“I’m too puffed”

“I’m too puffed”

When Victor uttered these words as we hurried towards his classroom in the pouring rain I knew trouble was brewing.

He was lying – he wasn’t puffed. He was using that as an excuse to stop, even though the bell had rung and we were running late for the second day in a row. He wasn’t puffed.

The week had started off well. Despite being a routine kid and often anxious about change, LV handled drop-off on his first day at school with remarkable aplomb – and so did I. There were no tears from either party, he was happy and excited so that made it easy for me to be happy and excited.

At pick up he was eager to tell us how it all went. When prompted he said they did “lots of stuff,” then he informed us “school is really fun.”

The next day we walked to school holding hands but as we rounded a building onto the central grounds of the school he shook my hand free. “What’s with that?” I whispered, “I’m a big boy mum” he shot back, like a dagger to my bleeding heart. He was taking this school thing seriously – so cool, calm and collected. I really had no reason to worry.

Or so I thought.

Wednesday ran much the same as the previous two days. An excited drop-off, a tired but happy pick up. But that night, as we were doing a homework activity together, Vic turned to me and his little face was riddled with anxiety.

“Mum I can’t do my bag properly. I can’t do the zip up”

My heart sank. We’d bought him a really nice new bag for school, it had a chunky gold coloured zipper that was apparently more about style than it was about function. I had stitched up my kid from day one.

“Oh honey…” I began, but he wasn’t done.

“And my lunchbox, I can’t close it mum”


“Yes you can!” I enthused, “I’ve seen you close it lots of times”

His face fell further and tears started rolling down his cheeks, “I can’t mum, I can’t close it properly”

And then came the words I dread from him “it isn’t perfect enough.”

LV is a perfectionist. He always has been. Getting him to take an interest in drawing and writing has been a long process because if he doesn’t get it right first time, then he’ll beat himself up out of frustration and want to move on to something else. Colouring outside of the lines is not an option – if his crayon strays he’ll break down. Of course I’ll reassure him that it looks great but he’ll explain through tears that “it isn’t perfect enough.”

I must’ve told him a thousand times things don’t have to be perfect; that by practicing we get better, that enjoying ourselves and giving things a go is what counts. None of that matters to Vic because he wants perfect.

Knowing that he had been struggling for days with his bag and his lunchbox, two really freakin’ huge parts of starting school, was like a punch in the stomach. I’m guessing he didn’t say anything to us because he was worried he’d let us down somehow. I suppose on the Wednesday it got the better of him and he pleaded with us to let him stay home the next day because he didn’t want to face the torment again.

That night Joel went to the Warehouse to pick up a cheap bag and lunchbox. Nothing fancy, but LV can open and close both of them with ease. He woke up last Thursday morning stoked with his new gear and ready to tackle another school day. I felt bad that he’d been suffering in silence for those first few days at school, but we’d problem-solved and I was confident he’d now be fine.

And he was, for Thursday at least.

Come Friday it was raining, really raining. Post-breakfast the kids were plonked in front of the TV while we scrambled to get everything ready for drop off. It had been wet the day before as well and LV’s running shoes were still damp so I suggested he put on his gumboots – just for the walk from the car to class. No. He didn’t want to.

I encouraged him to at least try, so he tried. He put one foot half way in, but his reaction to the feeling of his foot going into that boot was like mine when I eat a brussel sprout. No, he did NOT want to wear gumboots. NO.

Besides, he wasn’t ready to go, he was still watching Diego.

Oh for fuc…

“Come on Vic, put on your gumboots, you’re going to be late”

The more insistent we got, the more anxious he became. His little body started shaking and his hands balled into fists. NO.

He curled up on the floor and started wailing. His face was red and wet with tears. He covered his ears when we tried to negotiate with him. He pounded the floor with his fists when we said things he didn’t want to hear.

Joel had a meeting at nine and was supposed to be dropping LV off on the way; I was to take the twins to daycare. Everyone’s stress levels were climbing by the minute, causing a sort of feeding frenzy of frayed nerves. In the end Vic’s meltdown meant Joel had to take over twin duty in order to make his meeting and I was left trying to coax my little bundle of tears out the door.

I don’t know how I managed to convince him to get into the car, but a few minutes later we found ourselves trudging up the path to school. I walked briskly and encouraged Victor to do the same. The bell rang. I walked faster, my son didn’t.

“Come on Vic! We’re late now! See what happens when you faff around? We’ve missed the bell,” I couldn’t hide my frustration. We’d already been late the day before and I didn’t want to be that mum who can’t get her shit together twice in the first week. Plus, honestly, I was just pissed at how the last hour had played out and the realisation that treading mornings on a knife edge has different consequences now LV’s at school.

