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The One With The Letter to my Year 7 Starter

Dear Little Lad,

I’m sorry for calling you that. I know you’re not little really.

Not my Little Lad anymore . . .

At a whopping 9lb 5oz when you burst into this world, you’ve never been properly little. And now, at 11 years old, you’re not little in mind, or in soul and you’re certainly not little in heart. You easily stand as tall as my shoulders and I guess I just have to get used to that fact because your height is only going in one direction . . .

I’m supposed to know that as a mum. I’m supposed to know and accept that my job is to help you grow in ALL the ways. With every growth spurt, every milestone and every achievement you’ve reached, I’ve been lucky enough to have a ringside seat. And believe me, I have eaten the metaphorical popcorn at EVERY moment.

The washing up milestone aged three

So how did we get here then? To this place in our lives where you, all big and grown and brimming with potential, are ready to leave primary school behind forever and jump into the promised land of secondary school without a backwards glance?

And then there’s me, looking back a little too much, I think. Mourning the loss of that adorably chubby five-year-old who clung to my shins for his dear life every time I tried to drop him off at the Key Stage 1 doors.

Do you remember the balloon breath? In the mornings, standing at your classroom door, we’d blow up an imaginary balloon together. Then you’d waddle inside, holding that very balloon, with the agreement that whenever you missed me that day, you’d breathe deep a little more and treat the balloon to even more loved-up breaths.

(Disclaimer: I may have had my own imaginary balloon at home)

Then, the best bit . . . at home-time your job was to find me in the playground and yell, ‘Balloon Pop!’ at the top of your voice as we rushed together into a massive hug and popped the pretend balloon between our bodies. There was nothing pretend about that pop though – that energetic rush of relief and love was always, always the best bit of my day.

Your imaginary balloon was always multi-coloured

The balloon-pop method is no longer needed. Which is a good thing, I keep telling myself. Now you saunter off into the Year 6 end of your school, looking every bit the coolest kid about town. It’s hard to connect that chubby five-year old with how you show up in the world these days, but that’s ok. You’re allowed to change and grow and transform. Hell, you’re supposed to.

I feel like we’ve changed, grown and transformed together, actually. I know that as a mum, I’m supposed to provide that bedrock of security, that constancy that will give you a foundation of normalcy. But let’s be honest here – I haven’t always shown that kind of solidness. My general parenting approach involves tears (lots of them), laughter (to the point of hysteria), spontaneity (in abundance), despair (regularly) and other things like hope, courage, curiosity and a growing sense of cluelessness. The last 11 years have been an adventure for us both and that’s why my link to you goes inextricably deeper than having grown you in my actual body (as if that wasn’t deep enough).

I’m not sure what I want to tell you about going forwards into this next phase of your life. I could reel off a thousand different stories from my own secondary school days but that would be doing you a disservice. You need to claim this experience as your own.

I will say something that a lot of parents would not. Please, please, shy away from perfectionism. Because you’re you, and incredibly clever, funny and wise, you have had a lot of well-meaning praise from the adults around you. This is wonderful and feels great, I know.

Let’s remember, though, that life gets the most interesting when you make mistakes. When you allow yourself to be human and know that learning comes from risk and failure. Perfectionism is mythical when it comes to being human, so don’t even bother trying for it. It’s boring.

And boring, you are not.

You’re also one of the most generous and compassionate people I know. This brings you trouble from other people sometimes. So from now on, try bringing that generosity and compassion to yourself. Even your teacher said it in your end-of-school report: ‘he needs to ensure that his own welfare is at the forefront’.

So let Mrs Gilbert’s words catapult you confidently into secondary education. Let her advice remind you to pay attention to the beat of your own heart, the pulse of your own passions. Don’t take anybody’s shit (swearing is allowed here) and stand firm in those beliefs and values you’ve not only worked so hard to form, but that are still growing and transforming. I can’t wait to see what they become.

I can’t wait to see what you become.

For now though (and let’s remember in my true mindfulness teacher fashion that NOW is all that really matters), take a slow, deep breath and look at the person you are. You can be so, so proud of yourself. You’ve grown a heart as big as the moon, you’ve developed an intellect that thrives on curiosity. And your creativity is out of this world. The best place for it to be, don’t you think?

September will come quickly, but first we have a few weeks of summer to claim as our own. Let’s chase that sunshine until it begs for mercy. Let’s jump those waves until our legs ache. Let’s eat loads of bubblegum ice cream, have Netflix marathons, have friends over, order all the pizza and go out at midnight and talk to the moon. I’m up for it if you are?

And when September does come, I’ll try my best not to look back too much. I want to be forward-facing, with you, and recognise that your growth mirrors my own. With no more chubby little ones to cling to me at the school gate, it will be tempting to feel the open breeze around my skin, and then, ultimately, my heart. I hope I can be as brave as you and welcome this new phase, this new beginning.

It might be tricky for me at times, I’m not going to lie. So do you think maybe, just maybe, Balloon Pop could make a comeback?

At least for a while.

Love you SO much, Little Lad.

Go well,

Your Mum


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