First week!

We made it to the weekend!! It has been an emotional rollercoaster and definitely a shock to the system for all 3 of us!

Despite putting an alarm on, I woke up early ready for my daughters first day at school having spent the night before getting everything ready to make the morning as easy as possible. I was anxious for this first big milestone, and I guess I was anticipating how my daughter may feel. However, even though I had to wake her up she was excited about her first day. Before we left for school (20 minutes earlier than we needed to!) I took the obligatory photos of her in her uniform, and I cannot believe how grown up she looked!

When we arrived at school, she was still excited and could see all the fun things that her teacher had prepared for her class as we walked past her classroom. When it was time for her to go in, she walked in confidently without so much as a second glance at me or her sister and in a way that made it easier and even though I had my sunglasses on standby, they weren’t needed. The rest of the day consisted of checking the time and wondering how she was and what she was doing but I had her little sister to keep me distracted!

Home time couldn’t come quickly enough, and I was eager to see how her first day had gone. As she walked out of her classroom she looked as though she had been there for longer than a day and seemed to have taken it all in her stride. So, I breathed a huge sigh of relief!

However, when it came to the second day things were very different. I put it down to my daughter being on overdrive the night before as she kept talking about her day and struggling to fall asleep as if she still had adrenalin pumping around her body. So, the following morning from the minute I woke her up she was not a happy bunny and was tearful and kept saying that she didn’t want to go to school. This threw me a little even though it made sense how she may have felt tired or a little overwhelmed and so when it came to the start of the school day, I left her sobbing which broke my heart.

Luckily that seemed to be a one off and the rest of the week she was happy to go to school and spoke fondly of everything she had done and how she had made a friend.

Finally, Friday arrived and although it was lovely to see that my daughter appeared to have quickly settled into school, I was very relieved that it was the last school run of the week. I was exhausted!

On the first day I had made an effort to look good for the school run (don’t ask me why!) but by Friday I barely scraped my hair back or put any make up on and didn’t really care about what I was wearing!!

Who would have thought that the sunglasses would have been needed on the final day of the week?!

When my daughter came out of her classroom her teacher told me that she had something special to show me…she had been given a Headteachers Award for her first week at school and it said how kind and respectful she is. And that’s when I had a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye! A very proud Mummy moment!! I was incredibly proud of my daughter for getting through the first week of school and had already promised her a treat at the weekend, but this was the icing on the cake!

I am grateful to my daughter’s teacher for making this week as easy as possible as it is a lot for any child to take in.

I am also proud of my youngest daughter as this is the longest, she has spent without her big sister, and she has been amazing!

By Friday night I was definitely ready to put my feet up and so looking forward to not having to put my alarm on!

1st day of school!

It only seems like yesterday that my eldest daughter was born and yet here I am nearly 5 years later, and my baby girl is starting primary school this week!

I have to be honest and admit that I have very mixed emotions about it. I am sure some parents cannot wait for their child to start school but to be truthful, part of me doesn’t want her to go. Obviously, I won’t share this with her at all, I have been and will continue to be incredibly supportive and positive about her starting school. However, it has affected me more than I thought it would. I knew this day was coming but the closer it gets the more emotional I feel.

It’s bizarre because I taught 5- and 6-year-olds for more than 5 years and I know that those children who are tearful when leaving their grown-ups are often fine within a few minutes.

Yet here I am as a teacher and a Mum, and I feel as though I am handing over my baby/my little girl to a complete stranger (her teacher), and I don’t like it. Nobody knows my daughter like I do and I’ve not been inside her new school or had chance to talk to her teacher due to Covid restrictions.

I know that my daughter is ready for school, and she is looking forward to it, deep down I know that she will be fine, and she is ready for the challenges and fun times ahead.

