All week, my son hadn’t seemed quite himself. He is an easygoing type, but for the last few days he’d been snappy, awkward and unreasonable. I hoped it wasn’t a permanent change, all part of him growing up and heading for the teen years. I suspected it was down to the fact that he was leaving primary school. The school he’d attended for seven years and the kids he’d been in the same class with for seven years.
He’d been buzzing about his new school and excited trying on his new sports kit and blazer, but in the last week at primary, all of that was forgotten. All he could think of was that he wasn’t going to be at school with ANY of these kids again.
It’s always said that it’s the parents who find these things harder than the kids – that the kids are more resilient, more ready to move on, less emotional and nostalgic, less attached to their memories.
My eldest didn’t cry when he left primary school three years ago. To this day, it is a badge of honour for him. A lot of his friends went to different schools too, but there were still plenty of familiar faces at his secondary school. Despite the week of grumpiness, I hoped, even assumed, that my younger son would keep up with his brother and not cry about leaving school.
He got up in the morning and couldn’t eat. That was fine, he could eat later. I found him in the corner of his room crying. That really threw me. Tears at leavers’ assembly were to be expected, but tears before school was a shock. He wouldn’t let me talk to him and wouldn’t get dressed. I just had to leave him to deal with it and trust that he would get dressed in his own time.
He got ready and made it to school, without having anything to eat or drink (always disastrous for my son).
As I watched him in leavers’ assembly and later at a party for the year 6s in the park, I saw a boy that was not the son I know and love. He was a boy on the edge. A boy battling with his emotions. He had a fixed smile that wasn’t real, he was trying too hard to enjoy himself, running around and never stopping, never giving himself time to think. He was spending time with people other than his closest friends, as if being with them would be too painful. And a couple of times he just vanished altogether, only briefly, but he scared me a bit.
And when he got home, he sat in his room and cried again. Still refusing to let anyone speak to him or comfort him, still refusing to try to explain how he was feeling, lashing out at his family who just wanted to help.
He slept all night, but still looked unhappy in the morning, still lacked the motivation to even eat.
I knew leaving primary school was a big deal, but it was a much bigger deal for him than I ever could imagine. We think we know our kids, nobody knows my son better than me, but sometimes they take you by surprise. So much for leaving primary school being harder for the parents! All of my own feelings were forgotten as I struggled to deal with a boy struggling with his own feelings.
In a few days he is going away for 12 days with the Scouts. I can only hope he bounces back from leaving school quickly and is emotionally ready for another life-changing experience. Otherwise, it will be a very long 12 days for all of us.