We can send astronauts to the moon but we can't get our kids into our local schools
This week was a very low dip on the roller-coaster that is parenthood. Our local council awarded our son a place at the primary school that we didn't want him to go to. He already goes to the primary school we wanted him to go to - we moved him into the nursery there last September, confident that we were in catchment for Reception.
I have spent most of the week in tears. Emotionally hijacked. It's irrational - I did nothing wrong and couldn't have done anything more; and it's futile - I have no control over the situation. Lack of control often makes us mad.
And boy am I mad. Mad with the driven and educated London parent community who, since he was but months old, have been drumming into us "make sure you start thinking about schools now". I have subsequently had this plan in place for what feels like years. I am angry with the unknown families of kids who got in, especially those who aren't currently in the nursery. I am angry with siblings - the reason my son didn't get in this year, when in previous years he would have, is due to an abnormally high number of siblings. And most of all I am angry with myself. For making emotional ties to the school, and for placing my hopes and dreams in the oversubscribed education system. As fellow mum Annabel concluded this week: "We can send astronauts to the moon but we can't get our kids into our local schools."
This all happened in a week when I was preparing to deliver a parental leave workshop for a corporate client. Nine hard-working and struggling parents were coming to share their feelings of self-worth, self- competence and perceived loss of confidence and control since more recently coming on board the parenthood roller-coaster. How the hell was I going to inspire and empower them towards a happier and rewarding future feeling so hopeless?
In actual fact it was the best form of medicine. To immerse myself in the psychology of parenting, to be reminded what our brains do when we experience an emotional hijack, to know how to silence the inner critic whose tape had been on 'repeat' all week: "You are a bad parent; you should never have moved him from his private nursery, look at the turmoil you've created for him?". My training and my work yet again brought me back from planet panic to where I choose to live my life: a lucky, happy place where every day we have choices, and where every day I am optimistic and grateful for my family, friends and our exciting future together.
My son will be a superstar regardless of the 'where' of his education. He already is. And according to family friend and wise parenting mentor Anna, this is the first of a series of educational disappointments that we'll face as parents, so we "may as well get used to it!". It is humour and support that has got me through this challenging week. I want to thank Lisa, Cherrie, Annabel, Louise and Zoe in particular - kindhearted and compassionate lioness mums whose children will be superstars too, and who will have our unconditional support and friendship for, we hope, many years to come. United we stand, whether at the school gates together, or not.