How our little one's take to starting big school can be quite unpredictable, and this was most certainly the case with my almost five year old. After two years of Montessori and playschool, I was definitely banking on a first day of excitement, confidence and her pretty much twirling into the classroom without a glance goodbye. However, the girl I thought would be forming the first Junior Infant Alpha Omega sorority in her first week actually fell into my lap after three days in tears - "It's too long. I worked so hard. I just want to quit." There were more tears and falling asleep from emotional drainage by 6pm that evening. My heart was genuinely sore for her. I put it down to the change and the new routine and spent the following few nights with her in a bear hug of mommy proportions while I tried to talk to her as best I could. This was difficult considering the only answer I got from 'how was school?' was 'Mum, is it ok if I say I don't want to talk about it?'
I needed a way to get her to talk - to want to talk, and this is what I did.
I picked her up each day as usual, full of hugs and kisses. and reminded her how much I missed her. On our short drive home, I would share with her a little piece of my day and ask her about hers, but just once. It was not until we were close in bed and finished our bedtime story that I would ask four simple questions -
1. Will you tell me something that made you happy today?
2. Will you tell me something that made you sad today?
3. Will you tell me something kind that someone did today?
4. Will you tell me something brave that you did today?
Each of these questions has its own purpose.
Will you tell me something that made you happy today?
The purpose of this question is self explanatory - I want her to remember the feeling of being happy that day and even if it was something that did not necessarily happen in school, it is a positive starting point.
Will you tell me something that made you sad today?
It is important to also acknowledge and validate their feelings of sadness, whether that be when she hurt her knee on yard or when his partner told him he did not want to play his game anymore - they need to know that you empathise with them.
Will you tell me something kind that someone did today?
Originally, I phrased this as 'something kind someone did FOR YOU today' but I started to notice that as the time went on, she was giving me examples of when she herself was also kind, which showed me that she was beginning to be more confident and more involved with her school friends, so we changed the question. She loves answering this the most too as she knows her Mom has a soft spot for kind gestures.
Will you tell me something brave that you did today?
I want her to know that I understand how big this change is for her and how brave I know she is being. Although, there might be repetition at times, I want her to feel courageous and like she can take on the world, one cheese dip and cracker at a time.
It may only be a month in but finishing our day with these four simple questions has helped my daughter understand and adjust. Her face actually lights up when I ask the first question before bed. Some nights the answers are short - and sound quite familiar (basically the same as yesterday's answers!) but then there are nights that they lead into so much more. Being able to recall and share these moments in her day have made her happier and more secure in the new chapter of her little life. The most important thing for me is that she knows when that bell rings, no matter what happened before it, Mom's smile is always waiting at the gate. We can talk later - first hugs!
If anyone has seen any of my Instagram posts lately, they may have noticed that a lot has changed in our lives – we have moved cross-country, we have left/changed jobs, we are now the gracious roomies of my parents (for money saving reasons), Lola has started ‘big’ school and Sadie has… well, let’s just say found her voice. Our next move is still being blue printed by the gods of destiny I guess, but as of this moment, I’m ok with that. I had an experience recently that has given me a new perspective. I have always believed in the ‘what will be will be’ ethos in life, but now I see that a little more is necessary. It is not enough to live in today but being grateful is the key – that is what makes today my new favourite day. I went to see a movie with my four old last night staring the always insightful, Mr Winnie the Pooh, who in fact lay this lesson down with a fully-grown Christopher Robin - “Today, my favourite day.”
One week ago, I found myself sitting in a busy hospital corridor, after two of the longest days of my life, waiting to be seen. I was waiting for a consultant to call me into his room to answer one of the scariest questions I have ever had to ask – is it a tumour?
We all hear cancer stories every day; sometimes it is in the news, sometimes it is friends of friends, sometimes it is closer to home, but one thing I never thought, was it could be me. I would have never thought that the blurry, distorted vision I was experiencing for a few weeks prior was something that would lead to a ‘query suspicious lesion, possible melanoma’ prognosis. It started a few weeks previous, when I noticed myself blinking and rubbing my eye a lot, which I was self-diagnosing as the usual parent broken-sleep tiredness, or maybe just time for a new pair of glasses and another thing to stack on that back burner. The end of the school year was nigh, we were moving to a new house, there was so much going on. It was not until one afternoon, when I was watching the girls play in the garden from the back door, that I covered my right eye and was shocked to see, or not see as the case was, there was a very evident blind spot. I could not see my kids’ faces. Still not too concerned, I made an appointment with an optician in a local Specsavers and it was there that things changed.
The optician showed me a worrying scarring/tear, which was visible behind my retina on the screen. She made a call to the hospital to expect me in asap. My husband had just finished work and dropped me in immediately. At this point, I was still unsure what was going on but was quite calm. I told him to return home with the girls and decided I would wait alone. It was only when the doctor called for his colleague to examine me also that I knew something was wrong. I was then told that there was a visible lesion or growth which had caused a haemorrhage inside, and they were querying it as more. Luckily, my Mum and sister were waiting for me after my consultation to bring me home, because as I left the room the tears were impossible to hold back. The atmosphere at home over the next two days was difficult to explain – silent, on edge, nauseating. I spent the night cuddling my little girl in bed, looking at every little speckle on her skin and imagining what I would do if I could not see these things anymore. These were thoughts I could not help but also, I could not avoid.
The waiting which followed through tests and scans was hard, but I was so lucky that it was not a long wait and, even more lucky with the outcome. I will never forget the feeling I got (and my Mum who was beside me) when the consultant said the words ‘it is not a tumour.’ Relief. What followed, of course, was nothing in comparison as far as I was concerned – a diagnosis of 'choroidal neovascularization', an injection into my eye, steroid treatment, progress check-ups for the haemorrhage and hope that sight will improve. I was told I was lucky that my peripheral vision has not been affected which means there is no need for laser treatment or for it to affect driving, etc. Now it is just a case of visually adapting (and maybe an on-call makeup artist!), which, in comparison to last week’s fears, is a huge relief. It is crazy to think so much can change in such a short few hours. For those who received much different news to me, I cannot even begin to imagine your journeys, but I am so proud of your strength and courage.
Today, as my mother and I currently discuss the excessive laundry situation which has turned her house into a TK Max of air drying – I smile with gratitude; gratitude for what I learnt yesterday, gratitude for what I have today, and gratitude for whatever tomorrow will bring.
So, Mr Winnie the Pooh, I must agree with you whole heartedly – today is my favourite day too.
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