Most mornings are fine but and it doesn’t take much to derail us – today it was the suggestion of gumboots. With daycare it didn’t matter, we could take our time dealing with the situ and turn up whenever, but with school there’s a bell, and mat time, and the stares of other kids. There are gates that get locked and a teacher who relies on children being on time to do her job properly.

As I hurried along I could tell LV was falling further behind. I turned to hustle him again but my words evaporated as I saw him at a standstill, a tiny defeated figure clutching a dinosaur umbrella with tears rolling down his cheeks.

“I’m too puffed”

In that moment I knew I hadn’t won the battle, I knew there was more to come. I crouched to his level and softened my tone.

“It’s okay darling, we can go slow” and he took my hand.

We managed to get another twenty metres closer to the classroom before whatever was helping him hold the last remnants of his shit together upped and offed. His little damp feet were suddenly one with the asphalt. He pulled on my arm, desperately begging to go home.

We stood there in the pouring rain, me pleading, him pleading. Kids gawked out of classroom windows as Vic cried and yelled and I tried to soothe him. I had no idea what to do. No clue. I could feel tears of my own threatening and at a total loss I summoned his teacher who tried to talk him around. Nothing doing. Needing to return to class she called for the assistant principal who in turn called for the SENCO teacher. By now I also had tears streaming down my face because, gah, so many bloody emotions.

It was a full fifteen minutes in the rain before the decision was made to rip off the band aid, so to speak. I kissed the top of Vic’s head, prised his fingers from my hand and started walking away. The SENCO teacher immediately picked him up and carried him in the other direction.

After a few seconds I looked back. They disappeared around a corner with Victor still crying and reaching for me. My heart fucking broke. How did we go from an amazingly happy first day at school to him being carted away sobbing within less than a week?

I spent the next half an hour in the assistant principal’s office as we talked things through and made a plan for the rest of the day and the following week. I cried nearly the whole time because my spirit was just totally broken and I had no reserves. I felt like a dick. Even as I sat there I knew there were parents who dealt with much harder stuff every damn day than a kid who refused to go to school in his first week. What would they think of me, all emo in a senior staff member’s office, making a big deal out of my son having a standard kid meltdown?

The thing is, even if everything else in life is hunky dory, knowing your kid is in ribbons and feeling totally helpless then seeing them taken away from you in that state is shit.

Now knowing Vic was quietly stressing about school has helped us manage things at home more mindfully to give him the best chance of getting to class without shot nerves. We’re focussing on allowing him enough time to have breakfast, get ready and play in the mornings without feeling pressured to hurry up. We’re making sure he gets early nights and and no matter how crazy the kids are in the morning we don’t turn on the TV before school. We’re trying to exercise a lot more patience with him, because let’s face it he’s still little and all this is A LOT.

Of course this is all stuff we should’ve been doing from his very first day at school, but because he initially handled it like such a pro, I guess we just relaxed into everything without properly considering how mammoth the change was for our little mate. We just carried on as usual but with school instead of daycare, and Vic really needed us to not carry on as usual, but to give him extra time, space and patience so he could process everything in his own way.

I’m happy to report that things have been much better this week. He tried the sore tummy card one morning, and when that didn’t work he switched to itchy eczema, but the promise of a fluffy and a cupcake after school was enough to get him to class without incident.

So I guess this is a head’s up of sorts to other parents about to send their tiny babies out into the wide world of school. Even if they seem to be totally chill, you gotta know that this change is a massive one for them. Like, truly monumental. It can really mess with their tiny emotions and as mums and dads it’s our job to be one step ahead so we can do our best by them to help them navigate these crazy new waters.


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36 thoughts on ““I’m too puffed”

  1. Hugs to you! With my own perfectionist and another who really hates to be rushed, I totally get it! From a mum who’s teenagers get up at 6am in order to relax while
    getting ready to leave by 8!!! I know it’s soooo not easy but try not to worry about what all the other school mums think, it’s a total mine field of comparison that you’ll be so much better off not going down.

    It can mess with their emotions and with our energy levels, it’s exhausting staying one step ahead. And it’ll change constantly too.

    Big hugs and I hope it continues to go better!

    1. Thanks Julie, we’re getting there! Good advice to not worry about what other mums think – it’s actually a whole new world for me too

  2. Oh the poor little dude! Week 3 for my daughter and she’s had one full day and two half days off. It is so tiring for them!
    And heartbreaking when it’s too hard for them and they break down.
    My year two boy had a tearful morning the other day too. Still!!
    I just want to keep them all home!

