The day I have literally dreaded since Tyne was born is almost here.
He turns three in just under 4 weeks time, and that means it's time...time to stop ignoring and immediately throwing away the letters that come through the door about funding and applying for places...time to stop putting off the question whenever anybody asks it...Time to decide once and for all..
Will he be starting nursery next term?
I realise that this probably doesn't seem like such a big deal to many people. It's not like he's at school age yet (God only knows how I'm going to deal with that one!)...it's just nursery. It's just a few hours a week, as few as I want.
It's just part of children growing up, it's a good thing...he'll be able to socialise, make friends, learn that he can't be around us 24/7, learn some independence, make a start in his education....I know how important all of these things are, of course I do...I worked in schools and daycares for years as a nursery nurse myself you see and so I absolutely understand how important they are...
But that's part of the problem.
As I've discussed previously, I suffer with anxiety - and my anxiety is never stronger or more overpowering than where my kids are concerned.
I worry constantly about their safety - every moment of every day there's fear in my mind, I'm always terrified of what might happen...what they might put in their mouths that they could choke on, who might be around to hurt them, what germs they might pick up....
Worry is a constant thing for me. So is that extreme fear that only a parent can really understand...the absolute, all-consuming, heart-stopping fear of something dreadful happening to your child.
This fear is one I live with every single day...but at least when the children are with me I'm in control...I can double and triple check how safe everything is, I can make sure that they're always in my view, I can ease my own fears because the children are right there in front of me...I can see that they're ok, I can do everything I can to make sure they stay that way.
And I know that won't be the case forever...I can't lock them up in a tower and stop the world from hurting them...I have to learn to find a way to be ok with them going off and becoming independent, making their own decisions.
I'm all too familiar with that quote "Motherhood is learning to live with your heart outside of your body"...it really is so true.
But while he is still so little and vulnerable, it's something I am really going to struggle with...
I read things...too many things...about the awful freak accidents that can occur.
I've stopped reading the newspapers so much these days after my therapist pointed out that the way I was drawn to these horrible stories was a form of self harm (I knew how much they would upset me but I read them anyway, knowing all that it would do was hurt me and fill me with more fear) but the stories I have read in the past remain with me....articles about children dying on their first day of nursery because of unsafe playground equipment will never leave my mind, and I know that every day that one of my children is in nursery or school I'll be sitting at home re-playing those stories over and over again in my head, worrying myself silly that it might happen to one of mine.
But there's another problem too....
I worked in a lot of day care centres....I've seen things from the inside. And the stories I could tell you about the horrible practises I saw in some of these nurseries would stop you from sleeping at night...these were establishments that from the outside would seem perfectly well run and respectable, the parents of those children would collect their little darlings every day thinking they'd been well looked after...being handed filled in nursery diaries of the wonderful activities they'd done....being made to feel they were paying for a fantastic service for their beloved child.
But I'd seen the reality and it couldn't have been further from the truth - and yes I know that those nurseries were bad examples, and they're probably few and far between (and yes all of them have been reported since...) - but it doesn't stop the worry, and it doesn't leave me able to trust people who are assuring me that they will look after my child just like I would.
At one nursery I worked in, a child escaped from the building one day....the nursery had all of the usual security policies in place, an electronic entry system etc...it should have been perfectly safe. Everybody thought it was perfectly safe. But a parent leaving the building left the main door open for a split second and didn't notice the child sneak out...nobody noticed until that childs parent arrived and it was suddenly realised that the child was nowhere to be found.
They found him a while later, safe thank goodness, near a very busy road outside...he wasn't even 2 years old. Anything could have happened to him.
How can I - having seen that happen first hand - ever put my trust in a childcare provider? how can someone with my level of anxiety place my pride and joy into someone else's hands and trust that they will truly guard it with their life?
I don't know the answers to any of these questions.
I don't know how I'm going to do it....but I know that it's something society expects of me, and something I'm being told is the right thing for my child.
And so I guess I'll have to find a way...but I don't know how.
I wish I hadn't experienced the things I have with childcare providers, I wish I had the blind confidence and faith in them that so many of my parent friends are able to have, I wish my anxiety wasn't eating me alive...I don't want to allow it to hold my children back from having wonderful and normal life experiences.
But jesus it's hard....really, really hard.