toilets?
Will he get sleepy in class? He did sleep a little later last night.
It’s been very hot lately, I hope he has a fan over his seat, so he won’t sweat too much. Ah, good thing I packed that face cloth in his bag.
I hope he enjoys his school.”
Only after he disappears from view, would I turn back towards the car.
It sounds like a lot to process in a minute, and it could be due to him being my first baby to reach this milestone.
The rest of the day I would be occupied and distracted by work, till I came home after work to see him and his sisters at his grandparents’ home.
There I would hug him and find him alright, happy, and that he is on his way to being an independent kid.
Parenting is a balance of holding on and letting go.
I’ve heard this saying once, and it felt apt to be used now.