    1. I can’t say that I want to keep all mine home! But I think it’s a great option to give them some time at home early on if it’s all a bit exhausting. Good on you mama

  3. You are amazing. I have no babes of my own, and have no idea how hard each day must be for you, but I admire you so much. You do such a great job x

  4. Oh I so feel this! I’ve had the same thing with my little girl the last fortnight. She was a champ at her first term in kindy and then bam, the switch was flipped. I have the same picture in my head off the teacher carrying her away while she reaches for me with tears streaming down her face. It is so heartbreakingly awful! And I’m beating myself up over not realising the meltdowns over shoes etc in the morning were due to anxiety, not the bloody shoes of course. 🙁

    1. We are pretty quick to blame ourselves right? I guess because we feel so responsible for all aspects of our children’s wellbeing. It is hard, and it is awful, but we’re new to this too so we’re learning how to deal with it all right alongside our kids. Don’t be hard on yourself

  5. I actually loved this read and had all the feels, because it is SO hard and I was there just last year. So much of what you said reminded me of my boy. For the longest time he would not write the R in his name (peston instead of preston) because his r’s weren’t good enough! He wouldn’t draw things because he knew what an elephant looked like in his mind, and that what he drew didn’t look like that! And I had to buy new slip on shoes because the other ones were too hard to get on and off in the classroom – he went into panic mode. He had a great first couple of days, but then day 3 there was a screaming melt down with the teacher trying to rip the band aid off for me and telling me to get out of the classroom which my son is screaming ‘don’t leave me mum!’. That stuff is HARD!! and you do absolutely feel broken hearted for them. But I think it’s great the school made time for you…just because they have seen it 1000 times before, doesn’t mean you have. this is your FIRST time, and it’s important, and it’s hard, and it’s a big deal! Sounds like you have come up with some great ways to make things a little smoother. Good luck LV and to you and joel!

    1. My son’s name is Preston as well, he’s a big tall, gorgeous 19 year old now. I just had to comment as I don’t often see many Preston names 🙂

      1. Hi Crystal! My son’s name is Preston as well, he’s a big tall, gorgeous 19 year old now. I just had to comment as I don’t often see many Preston names 🙂

      2. You are right! I don’t see it very often! Clearly we both have very good taste ha ha

    2. Thanks Crystal, it is reassuring to hear stories from others who have been there – even though I don’t want anyone to have to feel all the hard feels! Sounds very similar to my experience, and I’ve learnt from writing this that there are loads of kids and parents in the same boat. How is Preston getting on now?

  6. Oh, this got me choked up, because I’ve been there, bloody hell if we don’t quite get the morning right we are still there occasionally. It’s so hard. It’s hard not to get frustrated and harder when I do and take it out on my sensitive little guy. Hugs to all of you, school is a huge change for everyone I think, lots of routines and rules and inflexibility. It’s a huge time suck and I know we took ages to really adjust properly (mostly because as soon as you think you’re sorted it’s school holidays!).

    1. So many sensitive little dudes around! And I don’t want to beat that out of my son by barking orders at him all morning and insisting he do things the way he “should” because god knows we need more sensitive guys in this world. But you’re right, SO HARD not to get frustrated with him not moving at a speed I’d like him to or doing things as I think he should. I’m kinda looking forward to holidays already because it seems so weird not having him home at all during the school week

      1. Hey a list (with pics til he can read well) which he can tick off himself worked well in my house.

  7. Gah this made me all emo too! Thanks for sharing this. In similar situations I wish I had said ‘we can go slow’ too. Great to hear that this past week has been a smoother one.

  8. I loved reading this, it brought tears to my eyes as I totally understood the frustration, emotions and gut wrenching ‘letting go’ of a child who is screaming and clinging on to mum. I’ve been there! It’s great to read honesty and also see the hope that eventually (usually in a matter of days) that it all becomes better. A great reminder to slow our day down a bit more. Thanks Jane! and glad to hear your little man (and you!) are doing awesome 🙂

    1. Thanks Jayne. Isn’t it funny how kids can teach us how things should be done? I’m learning every damn day. I wanted to just grab him and take him home but I knew that would send a message that a meltdown would buy a home day and that could be a disaster. What I will do is try and anticipate when he might be heading downhill with exhaustion or anxiety and give him a day off before the meltdowns begin. Just to decompress and reboot

  9. Oh Jane!!! You certainly have a way with words and as I type this years roll down my cheeks for you and for me as I am 15 weeks into the school year and we are all still struggling with anxieties from both mum and child.

