How Secondary School Changed my Daughter

Sometimes in parenting, there are moments that make you stop in your tracks.

“Holy Hell, how did THAT happen?” you’ll ask yourself.

Take the two video stills below. The first image is from last July, just before Flea started secondary school. The second image is from a video a couple of weeks ago.

Isn’t that crazy?

There’s only about 9 months between those two photos. 36 weeks. Something just over half a year.

Secondary school hasn’t just changed my daughter; it’s transformed her.

What’s truly scary (and lovely, and exciting) is that it’s transformed her on the inside, too. A lot happens in Year 7, and it’s great if you can be prepared for some of it.

At its heart, this past year has been about Flea learning to become more independent. For example:

I Don’t Pick Up. I Park.

At primary school, I waited outside Flea’s classroom for her to emerge at the end of the day. We’d have a hug, and head to the car.

At senior school, for the most part, I park outside the school and wait in the car. I don’t get out of the car, and Flea only acknowledges my existence once she’s inside the vehicle.

I’m a Taxi.

I used to think primary school was hectic. Secondary school is a whole other story.

I encouraged Flea to get involved in clubs and activities when she started secondary school. In the process made a giant rod for my own back.

Three nights a week of after-school sport, plus the weekly Scouts meetings are a LOT. Then there’s STEM club and some experiment involving a live hamster that I try not to ask too much about. Oh, and there’s also regional and county hockey team meetings after school, and weekend matches too.

This weekend I get to drive to Leeds for a Lancashire hockey match with a 9am kick-off. You can’t see me but I am very much making my happy face right now.

Weird Things are Exciting

On Friday, I was in London and Flea went to a friend’s house after school until I could pick her up. When I picked her up, Flea told me how amazing it was, and could we do the same again next time?

“We got to walk home the whole way by ourselves and listen to music and it only took half an hour,” said my daughter, who used to act like I’d asked her to trek the Pennines if I told her to take the dog to the park. Now it’s all “It was so cool, Mum!” 

Flea now volunteers to go the shop solo rather than walking there with me. She tells me I don’t need to ride my bike all the way to school with her. “It’s not like I don’t know the way.” 

I No Longer Need to Speak

A couple of days ago, it was my sis-in-law’s birthday, and I took Flea shopping to buy a gift. “Oh, isn’t that Ellie and Millie?” I said, as we wandered through the department store. (as an aside, from what I can tell, all Flea’s friends have names that sound the same; like Ellie and Millie and Arabella and Gabriella. It’s very hard to keep up.)

Flea was uncharacteristically quiet and didn’t respond. After we left the store and I interrogated her thoroughly she confessed – she couldn’t bring herself to speak to her friends because I WAS THERE. My mere presence now constitutes social humiliation.

I’m No Longer the Best Friend

Of all the changes, the one you won’t see coming is when your child bails on plans with YOU to spend time with their FRIENDS.

Flea and I have done Friday night dinner for as long as I can remember, assuming we’re both around. But this week? This week I got dumped, because Flea wanted to go to her best friend’s house and read Manga, and play video games.

I’ll be honest – my first instinct was to feel miffed. But then – isn’t this the whole point of secondary school?

Back when that first photo at the top of this post was taken, Flea was nervous and in need of a lot of support. Starting a new, big school where you don’t know anyone? That’s Big Stuff.

Nine months later, and Flea has thrown herself into secondary school. There are school clubs and out-of-school clubs. She asks to stay late to do homework with friends in the library. They hang out at each other’s houses, meet up at the park, go for hot chocolates together. There are endless, endless chats on iMessage and Instagram, with memes and in-jokes.

When you think about it, being ditched for a friend is precisely what I was hoping for. She’s making friends and wanting to spend time with them. I’m honestly thrilled about it. At least 95% thrilled, at any rate.

But I will confess that I do frequently shout, “Cooo-eeee!” in the direction of Flea’s friends if I see them in public. And if Flea’s been especially annoying in the morning, I absolutely WILL lean out of the car window and yell, “Have a good day, Snuggle Bear!” 

Because the joy of humiliating your kids never gets old (even if they do).



Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She’s also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world’s coolest ten year old.

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  1. 4th May 2017 / 8:03 am

    Very interesting! I think my mum felt the same way when I joined secondary school 2 years ago. Also, where is Flea in that very top photo. I got very weird deja vu when I saw it ahah

  2. 4th May 2017 / 10:12 am

    God, I can really relate to this. Literally everything I do is embarrassing. Everything. Speaking and breathing mostly, but if I deign to dance or sing IN MY OWN HOUSE, I’m, and I quote, “An absolute peasant.” So that’s nice. Can’t believe how much Flea has grown up – that first pic in particular is beautiful.

  3. 4th May 2017 / 1:37 pm

    This is my life. However, I love that you are never too old to have a cuddle or be tucked in. I will be going through it all again next year with Mini.

  4. 4th May 2017 / 3:08 pm

    Isn’t it just amazing how much she’s changed. I have all this to come next year and it scares the shit out of me!

  5. 4th May 2017 / 4:51 pm

    Even though Flea is 2 years above Grace at school, this transition has started to make itself known in our house. In some ways I love and others I really don’t! Thankfully the cuddles (out of sight of her friends) haven’t gone away yet. The difference between those first two photos is really noticeable. It is great to hear that she is enjoying it though.
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  6. 4th May 2017 / 5:25 pm

    At the funeral of my sister’s Mother-in-law, one of her sons made the most loving eulogy about what a great mother she was. We were all thinking how we’d like our children to be able to say similar things about us when the time comes, until he said, “and she never once embarrassed me.” A that moment a whole congregation of mourners thought – oh, too late.
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  7. 5th May 2017 / 10:54 am

    This will be me next year with my oldest and I am not sure I am ready for it. Flea has changed so much, but it’s lovely to know you are never too old to be tucked in or given a hug. She is growing into one gorgeous young lady xx

  8. 5th May 2017 / 12:15 pm

    I could have written this myself Sally. Physically it’s a time of huge change. They’re not little girls in any way at all any more, and that dawns on you rather abruptly one day, with a twang of regret peppered with a huge dose of pride.

    But the social transformation is even bigger, and it’s a real journey for both child and parent. I can absolutely say that my biggest challenges as a parent have come this year, as we both get used to the new arena.

    And on public friendships, I walk past a lot of Maddie’s friends every afternoon as I do the school run for my youngest. Although I know them, and they’ve been in my house, eaten my pasta, and taken my calpol, I am not allowed to acknowledge them as I pass. It’s just not cool, and it would be ‘awks.’ I stare at the pavement when I see them coming and feel more gauche than I ever did as a teenager. Though apparently I am allowed to say hi, if I’ve done my eyebrows and am wearing my leather jacket and skinny jeans
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  9. 7th May 2017 / 4:11 pm

    Ahh bless, I think I will be gutted when my children don’t want to spend time with me. Although I totally agree that it’s exactly what we should want for them, I’ll miss them.
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