When Liadan Hynes’ marriage fell apart she had to work on adjusting to the new reality. In her weekly column, Things Fall Apart she explores the myriad ways a person can find their way back to themselves
My daughter turns five and finishes playschool this week. There is a time when that much change, that much moving on to different things, would have been scary. A bit upsetting.
She began playschool around about the same time we began separation. A child who had been minded by various people at home, it was her first foray into the outside world. And it has provided all kinds of things that are what you need when life is falling apart.
A stable place
A little network of friends. A small world that revolves around playdates, involved lunchtime discussions on what kind of birthday cake each person is having, who was today’s leader, reports back of various colouring techniques (a scribbler, or a between the lines-er) and who managed to stay silent in circle time.
To me, it offered up people who just got it; who quietly supported us. It was her teacher who said to me one morning, when I may quite possibly have arrived for drop-off still wearing pyjamas under my long coat; take one day at a time. Another mother who turned out to also be separated, and has now become a good friend.
To see your child setting down roots, making a safe, stable place in the world (when elsewhere things feel, for a time, somewhat broken), is a huge comfort.
So the moving on from such a place would once have been deeply upsetting. But that is the thing about weathering one massive life upheaval. It changes how you view all the others.
When you have had to face a massive change, and you have coped with that, then all other changes lose their power to scare so much.
Yes, it is a big step, and there will be an adjustment. But I know we have got this, to use that already overused inspiration quote. The base we have created has weathered our storm, and so while we still look outside for support, our base can weather this too.
And it is not just ‘change’ that these things inure you to. In the past, I would have found sadness scary. And if she had come to me with it, chances are I would have done my best to chase it away for her. I wouldn’t do that now. Sadness is sad, of course, and uncomfortable, but no longer scary.
This too shall pass.
I would tell her it’s normal, we all feel sad, it will pass.
We’ve handled worse
At one time, it’s possible I would have helicoptered over her, hanging on her every anxiety, giving it more weight. And that is not to say I will ignore whatever fears the move throws up. But underneath that, I know we can handle this. Because much, much bigger things have been handled.
You think you know the truth of that saying, about what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, because of course. It’s so obviously true. But living it is an entirely different thing. Actually feeling yourself get stronger for having lived through something difficult.
Less easily bothered by others. Less fearful. Your peace of mind harder to disturb.
Read more: ‘One more kiss and watch them walk away’ The emotions of starting Big School
Read more: Things Fall Apart: A message to all the tired parents out there
Read more: The five torturous stages of bringing children to swimming lessons