    Bless you for sharing your story, even if it felt shitty to do so I’m so greatful that I am not the only one walking this bumpy stage of parenting.

    1. Oh Carla! Don’t crrrrry! It’s really hard huh? It’s been really eye opening writing this and seeing how many other people have or are going through very similar situations. It helps me feel less alone in it all because on that day with all the kids in class and all the parents long gone, I felt very alone in that playground with LV! x

  10. You just made me cry …that image of you crying in the office. Love the honesty.. nothing gets me more than people prepared to be honest about what’s going on. Because no one has it smooth all the time. Cheers xxx

    1. We have it far from smooth around here! Not that I have it any harder than anyone else of course, but parenting is far from a smooth ride and anyone who presents it otherwise is either incredibly fortunate or a damn liar. You have to be honest, because otherwise you’re just setting yourself up for failure and potentially other mamas too, which sucks for everyone. Thanks for reading Mrs D x

  11. Jane this is just beautiful. Thank you for sharing. I’m one of those Assistant Principals you mention and to hear from your perspective is insightful and heart warming. Makes me want to take more time to consider next time I’m in this situation which can be so hard for children and their parents. Thank you! Can I share with my teachers at school and parents for next year (which I will be one!)
    So much love to you my friend.
    Xxx KB

    1. Ohhhh mama Kate! Of course you can share! I know you guys see this sort of stuff every day, but there’s usually a story behind it at home, and even though you know it’s all going to be okay sometimes us parents feel the opposite of that – like everything is crashing down around us. Even for just that moment in time. The caring and patience of our Assistant Principal made all the difference that day. Thank you for the wonderful work you do lovely xx

  12. I’m literally crying now. It really does break your heart when your babies are having a tough time. No tv in the morning has really helped things run smoother in our household too.

    1. Nothing prepares you for it right? You just want to help them, but sometimes you can’t – and that’s really hard to deal with. We’re going well with the no TV in the morns, but it’s bloody tempting some days!

  13. Some mornings I walk away from school drop off expecting someone to come up and present me with a medal for achieving it.
    Some days I’m super patient and calm and loving for 2 hours of a morning and then still lose it by the time my 4 year old son is screaming for us all to get back in the car and get out again because the first time we got out in the wrong order. And when I carry him kicking and screaming he starts yelling “I want water!” or “I need to go to the toilet” and I feel like a heartless Mum denying my son the basics (he doesn’t really need those things, he just yells it for attention). And my poor daughter finds this yelling, screaming entourage all super stressful and starts her school day in an anxious knot.
    Now often my son asks to stay in the car while I walk my daughter into school, and I let him. I know that technically I’m not supposed to, but being pragmatic is getting us through. And most of our mornings are good now.
    But yeah, I know if I say “hurry up, we’re going to be late”, or similiar, I’ve just blown it big time. The stress of the hurry up situation sends my daughter into a tailspin.
    I love you Jane. xxx ❤

    1. Oh Ange, you are a sweetheart. I know you are one of the parents who have it fifty thousand times harder on a daily basis, and you do deserve a medal – every day! I have to giggle at the getting out of the car in the wrong order thing – we have similar demands, and while I know it’s not funny in the moment (it’s stressful and frustrating!) it’s nice to know we’re not alone in these little quirks. As for leaving your son in the car for a few mins, whatever works for you all to get through the day I say. As long as he’s safe and it helps get sister off to school calmly then I say go for it. I know how important it must be for her to have a good start to the day. I think I’m going to try and ban the phrase “hurry up” from our house, it’s like telling someone who’s getting worked up to “calm down” – has the total opposite effect! Love you too Ange xx

  14. Thanks for sharing Jane. I can totally relate to your experience and emotions and it is comforting to hear it from someone else. We are all just loving Mums. Thanks, x

  15. I came over for the bread roll recipe but have loved reading a few posts. Thanks for sharing – how’s he going now? I have to remember that sometimes it’s ok to be late or have things not go perfectly and to be more understanding with my daughter – they have tough days just like us and might need more support . X
    My oldest is 3.5 – I don’t think I’ll be ready for her to go to school:)

    1. Thanks Rebecca! He’s going pretty well, especially now we’re being more mindful of how stressful the whole process is for him. Yes, I need to remember the same – being late will not be the end of the world. They definitely have tough days, but even worse for them, they don’t have the skills to express that frustration in ways that we can as adults. Poor little things, everything in this world is a learning experience for them – we have to remember how overwhelming that can be for a little. x

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