There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
In four days, Primary Headteachers will open their doors to children that have been waiting with nervous excitement to walk back through them. In eighteen days, Secondary Headteachers will follow to do the same, with uncertainty leading every decision, anticipation, logistic choice, deliberation, contemplation that they have had to make in the weeks that led to that point. What may be may be, and as I write this, what I may write may change by this time tomorrow, or the day after that, but I can be sure that it is this incertitude that will have kept Headteachers awake at night, and for that, I can only say thank you: thank you for thinking of your staff, and the children that will be in your care, above all else. It is this steadiness that will equip us all to an extent that you may never realise, and in the quickening momentum that propels us forward, we may forget to say those words.
If you are anxious about going back to school, you may be telling yourself that it’s normal, or that it won’t be as bad as you think it might be. You might have thought over how you might explain to a five year old child why they cannot reach out to touch, or how you might remember to breathe deeply in the nervousness of navigating children to stand alone, always alone, or how you might retrieve the face you wore as a teacher- the one that didn’t show your tears, or anger, or fear- because you know you did it before, but just can’t seem to conjure it back up again.
And I could tell you to tell a practical narrative to tell the five year old in such a way that they might comprehend, or to stand outside and count to ten; I could share with you that vulnerability is one of your strongest traits, and it will set you in good stead for this. I could tell you that everyone will feel this way at some point, even if not at first, and that this will bubble under all our skins, until one day it will permeate even the very thickest of masks that you thought you had, disgusting you at its very existence because you thought you were made of ‘stronger stuff,’ but that that day cannot be predicted.
Instead, I want to tell you some things that I have learned over the last few weeks from my own children, which will help me to make sense of a situation that is somewhat difficult to make sense of. I hope that when things are difficult, that along with the people who you can reach to support you in your schools, that you can take stock from them.
- Children believe you, and in you
When I utter that something is, it is. My children do not need to waver with suspicion over my words, and do not seek to do so, because my words are certain, and consistent, and above all, reliable. If I say it is so, it is so. If you say it is so, it is so. They do not linger over the gaps and the silence, but look for what is true and tangible and trustworthy. They do not look to what isn’t, but dwell upon what is, and use that to wrap themselves up in a moment of comfort. I hold the capability to make their weather, and I take up such a task with incisive conviction.
- Children capture unexpected moments
My children remember the smallest and what were to be, the least significant parts of our days, weeks, years together. Constructing memories is futile, because they will recall the trivial and incidental. Their memories are not made of the spectacular or horrendous. Jokes over a dinner table; having beans on toast for tea; sitting for a moment late one night to dismiss that red is the best colour. My eldest son would capture his favourite memories on an imaginary camera as a toddler, clicking the shutter when something caught his attention. They were always the objects or moments that I would never had noticed.
- Children thrive on familiarity
You are there, as regular as clockwork, with the same hair, and the same shoes, and the same twang to your voice when you say that word. You are there with a contradiction of soft severity as your face moves between one and the other. You are there with a book in your hand. You are there with that pencil case with the highlighter leak stain. You are there with a hot coffee. When they say a word, you will finish the sentence. When they ask, you will listen, even if you don’t have an answer- and it doesn’t seem to matter. You are there, and that is enough.
- Children defy fear
My children walk along flower beds, two foot from the ground. They raise stick swords precariously at one another, roaring like lions, stampeding across the lawn, a breath away from the floor racing up to meet them. My children lean across to see how far it is, how much it would take to fall, balancing one foot from a slither of security to see what could be done, what superpower might await them. Fear doesn’t factor, because they do not know it exists. They think in fleeting moments, one minute to the next, testing and teasing at boundaries to see what if. They have no time for fear, because it acts as a hindrance and a spoilsport- it is wasted energy that they could be using to laugh harder and swing faster. I stand by, knowing that life cannot be entirely constructed from minute to minute, but I wonder how weightless they must feel for that moment in time, and how many moments that I seek to perhaps not be fearless, but certainly as weightless.
- Children refuse to accept defeat
In the weakest of moments, children will become enraged at just the idea of giving up. They crave logic and reason, hunting it out at times when it feels that they isn’t a trace of the stuff. Can you imagine sheer will alone driving you forward? Irrespective of tears, rage, setback or any semblance of failure. I look to them with admiration as they thud onward, one deliberated stomp at a time.