So, it’s happening: you’ve started pre-school. You’re a September baby, so you’re starting at the grand old age of four. You’re my baby, but you haven’t been a baby for a long time.
I’ve always liked September better than January for new starts. I like the crisp summer days, the sense of possibility, the neat and orderly routines starting again. I like that last little burst of summer before the nights begin to draw in. I like September even more since you were born, on a muggy overcast day in a big hospital, where time seemed to swell and almost stop. It started up again at double speed from the moment air first hit your lungs.
This means that, this time next year, I will be waving you off to school. You will look tiny, despite probably being the oldest, in your shiny new uniform. Judging by my reaction to my niece starting school, a bafflingly long time ago now, I will probably be crying quite a lot. Not tears of heartbreak. Starting school is amazing and exciting and I’ve been looking forward to it. But tears of … longing? I suppose. Tears that come inevitably when one era ends and another begins.
Because what an era it’s been. I know it’s kind of uncool to say this, but you and your brother have changed me immeasurably. I’m not who I used to be. Becoming your mother has changed my life.
I’m not going to lie, it’s not always been easy. Having a baby is an incomprehensibly life-changing event. It flips your whole entire world upside down and when everything settles, your priorities are totally rearranged.
I gave up work because of you. I did like my job a lot, but I knew I couldn’t make it work. You were an anxious baby (to put it mildly). You needed me. And to be honest it was an easy sacrifice. I got to be your full-time, 24/7 watcher. I was (and still am) your gatekeeper, the one responsible for introducing you to our beautiful world. And I have loved every minute of it (well, almost every minute). I’ve watched, in astonishment, as you have learnt everything you know. Some of it taught by me and your Dad, but most of it just learned by yourself, as if by osmosis. I’ve rediscovered the beauty of the natural world, through your fascination with it. I’ve marveled at how complex and amazing human beings are. How quickly children grow and learn. I’ve watched your wrap your head around concepts like time, money, creation, and love. It all comes naturally to you – you’re a kid. You’re built to learn this stuff. But it’s amazing to watch.
You went from a tiny little 6lb 1 newborn, to a chunky, bald baby with a big beaming smile, to an adorable pouty-lipped toddler, to an intelligent (and sometimes, admittedly, infuriating) preschooler. You love to dance, and you do it with grace that astounds me and Dad (because where the heck do you get it from?!). You like … dinosaurs, and cucumber, Moana, and Paw Patrol. You have an imaginary friend named Amelia who accompanies all of our make-believe games.
I know you better than anyone. But I don’t know you completely. You’re not mine, you see. You’re just on loan to me until you become a grown-up. More and more, I don’t quite know what goes on in your head, because you are not an extension of me. You are you.
Next September, you will start school. And you will be spending much of your day away from me. This is exciting and scary and sad and wonderful.
We have one year left to go. One year of you being at home with me. One year of me and you getting grumpy with each other sometimes. One year of me trying to juggle keeping you occupied all day with also trying to write and look after your brother and keep the house from being completely filthy. One more year. After that, we won’t be as free to do whatever we want, whenever we want. We’ll be together, but on a more restricted schedule.
So let’s make this count.
Here’s to unbrushed-hair-and-pyjama days, where we leave the blinds closed and watch films and eat popcorn. Here’s to the weather growing colder, and reading snuggled under your duvet with a torch while your brother naps. Here’s to all the kinds of play I can think of in the tuff spot in the garden. Here’s to spontaneous walks to the park first thing in the morning, with the whole place to ourselves. Here’s to spontaneous walks to look for snails and insects and to gaze at everybody’s Christmas lights. Here’s to seed-planting in the spring. Here’s to random trips to McDonalds just because, followed by a run around Homebase looking at the pretend bathrooms and bedrooms and imagining that they are ours. Here’s to baking cakes because there’s nothing else to do. Here’s to making forts, playing shops, playing doctors, playing ‘camping trips’. Here’s to out-of-season holidays (amen!) and long, lazy, summer days where we get home sticky and exhausted and covered in dirt.
And for realism: here’s to days where we get grumpy, where sometimes we are poorly, where sometimes we are tired, where sometimes planned activities go wrong. Because we have plenty of those, right?
But I still treasure them.
Next September, I’ll be waving you off in your school uniform. You’ll be holding a book bag and looking small and fresh and new. I’ll be excited for you. Your whole life, stretching ahead of you, limitless possibilities, and I just have to watch in awe as you take it on bit by bit. Always here for you, always proud of you, always remembering the early years we had together, treasuring the memories we made.
Let’s rock this year together.