motherhood, parenting, school application, SEND, special needs, starting school

School Application Ambivalence

I’d hazard a guess that there may be two camps when it comes to the school application process. The decisive – those that wake on the 1st Sept, purposeful and unwavering in their selection of well informed preferences versus the downright ambivalent – often found in denial and floundering as the 15th Jan looms.

I have inhabited both sides of the fence. As a first time applicant I found it straightforward, ‘we’ were the decisive ones; it just required a swift completion of our self build to guarantee catchment, no pressure…simple hey! On the other side, the grass is not greener. My current experience has rendered me emotional, with an underlying fear of missing the deadline altogether, so much so, it had begun to infiltrate dreams and featured on every to do list for the previous two months, gradually and counterproductively given less importance, demoted as the weeks passed. If it hadn’t been for my apathetic attempt to apply in December, I wouldn’t have had the impatient daily reminders to submit and I envisage I might have forgotten altogether; a subliminal deception akin to emotional bubble wrap perhaps.

Over two years of school run have taught me that I’m never going to be one of those parents that has a spring in their heels as they skip into school after holidays, or even a daily basis, eagerly anticipating the ‘freedom’ that the school bell brings. There is no denying that we all have our days where bedtime doesn’t roll around quick enough, a change of scene is needed, or a glass of wine is a necessity, we all have our limits! I do however, miss my eldest terribly when he goes to school and often wish I could go with him, or in the least be a fly on the wall. Perhaps one of the very few drawbacks of being a stay at home mummy is that an empty nest most definitely does not equate to an empty mind.

As I alluded to, my current role as Bubbin’s responsible applicant has come with heartache and uncertainty. It would be unbecoming not to recognise how fortunate we are that our little boy is in a position to be able to participate in one of life’s most defining experiences but it doesn’t mean it comes without worry…Our summer born baby will be amongst the very youngest in his class and along with his significant communication difficulties (in the words of his cleft speech and language team) challenges lie ahead. As his voice and biggest advocate I find it disappointing that ‘one size has to fit all’; granted we have ‘options’ but none are perfect, guaranteed, or truly represent what is best for our baby.

I know we still have 7 months until he should start school (as was reinforced by the poor admissions team representative who was subjected to, and tried to manage my tears), he has time to grow and I’m sure will flourish. Yet I continue to struggle with the anxiety that the unknown brings, as I’m sure do all mothers of children with special needs. We are lucky and thankful to have a network of support but I still have to remind myself (and others sometimes)…

No one knows my boy better than me,

No one can understand my boy better than me,


No one knows what is best for my boy better than me

(despite the ‘well intended’ regularly trying to impress their opinion).

I know my judgment is often, understandably, clouded by my desire to hold him close for that bit longer, and I feel envy towards parents of ‘older ones’; the combination of thoughts guarantee to make the tears fall. Letting go and supporting independence is definitely one of the tougher elements of parenting! For now, my role as applicant is complete, despite releasing the tears my anxiety remains, my baby boy is rightly none the wiser and I’m determined that ‘I will not live to regret the past spending the present worrying about the future’. Time will unveil all and I ask politely that it does not fly.

How did you ‘honestly’ feel about applying for a school place for your child?

Did you have similar feelings or did you feel nothing but excitement for their impending adventure?…

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