I’ve just walked my son to school for the last time.
It feels significant because he’s my second child and my youngest. His older sister made this same leap from primary (elementary) to secondary school a couple of years ago, and now walks in on her own to the local high-school.
This time around, the end of the school run is really sinking in.
Internally, I’ve railed against this walk somedays: that steep, steep hill just as we leave the house, and then the long sweep down New Road, where the air feels fresher, away from the busy street outside our front door.
Remembering the Good, the Bad and The Special
My son Max has scooted, he’s occasionally skateboarded and sometimes he’s just walked. I’ve mainly walked, sometimes biked. Oftentimes we’ve talked. We’ve joked. Sometimes we’ve walked in thoughtful silence, both ruminating away about our day. I’ve done unannounced Special Time there and back sometimes, and felt the transformation possible in being warmly delighted, present and close to his every gesture and word.
We’ve stopped at the 20 pence box and bought hoodies and lego, even a game of mini-skid-ball in immaculate condition, which we brought home, played and then lost the pieces under the sofa. They are there still, waiting to be retrieved.
We’ve walked through frost, through rain, through cold, slate grey days that felt like they’d never end, and hot, warm, windy summer mornings like today.
And today, as I drop him off and say goodbye I walk home and offer myself some unannounced Special Time. I notice and appreciate my feet in their red sandals, walking the well-trodden route to and from school.
I notice my heart, full and pushing against my ribcage, throbbing with joy and sorrow at moving on and letting go.
I remember my journey through the primary school years and recall learning seven years ago, as my son began his first week at school, the connecting power of starting each school day with Special Time.
Ten minutes dedicated to tuning in and bringing my warm delight helped both of us transition to a new routine.
Those Special Times brought a closeness and safety to our goodbyes that supported me, as much as him, in letting go. It felt easier to watch him looking so little in the line, waiting to enter his new classroom, after we’d started the day like that.
I remember, too, Staylistening one winter’s afternoon in the deserted, misty tennis court in nearby Brockwell Park, when Max vocally and angrily expressed his dislike of the rules and constant limits at school.
I remember a lumbering ‘swear monster’ who clumsily chased the laughing boys when an infection of ‘bad words’ took over the classroom, and a whole new range of swear words were being tried out on a regular basis. I remember the other Playlistening games we played around teasing in our bid to warm up the connection with new friends, friends who are now old friends, dear friends, best friends.
Further back, I remember Staylistening at Sports day, and I remember Special Time and Playlistening and games of hide and go seek and chase when we moved into a new house, in a new town, and were still acclimatising to this new school.
I remember raging and crying about the school reward and punishment system in my Listening Partnerships, and the lack of understanding I saw out there about the reasons for children’s off-track behaviour.
How I Slowed the River of Time
I remember feeling like I wanted to give up, and then finding new directions to try after a number of Listening Partnerships, which led to working on a document about introducing Special Time in schools with Keiko, a fellow Hand in Hand Instructor, and the Learning Mentor programme that grew out of that initiative at my son’s school.
I notice how, in the times I’ve practiced the Hand in Hand tools, I have somehow slowed down the river of time, or slowed myself down enough to notice it, running so constantly, so brightly and yet so silently though my life.
As I come to the end of my walk back from the school run, I pass a little boy, maybe four years old, with bright red hair. Perhaps he’ll be starting school for the first time this coming September. Right now he is attempting to navigate his way up the path by climbing on a low handrail. His Mum is patient, but her expression suggests she needs to move faster than his explorations allow.
I empathize with her, and a part of me wants to say, if you can, savour this moment, that river of time is flowing.
If I could, I would stop and share what I know about slowing time with the Hand in Hand Parenting Listening Tools right here, but today I smile at him, and at her, and walk on.
Inside, I recommit. I recommit to keep on practicing and teaching these tools in my life, and sharing them with as many parents as I can, so that each of them may experience the comfort and joy they bring in the face of the many transitions that parenting brings.
As the river keeps flowing and our children keep growing.
For more on slowing down and relishing the good times and the hard times in parenting read What If Parenting Is an Emotional Practice?
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Discover all five Hand in Hand tools in one book. Listen helps you connect with your children, meet your challenges and enjoy your parenting. Read a chapter on Special Time