I’m not sure if my emotions have stemmed from being a mother or whether feelings and memories been resurfaced from my own childhood. To be fair, I have lovely memories of most of my time at primary school. I remember being in reception and my first ever teacher – Mrs Duck! She was so incredibly lovely and everyone I went to school with remembers her fondly. I remember her playing ‘Congratulations’ by Cliff Richard in assemblies and how she would let us have a nap on the bed she had in her classroom. If we ever hurt ourselves, we would get given a jelly baby – I wonder how many children pretended to hurt themselves just so they could get one! Whenever it was a wet lunchtime, we would all sit in a room and the dinner ladies would bring in the television and put on Sesame Street for us to watch and every Friday afternoon our Headmistress would come and read us ‘The Naughtiest Girl in School’ books by Enid Blyton. Although we all stood up whenever she came into our classroom and being threatened with being sent to see her was enough to make us all quiver in our shoes, I have fond memories of her, not least because she gave me my first nickname (a nice one!).

However, those of you who have read my other blog posts will know that I also had some horrendous times towards the end of primary school and at the start of secondary school, which ultimately resulted in me being home educated. It is a shame that my fond memories of primary school have been tainted by my Year 5 teacher and the new Headteacher forcibly carrying me into school by my ankles and arms because I was too anxious to leave my Mum.

Not only that, but I am struggling with the expectations that are put on such young children and how much we require them to conform e.g., when children can eat/drink or go to the toilet. I appreciate that children are very good at adapting and that they are generally very resilient, however I suppose I don’t understand why we expect so much from them at such a young age.

So many countries across the world don’t send children to school until they are 6 or 7 and even then, a lot of countries have a much less conformist way of educating their children, particularly when they are young.

If I could home educate my children I probably would, as unlike when I was home educated there is a lot more help and support out there now and so many more social opportunities. However, all I can do is support my girls as much as possible and hope that they both have a good experience of primary school.

Fortunately, my daughter wasn’t around to see my shiny eyes as I got out her school uniform ready for next week! Whatever the weather I will have my sunglasses ready just in case my eyes get shiny again on her first day!

I will no doubt find it hard to begin with and will miss her, but I am sure that I will feel better when I pick her up after her first day and hear all about what she has been up to.

For all the other parents/carers out there sending their children off to school for the first time, I hope you can be kind to yourself, after all, this is one of their first big milestones in life!

1 hour….

For nearly a year I knew this moment would come.

Before starting triad groups as part of my course where we practised our counselling skills, I used to get very nervous and dreaded it to the point of almost wanting to get out of it. However, it did eventually get a little easier with the support of my peers who shared that they felt the same, as well as words of encouragement from my counsellor.

Many of my peers have talked about imposter syndrome which is when someone doubts their own abilities and they feel like a fraud. We have studied hard for the past year, spent several months counselling one another and offering each other constructive criticism. We have been provided with the theory behind person-centred counselling and have been told we are ready to go out on placement, yet I can appreciate why some people may doubt their own ability.

I do not think you can ever be truly prepared for counselling in the big wide world as you never know what a client may bring to the table. Yes, we know how to show the core conditions of empathy, congruence and UPR (unconditional positive regard) no matter what a client brings but as students our experience will be limited.

We have been told that all trainee counsellors and qualified counsellors can only gain real experience through counselling and that our skills will strengthen the more we do. Whilst this makes sense, it can also feel scary as we are no longer counselling our peers but instead ‘real’ people who feel the need to have counselling for a variety of reasons.

Admittedly, whilst on placement we are supposed to be given clients with lighter issues, however nobody can guarantee what a client may end up revealing and the likelihood of students having clients whose biggest issue is what to wear or a dilemma over where to go on holiday is rather slim!!

When I was given my first referral I felt a mixture of relief, (as I had been waiting for this moment for months), excitement (to finally begin the last leg of my training) and pure nerves (am I good enough?!)

Fortunately, I have an amazing support network including my own counsellor, the other students on my course and the counsellors at my placement. I reached out to the other students at my placement about how they felt about their first client and how they handled the nerves, and they all came back with useful and inciteful advice. Reminding me that nerves are normal and show that we care; that the main thing to remember is to actively listen to the client whilst showing empathy and to remember that the client will without a doubt be a million times more nervous than you! This really stood out for me and changed my way of thinking about my own reservations and nerves as although I knew I would still be nervous, I wasn’t the one who had no idea what to expect, nor was I the one who would be opening up to a stranger and possibly sharing things for the first time.

