Champagne & Tissues

Ted Graduation

A few weeks ago my son came home from nursery with a graduation certificate.  Pre-parenthood we may have scoffed at such a silly thing but the mother in me completely welled up. Confused, he asked me why I was crying.

“Because you’re growing up.”

“But why does that make you sad?”

And why does it?  And am I sad, actually, about him starting school in September?  Or just overwhelmed?  Pulled in every emotional direction possible at the exact same moment.  And what is parenting anyway if not a constant state of overwhelm caused by conflicting emotions?  The last four years have consisted mainly of a whole mess of feelings, all liable to change at any possible moment.  The definition of motherhood to me is simply feeling so much, of everything.

I feel pride – for Caterpillar and ourselves as parents too.  I love the idea of him going out into the world and feel so happy for what he has achieved already.

I feel huge excitement, again for all of us.  I’m so excited for the next adventure he’ll be beginning and for the extra time Hubs and I will have.

I feel such a deep, deep sadness.  The thought that Caterpillar’s baby & toddler days are truly behind us and that I’ll never get that back.  It’s cruel really because, despite our best efforts to live in the moment, nobody really appreciates their children when they are truly tiny until they no longer are anymore.  This sadness is also compounded by our miscarriage and the fact that we haven’t managed to expand our family yet as we had hoped we would.  I may not get to do the baby and toddler stage again after all, which makes the memory of Caterpillar’s all the more bittersweet.

Linked to this I feel a bitterness too.  Postnatal Depression and Anxiety robbed me of the ability to access the happiness during those early years that I would otherwise have experienced. And miscarriage robbed me of my second chance at this.

I feel nostalgic, for all the memories we’ve made together in the last four years and for memories from my own early childhood.  A few weeks ago I visited my old primary school for their Golden Jubilee and it felt truly surreal that so much time had passed.

Me & Ted 2

I feel unease and uncertainty about my identity and my role, which I think can be common for any mum who vastly changed their working life when they had a child.  Having Caterpillar utterly transformed my life, right down to my day to day routines and sense of self.  But, with time, I adjusted and grew comfortable.  With the new transition of Caterpillar starting school my own life and routine will shift again and this always brings with it a level of anxiety and self-doubt.

I feel a deeper awareness of age, the fact that as Caterpillar grows I, too, am getting older and that my own parents are as well.  Life suddenly feels like it’s racing by and I’m no longer just at the beginning of it.

I feel intense relief.  I grew this human and got him to school age without completely messing him up.  We faced milestones together and achieved each one.

Me & Ted 5

Lastly, I feel joy.  Consuming, overwhelming, heart-bursting happiness that I am fortunate enough to have such an incredible child in my life.  I often think there is nobody in the world who can appreciate that unbridled elation quite like someone who has also known the darkest dispair through depression.

Me & Ted 6

As parents we feel the entire emotional spectrum, more intensely than we ever did during life before, and never so acutely as during these landmark moments in our child’s lives.

But how can I explain all this to a four year old boy?  How can I possibly expect him to understand the depth of the conflicted emotions that can only be felt by a parent?  I wouldn’t have understood it when I was a child.  I wouldn’t have understood it four years ago!  Because as well as being overwhelming, parenting is also utterly unique.  No other experience in life even vaguely resembles it.

“Why are you crying, Mummy?”

“Because you’re growing up.”

“But why does that make you sad?”

I gave him the only words I had, the only words he’d understand.

“Because I’ll miss you, baby.”

With a satisfied nod he squirmed out of my arms and ran off to play, to dream of all the adventures he would have.  And I try to do the same.

When that day comes, and I leave him at that gate, I’ll come home and sob.  I’ll soak a hundred tissues with the salty tracks of four years of mixed, overwhelming emotions.  But then I’ll dry my eyes and crack open a bottle of champagne too.  Hubs and I will toast each other on a job well done. It’s an achievement bigger than any other we’ve encountered, and an optimistic nod to the future and all it may hold.

Related posts:

A New Era I Never Thought I’d See

The Emotions Of Motherhood


Why New Mums Will Always Break My Heart

Grieving The Missing Happiness

14 comments on “Champagne & Tissues

  1. Ahhh I totally relate to this their growing up is such a bitter sweet transformation I have felt all of these things many times over during my daughter’s 4 years xxx

  2. I know how you feel…I am sad and no matter how long i spend with my girls i still feel that time is sleeping through my fingers…they grow and we get old…

  3. I think each new stage of parenthood brings w hole host of emotions none of us expected. I think it’s natural to feel a sense of loss of the baby and toddler years and I am starting to feel like you as we get ready to find our son a new school. I worry for him, especially the initial weeks as he overcomes the language barrier but I know he’ll be fine in the end. Lovely post x

  4. I can totally relate to this too. I watched Sebby’s graduation with tears in my eyes. He is my last baby and to see him start primary school is waving goodbye to my toddler. Next year I have one leaving primary too – think I will be needing tissues again!

  5. I can totally relate to this. My son just finished his first year in P1, but is jumping straight in to P3 after the summer because we switched school systems – I can’t believe I will already be mum to a P3 soon!

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