In what seems such a short while, we’ll be seeing our littlest one start her school days. I’ve had one of those unexpected delights hanging out with her for these almost five years. She’s hardly ever driven me crazy – despite expecting kids to. There’s an ease with her that I still can’t explain. I am cheesily utterly blessed and still stunned by this fact. It’s been an Instaworthy time…if I could’ve been bothered.
I watch her tentatively step into the world without me. Those preschool days filled with crafting and busy with routine. The cardboard constructions – toilet rolls and boxes becoming magnificent somethings. The paintings scrunched in her bag – each explained later in detail. The flowers, butterflies and “mums” in pinks and purples and yellow. The drawing crammed to the edges with hearts – “because I tried to paint infinity love hearts for you”… the tiny wrapped gifts and sudden hugs and her singsong voice.
All of this seems a mini preparation – a practice – for those bigger goodbyes. I can feel the next one lurking. Just over the New Year’s horizon. As Summer closes it will fold us in.
And I know she’s not really going anywhere. Not quite yet. But I’ve seen it before now, twice, and I know the changes school brings. As soon as it starts something exquisite ends. That private cocooning…the dreamy sleepy snuggling…days stretching out and on…witnessing those tiny flickers of light come into flame.
She’s been trying on her brother’s uniform. It almost fits.
I am slow to enrol her. I procrastinate over the paperwork. I find it all too perfunctory. I don’t want to let go of her soft little hand – warm in mine. I can feel a resistance, which I must wrestle quietly.
I know how quickly time dissolves once they start school. How much it drags when they’re still babies – “the days are long but the years are fast”… how I seemed to sit forever in the stewing mess of tiredness and nappies and showerless days. Cold cups of tea gone grey on the sink. 24 hour rotations. Isolation. Sleep deprivation that ate at my body and soul. Self-recrimination. Muddledom. Days that could turn on a dime.
Then the giggling. The delight. The toddling chubby legs and the lightness of their feet.
Now the weight of my older sons’ bodies. Their legs long and feet heavy. Their movement – a little toward and a little away. Me waiting in the wings just in case. I’m here if you need me but sometimes you don’t and that’s how it’s meant to be…adoring on the sidelines of their growing lives.
The juggernaut of school. Notes to lose and lunchboxes to fill. The homework to scratch out. The weariness and push of it all. The relentless term time rhythm.
But here she is. This little pint sized pup. Her big brown eyes so liquid deep.
Here she stands shining in the kitchen. Her little apple cheeks. Her hands so small yet already so capable. She has dressed herself and found her purple shoes. She’s washed some berries for a snack. Her ankles peek out from her pink tracksuit pants. Her legs too long for them now. I try to ignore this.
She’s saying something that’s missed in the morning mayhem. I’m grumbling about lost school hats again and threatening ludicrous consequences. And she stands in the kitchen light trying to speak. I catch her voice – what do you want? Expecting another request.
“I just want to tell you that you’re the most beautiful mum in the whole wide universe. I love you so much – all the way to the planet that’s so far away that it has aliens on it. You’re the bestest mum ever and your hair looks dazzling.”
My throat catches and my hand automatically reaches for my greasy ponytail. I feel ashamed of my gruffness and teary with tenderness. She’s not mocking me. She’s not being silly or trying it on. She’s watching me earnestly nodding her blondey-brown bob.
I wipe my breakfasty hands on my dressing gown and reach down to hug her. “Thankyou sweet pea I love you too.” But she’s already wrapped her little arms around my legs and is nuzzling me.
This morning honour. This sunlit treasure. I am filled to brimmingness.
Thank you and thank you again.
I drink it up knowing that soon enough we have to let go…that these mini goodbyes are flushed with the joy of growth – of change – of what should and will be. Yet they also carry a hint of our biggest goodbyes. The final letting goes that will one day come. The leavings that wait…just out of sight…
Bereft. I won’t be lost or bored or empty without you here. For life is full and fascinating. But there’s grief in amongst this milestone nearing. Having walked this before I know not to underestimate it.
And here is today’s one perfectly formed offering – held out to scrambling me…the warmth of a child’s arms wrapped around my knees as I stand teary in the kitchen chaos…
Knowing she will leave soon enough, but right now, here she is…here we stand a little longer…