In praise of missing things… like Year 6
This blog post is by Nicola Baird sharing ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children. This post is not about lost socks. For more info about my book Homemade Kids, with lots of ideas about parenting click here.
Lola, 14, came home early from school this week. It was raining again. What could we do that didn’t involve Facebook? I found the lovely carved cedar box that is kept locked with the most ingenious device (a sort of key). She’d never been inside this family treasure box before and was amazed to see hundreds of tiny envelopes with old-fashioned stamps from all around the world.
Inside are letters and receipts kept by my grandfather George Baird when he was stationed in Hong Kong back in 1937. He seems to have had friends and family corresponding from Sudan, Nigeria, Kenya and Scotland. Many are from soldiers just like him, writing about the countries they are stationed in – often critically, but they were clearly developing a fascinating world view. Nigeria for instance was producing ground nuts, palm oil and tin – and “we are doing pretty well from it”.
Most of the letters are written in such hard-to-read ink scribbles, so different to emails. But together Lola and I could read aloud and unpick most of the words. Time just flew as we found out that naughty William (whoever he was) was at last at boarding school (“god willing he’ll stay there”); that it’s risky going home to a cold house with scarlet fever and that my grandfather’s mother’s house had just suffered from the “ceiling falling in”. The builder was apparently on his way. Good thing too as this was December even though “the roses and gentians are still flowering”.
My Grandmother’s writing was always tough to read, even when she was in her 20s. She sent one from the steamer when it stopped to refuel at a steaming hot Port Said – there’s even a stamp covered in pyramids. She was going to join her husband in Hong Kong.
Didn’t she miss the kids?
I’ve always puzzled about this trip because it meant leaving her two children, Diana, 6, and Angus (who was so little at the time, 2 years perhaps) behind with their Granny for a year. The implication was that their mum didn’t mind at all, and it was all stiff upper lip and no family affection. But this letter shows this is not true. It is full of longing from Catherine, who hopes to soon see her husband and the horribleness of leaving the children behind. She called it “dreadful”.
In contrast my little hiccup about saying goodbye to the primary school Nell has enjoyed for the past seven years is nothing. It’s really just a change of routine.
Other parents keep saying to me, oh it’s your last summer fair, your last concert, your last term, and now your last week. And that’s right. It’s all that. But I think seeing my grandparents’ letters has helped put it all in perspective. Nell, 11, is moving on to a secondary school; she’s still going to be living in the same home with me.
Missing her old school will simply be a chance to relive happy memories of a fantastic primary school experience. Thanks to everyone who has had a hand in that. And good luck to all of you whose children are moving on whether from nursery to reception, into middle or secondary school, or sixth form, or a gap year, or university… Or something different entirely.
Over to you
What are the things you’ll enjoy missing most about your child moving on? (For me it’s going to be the walk to school through a park, with the dog, utterly lovely).