I remember it like if it was yesterday.
Daniele and I looking at each other and running for freedom as fast as my short legs would allow me.
I was three years old and attempting to climb over the school metallic massive gate with the help of Daniele, my 4-year-old visionary partner in crime. Sadly, we got stopped at the front gate of my nursery school.
Da** it! The teacher who saw us stopped us.
Daniele and I though right then that it was ‘all over’ for us. No freedom. We had been planning the escape for a few days. I so vividly remember the moment right before the attempt; the noises around us, the strong desire of freedom, the quite sickening smell of soup being prepared in the school kitchen, the urge to break free from that regimented, structured environment...not that much so in fact, but it does not even matter.
I believed we could make it. I was certain that if we’d run downhill in the busy traffic road (!!) all the way fast and downhill, I believed we could make it…and I still know we could have.
That was the plan. I knew I would recognise my house the moment I saw it. I trusted Daniele when he told me never to look back and to simply keep running straight downhill.
I felt so empowered by our attempt to break free from what felt like a prison!
Three years old. This is the moment I knew I did not like rules. I did not like being told what to do and I certainly did not like being confined in a smaller space. That was the beginning of my being disruptive. That was the beginning of the making of me. Hacking rules. Non-conforming, to a degree.
That was the beginning of my formation into the one who never accepts the status quo.
I was caught and I was stopped but that was irrelevant.
At pick up time my mum was there waiting for me in her white small FIAT 500. Lovingly opening her arms as if to rescue me from prison. She must have asked me why I did it. I don’t remember what I said.
What I do remember very well though was the hairy moustache-y face of one of the main carers at that nursery!
And it was the very moustache that she sported so carelessly, that had pushed me to the edge. It was the moustache the main reasons I even attempted to escape in the first place.
Her hairy moustache-y face was just too confusing for my three-year-old self to process.
And the more she got closer to me to talk to me in the days leading to the great escape attempt (I am sure in the nicest way and with best intentions), the more I became determined that that place was not right for me. I wanted nothing to do with moustache-y faces and I just wanted to go home to not so hairy mum and my cat!
And why would mum anyhow not want me to stay home? She was a ’home stay mum’ after all so her job was to look after me whilst we could both stay home after all!
And in hindsight I ponder, could moustache-y face not shave or wax? Did she not have any awareness of how scary those moving moustache looked to any three-year-old with aesthetic sense? But that is me digressing. Back to the core of the topic.
The importance of breaking free from rules and the importance of disrupting. Never taking ‘no’ for an answer and the importance of empowering children since they are as young as three.
I thank mum for allowing me to stay home after my failed escape attempt. I thank mum for not telling me off. Or at least I don’t remember that bit.
My mum listened to my discomfort and also being a home stay mum - even though that was more out of dad’s choice (!! Yes, that will have to be another post), truly she would not have had any good excuse not to allow me to stay home for a few more years. Or would she?
Of course, I also gave her the perfect opportunity to feel as needed as when I was a baby, but that’s also for another post.
But what mum achieved by listening to my fears (however irrational they may have sounded to an adult), is to make me feel special and important. I felt I mattered and I felt listened to.
AND let me add it right here. In no way I am advocating that nursery schools should not exist, that mums should stop working at the first sign of children crying once dropped off there.
In fact, my very own beloved children did cry too in their first few days at nursery school yet, however hard and tearful I was, I made sure they stayed and soon enough got used to it. After all I had checked all their teachers faces at the time, and none seemed to have visibly grown moustache so my extremely selective process had been implemented! No more need to worry about their well being once that possible concern was removed.
And that story nicely brings me to today’s learning. What I experience in my psychotherapy practice day in and day out is the feeling my clients present during the sessions: that they feel they did not matter as children, that nobody truly listened to them both leading to their belief of NOT BEING ENOUGH.
What I learnt from my mentor Marisa Peer first and my clients after her, is how the 2 common denominators of people’s issues are two beliefs:
1. I AM NOT ENOUGH
2. WHAT I WANT IS NOT AVAILABLE TO ME
I felt enough that day mum allowed me to stay home for as long as I wanted. I felt I mattered. I felt that freedom was available to me. And no matter the several dysfunctional behaviours I later on went to linger in (and trust there are plenty of those - more posts to follow!), always since that day I knew I could say ‘no’ to anything that was not right for me.
That very day, back in my Italian childhood small village Boville Ernica, I knew freedom was available to me but I also knew something more powerful: that by taking action I could affect the outcome of my reality.
I hacked my “nursery destiny” by trying to climb that gate. And the simple trying gave me the outcome I wanted.
The failing bit was utterly irrelevant. In fact, it’s a blessing I failed as succeeding would have potentially meant that I could have been run over by a car on the downhill run home.
So, do let your children try escape nursery and embrace the process! Or even more importantly, make sure that whatever you say and do leaves them with the understanding and conviction that they do matter, that they are important and that they are enough.
Lastly, let us not forget how their perception of the world can be totally different than ours and please make sure you keep an eye out for those scary hairy upper lips. They really can be rather terrifying to a three years old!