Inhale and breath!
As the coach pulled away I took an inhale of breath, smiled and waved for the final time and made a very hasty retreat to my car without acknowledging anyone around me. Desperately holding it together until I reached the car where I burst into tears and my heart hurt for her.
3.15am and a very excited ten year was stirred from her slumber. Jumping out of bed and throwing on her clothes she was ready within moments. This was the easiest and fastest dragging out of bed I could remember. The reason? My daughter was off to France on a school trip. As we made our way to school, with empty roads and the sun yawning and stretching, Imogen chatted nervously and excitedly about the next week. What would they see? Where would they go? Would she really have to speak ‘proper’ French?!
The popular gang. No thank you!
We arrived just before 4am and as we loaded her case onto the coach, I felt a hand reach for mine. Imogen looked at me and I saw the anxiety and worry in her eyes. We walked into the school hall and waited for all the children to gather. Imogen has never been part of the popular girl gang (which I have to say I am genuinely pleased about). Often stood quietly on the peripheral. I watched and observed the children, especially my child. Excluded rather than included, spoken over rather than spoken to. A little moment of realization for me that my daughter was going to have rise above it, breath deeply and find all the resources she had to manage this unknown trip to France. She stepped towards me with tears in her eyes, remaining as brave and ‘grown up’ as she could. I squeezed her tightly and told her she would have an incredible time and that she was awesome.
Be a lion my darling girl
It was time to get on the coach. We walked out hand in hand, every step closer, the grip a little tighter. I kissed her and told her to ‘be a lion’ and she reluctantly moved onto the coach. I watched her as she looked around, and as she realized that all the seats were taken she sat down by herself and stared forward. With 29 students in the class, one child was bound to be left on their own, I just didn’t think it would be mine. I waited to see if she would look at me. She did. I mouthed ‘I love you’ and ‘be a lion’. She turned away and did her very best to hold back, but I could see that she was crying. She wouldn’t look at me and hid her face. Every part of me wanted to get on the coach and tell her she didn’t have to go, and I knew that wouldn’t help her or me. Instead I stood and watched feeling helpless. I knew she would be ok, I knew that my child to be resilient and strong. Although sensitive and shy at times, she is a little pocket rocket when she wants to be.
Trusting that all will be well
So what has this taught me? That sometimes you have to trust that all will be ok. That the pain of seeing a child vulnerable and alone isn’t going to last. That this experience, however awful to observe, is going help her become even more resilient. I know that when I collect her on Friday I will see a smiling, exhausted happy child that tells me she’s had the best time ever. Sometimes it’s all we can do to just trust.