Honest Motherhood: Hello 2023

It will be January 2023 in a matter of days. Quite where 2022 has gone I do not know. (In short; umpteen school runs, various playgroups and toddler music classes, a handful of days out and a couple of holidays, weddings, births and pregnancy announcements.- I’m at that age.)
I always look forward to the New Year, I like the feeling of new-ness, of twelve whole months ahead, a blank canvas. 
This New Year however, feels a little different. I’m carrying a small pocket of anxiety, a feeling of simultaneous nervousness and excitement. 
Why, you ask? Well, it’s no big deal (it is), but my youngest, Leo, will be starting nursery in January. Which has seemed to come by unimaginably quickly…

Leo turned two in August and in many ways, is more than ready.
“He will love it!” People say when I express my fears. (Which are a delightful mixture of rational and highly irrational.)
I know the change of setting and social aspects will be brilliant for him, but I am still anxious at the thought of the adjustment period. Will he cling to me? How long will he cry for? Will he settle? 

Two of his new teachers came for a home visit last week, a brief getting-to-know-session where we could ask questions and they could meet Leo in his home environment.
“Leo your nursery teachers will be here soon!” I said, the morning of the visit.
“No! No! NOOOOOOOOO!” He screamed, running into the kitchen. Fabulous start.

The doorbell goes.
“JUDYYYYY!” Leo exclaims, running to the door. He thinks his Grandma Judy has arrived and is devastated when I open the door to reveal two strangers.
“Hello!” They say, as friendly as could be.
“NOOOOOOOOOOOO!” Leo cries, bolting to the dining room. A most welcoming-welcome.
“Leo why don’t you come and say hello? You can show them your cars? Leo?”

What feels like a decade later, we all settle into the living room. Leo comes and nestles himself into me, picking up my arms and wrapping them around his body. It’s very sweet. But also quite assertive. He won’t let go of me. I don’t particularly want him to. (But equally I want to show these childcare-professionals that my toddler is brilliantly independent in more normal social situations. It’s not the norm to have strangers coming to sit in your home, with all the interest and focus being on you.)
“Leo are you going to say hello?” I said hopefully, knowing full-well it was a pointless request. He peered up at the women suspiciously. “I don’t know you…” I could feel him thinking.
Despite being able to hold entire conversations with various close-family members on a daily basis, my son remained mainly mute, breaking his silence with one-word requests directed at me.
Thankfully, as the visit progressed, Leo became his usual chatty self, playing trains with one of the teachers.
“Oh he’ll be fine..” The other teacher said when I asked about separation anxiety. 
“They cry at first, there’s a settling-in period, and then they’re fine..” She said.
I nodded, dreading the thought of him being inconsolable without me.
“It’s like ripping off a plaster…” a friend said to me recently.

We’ve visited the nursery, and I’ve witnessed firsthand Leo running off to play, forgetting my presence entirely. He made himself at home, navigating the room and all the toys as if he’d been there for months, then protesting when it was time to go home. I cling onto that memory as a reminder of his independence. I know, deep down, that this will be good for him. A few hours, in a different setting, with more toys and activities than a toddler could wish for, and hopefully, some new friends.
The first adventure of 2023. 

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