Our darling girl is going on her first ever school tour next week, they are going to a petting farm. Now, when I was a kid in England there were always a few parents that went on the school tours to help out. My mother went on one of mine that I can remember. Actually that was to a farm park in the Cotswolds come to think of it… But from what I can make out it seems that here in Ireland parents don’t usually go on the school tours. Fionnuala attends a HSE unit with classes from the nearby special school so a school tour for children with special needs is a bit more complex to organise than would otherwise be the case.
Yesterday Fionnuala had a presentation at the Riding for the Disabled facility she attends with her unit. Parents are always invited to this to see the children on the horses and there is a little picnic afterwards, its a nice event. I was at the presentation and was chatting to her teacher afterwards when she asked if I’d like to go on the tour next week. I assumed they needed extra help but no, they have plenty of staff going. She said they always give parents the chance to go to see the children on their school tour. And here is the conundrum. Part of me really wants to go to see my little girl on her first school tour to get all gushy and emotional and take loads of not terribly good photos. However, another part of me – probably the more sensible, rational, logical part – says I shouldn’t go, because she needs to develop more and more independence from us. Plus part of being a good parent is being able to let go. Isn’t it? I know she will be extremely well looked after and there will be lots of photos taken for all the parents to see. Fionnuala still has very limited speech so won’t be able to tell us what she thought of the farm, what she saw and did on the day. And that inclines me more towards going with her. But then I stand back for a minute and think “Well every day when she goes to school I have to rely on the communication book to tell me what she did each day.” I do ask her every day if she had a good time at school and the response is always a very definite “yeah!” But there is a wish in me that remains unmet – I want to know what she thinks of her day, what she likes most and least. For the time being that want will remain unsatisfied.
Even if I do go with her I won’t know what she is thinking. I’ll know if she’s enjoying herself and what she will see but is that just trying to live her life for her? I always said to myself long before I was ready to have a baby that if I ever had children the main thing I wanted for them was to be happy and independent. She is certainly a happy little girl and while she may not live a fully independent life we have to encourage and enable her to be as independent as possible. Hmmm. I think my decision has been made. Step back Mum, Fionnuala is taking on the world!