‘Oh Hi’, said the New Parent

Oh hi, I thought I’d come over and introduce myself. 

Why yes, I am new. 

What was it that gave it away? Maybe the fact that you’ve never seen me in the four and a half years your child has been at this campus, is a good start….or was it the fact that I am always super early to pick up?wondering how my kids’ days have been…..making room in my day to be open to get to know people and staff and procedures….

Tell me about your kids!  Have you had a good day? How do you fill your days? Yes we are getting used to the school thank you, although I did have to interpret the word ‘mufti’ for my twelve year old the other day…(freestyle in Australia, and well….every day in most American schools is mufti. Yes every school does have a different culture, and I’m learning as we go too. 

Yeah questions about ‘the kids’ are always good ice-breakers when it comes to starting up a conversation for the first time, especially at a setting like a school. I will always have my preschooler with me, until he starts school. So feel free to ask him his name, his age, about what he’s been doing today…..he’s most likely covered in paint from his morning kindy session, so ask me about that.

Other conversation starters with new parents at school could be:

Where did you move from? What do you think of this area? How are your kids settling in? Do you have any other children? And here’s a great one for a Friday…..what are your plans for the weekend? Why is this so great? Because come Monday……..’how was the concert/ soccer final/ party/ movie/ shopping trip?’

It’s all about finding some point of connection, and having your kids at the same school is a huge plus to begin with.

I get it, totally get it, starting up a conversation with a stranger is weird. It is hard. It can be awkward for both parties. But if that parent Is going to be at that very same school pick up for five days a week, however many weeks a year…..that’s potential for some one to not be a stranger. Potential for many shared moments. Ten minutes a day…..a wealth of shared knowledge over the course of a school year……and who knows…possibly your next second best friend…..

As a new school year starts in certain parts of the world, as parents let’s keep an eye out for new parents in our school yards. They are the new kids on the block too.

I’ll smile and return your greeting, don’t you worry about that. And I’ll ask you about your day, but go on, ask me about my paint splattered four year old, I dare Ya.

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To you, on this ‘first’.

First day of daycare. First day of preschool. First day of school. First day of University. First major treatment/ medical procedures/ operation. First major misunderstanding. First broken heart.

Life with children is full of these firsts.

They don’t get easier. Just ask the parent who is in the middle of packing up their kid for their first year of university. And they don’t become any less significant when you have to revisit these firsts with other children. But maybe, just maybe, the stretching that your heart does with these firsts, make the stretch for the next time, just a little more comfortable. Maybe your heart, although it aches just the same, maybe it moulds into slightly familiar territory and knows that this is what must happen.

Because this is the stuff in parenting, that shapes us and defines us, and helps to make our little people into healthy, bigger people, who are prepared to make good and wise decisions, all by their big selves.

If your child needs an operation as terrifying as it is seeing them go under a general anaesthetic, and as horrible as it is dealing with wounds and follow up treatments and all that goes along with that, you’re not going to deny your child of something that is ultimately going to benefit them.

I’ll never forget the ache that came with handing over our middle boy to a nurse for an operation when he was a chubby one year old. That was probably the longest day of my life. And the tears did flow – even in the trusting and the knowing that he was safe and was going to be fine – the tears they did flow.

We’re about to send our youngest child off to preschool for the very first time. I still remember that anxiousness that came with sending our eldest off to kindy and then school.  That desire to be a fly on the wall. To see and know that all is ok. To not only see that your kid is handling things ok, but to see how the teachers and other children respond to your child.  I’ve come to learn that the ache is normal. The longing to know all and see all is not helicopter parenting, but getting used to a new phase of parenting. The ache dissolves over time, and with it grows the ability to see that other people in your kids’ lives can care for your children pretty well. You’re not alone in this endeavor. No one will know and understand your child as well as you, that’s a given, but if you let others into your circle….and let the professionals do what they were trained and love to do, and keep your lines of communication very open…then this new first can be extremely successful.

Firsts can be hard work, tough work. And for the most part firsts do not have to be walked through alone. There’s a certain kinship that can be found in walking similar roads together. But it takes reaching out and seeing others above your own concerns and worries. If you have to spend any amount of time in a hospital with a child, as a first you’re facing, can I encourage you to ask about support groups and suchlike. Sometimes people only know how you’re feeling from experiencing a very similar situation. And at times like that we all crave true and genuine empathy.

Firsts bring with them very powerful emotions, surprising emotions. Men, you’re probably going to bear the brunt of huge swings and sways of these emotions, and no doubt feel things in your own manly ways….and for the love of all things good and sweet, you don’t have to have all the answers, you don’t need to provide advice, you don’t need to do anything. Just be there for us emotional women as we lament about how unfair it is that they have to grow up, as we look at photos of the kids as babies and admire how fast they have grown, and as we go through the motions that all Mama Bears do.

Firsts are hard. There are no detours around this very truth because firsts must be undertaken. But firsts are made better by friends being there for each other. By families showing their love and support. And by remembering that firsts do stretch those hearts of ours, and we should all be looking to have bigger hearts, much bigger hearts.
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