Last week, my biggest boy began High School. He has reached the grand old age of eleven and has found himself flung upon the mercy of the big wide world.
His primary school, with its grand total of 70 pupils, was little more than an extended family and he was happy there. This is, of course, an understatement. He performed well in class, had good friends, his teachers were more like extra mummies than authority figures and there were many tears (all round) when he left in July. He was with his people.
Then High School happened, and with the natural exuberance that accompanies a rite of passage, he looked forward to it with a proper mix of excitement and trepidation. Suddenly, though, instead of a two-minute trot around the corner to school, he has a solitary walk to the bus-stop to stand with a load of older kids he doesn’t know. Instead of being that big, confident fish in a teeny pond, he’s a nervous tiddler in an ocean. From cocoon to high wind in a heartbeat.
The first day was fine: the school was only open to the new intake, so they had it to themselves. They were all in the same boat, all excited, all fresh and open. He came home confident and happy, full of beans and optimism. When the second morning came around, he was raring to go. He had filled in his timetable, organised his books, packed up his PE kit, knew where his bus pass was.
That evening was a distinct downturn. This time, school had been full of much older, scarier kids; kids who swear and swagger, who are bigger and more confident, to whom these ‘little’ ones are a mere insignificance and something to poke a bit of fun at. He no longer especially wanted to go back. Not that he had been on the receiving end of anything unpleasant, but he’d got lost on the way to PE, not had anyone to sit next to on the bus, been told he had to play rugby the next day… all of which had rather knocked his nerve.
So we sat on the sofa when all his little brothers were in bed, and had a chat.
“It’s really taken me out of my comfort zone, Mum,” he said.
My heart contracted a fraction.
“Your primary school was a lovely, safe place,” I replied. I made a circle with my fingers. “Like this, this is your comfort zone. But the new school is much bigger.”
“Mrs Hill was always telling me to step out of my comfort zone!”
“Exactly, so you just need to give it time for your your comfort zone to expand and envelop this new school too.” I extended the finger-circle to make my point. “Before you know it, it will just be a part of that comfort zone.”
At that very moment, there was a knock at the door. A friend’s post had been misdirected and she had come to collect it. We filled her in on our conversation.
“Oh, don’t worry!” She replied, ever-so-breezily. “My two were always getting lost at the beginning. You can always ask – no one will mind! And next year, you’ll look at the younger ones arriving and remember how new and strange it all seemed!”
We sat back down on the sofa. He reflected for a moment, then looked at me and said, “She was supposed to arrive, just at that moment, wasn’t she? To reassure me about it all.” His faith in the ultimate benevolence of the universe seems to be expanding alongside his comfort zone. 🙂
He went in to school the next morning, anxious but less scared. And it went swimmingly. He’s developing new friendships and he even enjoyed rugby!
The new High School may not ever be the cozy little family that he managed to find in his primary school, but my Humphrey will discover his core family once he’s settled in, and his equilibrium will be restored. In fact, next year I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he wasn’t helping the new arrivals to try to see it from a different perspective!