The other students talked about how they felt honoured that clients felt able to open up to them and how they would always remember their first client.

To begin with I thought about ‘revising’ for my first client and then I realised that I would end up spending the entire session trying to remember things that may or not be relevant and being mindful that I could end up coming across as robotic rather than genuine. I decided instead to focus on truly listening, being as genuine as possible and aiming to be warm and welcoming as well as trusting the skills I have learned so far.

As with many first experiences and things we get nervous about, such as exams or interviews, the build up is often far worse than the reality and at the end of the day all we can do is our best. We are after all, only human.

I am aware that I still have plenty to learn but what I have taken away from my first hour (only 99 more to go to qualify as a counsellor!) is that I can do this, and I surprised myself with how I really felt at home in the session, which proves to me that this is the career for me.

I am aware of how many people do not feel that they have anyone in their life that they can truly talk to without fear of judgement so to be in a position to offer people that opportunity is a wonderful feeling.

Here’s to the next 99 hours!!!

Lockdown part 3….Week 15

This week has felt like what I imagine the new normal may be the foreseeable future. My youngest daughter returned to her childminder for the first time since the last lockdown started and my eldest daughter had her first day at pre-school. I cannot remember the last time I had to put my alarm on which was a shock to the system as we have enjoyed relaxing mornings, eating breakfast in pyjamas, instead I was running around like a headless chicken getting the girls up, dressed and fed before putting them in the car at 8am. Thank goodness it was light and sunny! I didn’t know how my eldest would be on her first day as she has spent the last 6 months with me and her sister and before starting preschool she went to the same childminder as her sister, but she took hold of her teachers’ hand and went straight in. I spent the day wondering how she was and if she was ok but when I went to collect her in the afternoon, she had a smile on her face and her teacher said it’s like she has always been there. I was very proud and a little choked at how well she had coped and adapted, it made me realise that children can be more resilient than adults!

This week parents of pre-schoolers in England were waiting to hear what Primary School their children had gained a place at and although I was resigned to accepting whichever school this maybe I was starting to get fidgety in anticipation of the news. I had my hopes on a small village school rather than my local school which is very big but as it wasn’t in my catchment area, I didn’t get my hopes up. When I woke up on Friday morning, I checked my emails and saw the notification and was so happy and relieved to see she had been offered her first choice! I still can’t believe that my youngest daughter will be starting school in September!

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Whilst both girls were in childcare, I used the opportunity to go to a clothes shop with my Mum for the first time since lockdown and felt reassured that they were limiting numbers in store, so it felt safe and pleasant to look around. I certainly wouldn’t have been queuing to get in and can’t even imagine how crowded it must have been in the likes of Primark! I haven’t really missed going into shops as it kind of feels like the new normal to not be able to do so many things. The highlight of the trip was when a woman asked us if we would mind watching her new-born baby whilst she took her daughter on the escalator as her daughter hadn’t been on one for so long and found it exciting. Her baby boy was fast asleep and looked so peaceful and content, I stood and looked at him with a sparkle in my eye, I could feel myself getting broody, but I soon snapped myself out of it! It was lovely that the woman felt able to ask us and trust us even though it was only for a couple of minutes.

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I finally managed to hand in my case study (2 weeks early) for my counselling course and have been working my way through my last assignment of the year which is due in 10 days’ time. At times I’ve felt like spitting the dummy out but know it must be done. The final hurdle before finishing the first year of the course is doing a 10-minute presentation to the rest of the group and anyone who knows me knows I don’t like talking to groups of people or attention being on me so this will be a challenge for me especially as we must talk about ourselves.

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I have been sticking to my Noom plan and I am 2 weeks in…let’s see how I get on this week.

I caught a bit of Jamie Oliver’s, Keep Cooking Family Favourites and found myself rolling my eyes when he kept telling viewers to add a ‘kiss’ of oil…please! If I were cooking with my children and told them to add a ‘kiss’ of oil they’d look at me as if I’d lost the plot!! Now I’m all for exposing children to new foods but when he was making the aubergine salad, I kept thinking that my girls would look at me as if to say what’s that and why are there flowers in it, his son didn’t look too impressed when he was trying it either!