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Back to School 2021: The Poignancy and Sadness of My Youngest Child Starting School

mother hugging her youngest child starting school
Family LifePost Category - Family LifeFamily LifeParentingPost Category - ParentingParenting

With her youngest child about to begin primary school, a mama of two reflects on their special bond and the bittersweet sadness of her baby starting school

As we walked home from pre-school today, I watched Little E, my youngest daughter, skip ahead on the red pavement we’d strolled for almost four years. “Let’s go a little slower today,” I told her. She asked me why as we stopped to poke the mimosas on the sidewalk. “I’m going to miss walking home with you when you are no longer in preschool,” I said sadly.

This will be the last few months Little E and I will walk this route together because very soon, Little E will be starting primary school and it will no longer be me, but the school bus, that will ferry her to and from her new school much further away from home. I couldn’t help but feel a pang of sadness at the thought.

Two years ago when Big E, my eldest daughter, started Primary One, I was anxious but nowhere as emotional because back then, I still had another baby to fuss about.

vivian feels sad about her youngest child starting school since they used to take outings to the zoo

While Big E spent longer hours in primary school, Little E and I had each other for company. Her half-day session at her nearby preschool meant we had time to cuddle in bed when we awoke, and then chit-chat during breakfast. After Little E’s preschool ended, we had one-on-one time before her elder sister reached home. We would draw, read and play board games together. We were less stressed about getting to preschool in the morning because nobody gets demerit points for being late in preschool and there were no homework and tests to bother with when we got home. Life in preschool is happy and relaxed.

The sadness I feel is not just about saying goodbye to a familiar routine, it’s about closing a chapter in my life where my babies are still babies. It’s about facing the reality that with every important milestone they reach, my children are taking one more step towards independence, one more step away from me. And this reality hits you extra hard when it’s your youngest.

I know some things may not change, like how the youngest in the family will always be the ‘baby’ in the family; and Little E will probably still let me fuss over her for the next few years. But some nights, while gazing at Little E’s cherubic face as she sleeps, I can’t help but tear up. I wish I could keep her small and tiny at my side a little longer. I wish her days could always be about the simple things in life like drawing, reading and playing in the garden. I wish her world could continue to revolve around me and our home, and that we could all stay a little longer in this happy and magical place called childhood.

The other day, Little E told me, “Mama, I’m a little nervous about Primary One.” I know, I told her, it’s only natural, and I’m also a little nervous myself. Then I told Little E she will enjoy primary school. She is always thrilled when Big E comes from school announcing her purchases from the school canteen and bookshop, and she is so envious when Big E stays at home during primary school holidays while she still has to attend preschool. Deep down I know that Little E will love being in primary one, just like her elder sister did, and she too will shine in formal schooling.

vivian feels sadness about her youngest daughter starting school

When Little E heads to secondary school, I will probably be in a teary mess again, writing a piece that says “The poignancy of sending your last baby to secondary school”. When she turns into a sullen teenager and prefers hanging out with her friends, that will be another milestone. I will deal with that when I get there, but for the time being, let me mother and fuss over my little ones for a few more years. These blissful times will be over too soon and right now, I’m not ready to let them go.

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Lead image via Getty. Images #1 and #2 by Vivian Teo. 

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