I don’t write about you as much as I should, but the truth is that you’ve never given me a whole lot of trouble. You were a textbook baby and now you’re a wilful, determined and joyful four-year-old. Sometimes I wonder if your tantrums and your pickiness about food are normal or if I’m actually a really terrible mother, but most of the time I know that you’re doing okay.
Only… now you’re starting school. And I’ve watched the kids from up the street heading off to school with their parents and siblings a thousand times from our kitchen window, but I never really thought about the day when you would join them.
When we moved here, you were less than two months old. I scrubbed and painted this house with you growing and kicking inside me. Those children seemed lightyears away from the tiny baby I rocked and bathed and tickled and loved in our little cocoon. That you should be on the cusp of becoming one of them is unfathomable to me.
Sometimes I look at you and I watch you playing and I listen to the stories you make up as you play and I think… How did we get here? How do you know those words? Where did that wild imagination come from? And when did you get to be so big?
People tell you that the years go fast, but they don’t tell you how fast. They don’t tell you that one day you’ll be grimacing your way through another poonami and the next you’ll be saying goodbye at the school gates for the first time. They don’t tell you that your children will be a tiny bit different every single day and you won’t even notice until you look back at the old photos and videos.
They also didn’t tell me how choked up I would get when I think about you starting school. Because I want so much for you to grow and learn and discover new things and have wonderful adventures, but my heart feels just a little bit too full sometimes when I picture the boy you already are and the man you will one day become.
I remember your first proper day at playgroup and how hard I found it to leave you that morning. You were only two and looked so tiny compared to the other children. You found a tractor and sat yourself at a table with it, holding it out to show me. My heart felt strangled by the confused look on your face when I told you it was time for me to go and that I would see you at lunchtime. In fact, just thinking about that moment makes me tearful. As I walked out to the gate with your daddy, I turned to him and said “I can’t believe I left him” with tears streaming down my face. I’d never trusted anyone except family to look after you, and I knew you didn’t understand why I wasn’t staying with you. It broke my heart, but it was a moment that all parents have to go through as they help their children to navigate the world.
I wish I could tell you that I won’t cry when I leave you at your classroom for the first time in September. You won’t know, of course, whether or not I do because I will not let you see. I will not let you see how hard it is sometimes to know that you are growing up. That you are not mine anymore in the same way that you used to be. That you have only ever been on loan to me, when all is said and done.
I hope that you will love your school. I hope that you will find good friends and delight in learning new things. I hope that you will come home and tell me breathless, emphatic stories about your day.
I love you, O. More than I could ever tell you. Enough to stand aside and allow you grow up. Enough to let you go.
If I can just have you back for the odd cuddle every now and again, of course.