My last baby is off to school. His uniform is washed and ironed. (First and last time for that!) Name labels are stuck in, his timetable is stuck to the fridge and my heart is breaking a little. Ok, a lot.
I don’t know how it happened, it feels like just two minutes ago I was holding a purple mewling newborn in my arms. How did that tiny, helpless baby become a little boy ready for school? When I look at his beautiful long lashes curling up to his eyebrows and his teeny button nose as he watches a film, the lump rises in my throat again and my eyes fill with un-shed tears.I can’t show him that I’m sad, he is worried enough about it all without me adding to it.
When he slips his little hand into mine, squeezing it tightly, gazing up at me with earnest brown eyes and asks, ‘Mummy, will you be sad when I go to school, will you miss me?’ I have to plaster on a bright smile and reassure him that no, I will be just fine because I know that he will be having the best time, whilst on the inside his sweet caring words nearly break me. In all the change and turmoil going on in his little mind, he is worried about me.
I have fed him, clothed him, cuddled him, rocked him, shushed him, kissed him, adored him, listened to his long winded stories since the minute he could speak, wiped his tears, watched him wobble off on his bike without stabilisers, cleaned his grazed knees, stroked his hair when he couldn’t sleep, rolled my eyes at his tantrums and shouted more times then I care to remember!
Now I have to tackle this next stage in his life as I kiss him goodbye at the door and trust that his teacher will care for him as much as I do.
It’s not the first time I’ve done this, I’ve sent one baby in already, and I learnt that school makes her so happy. She has learnt to read, to write, to draw and sing. She loves break times and her friends, and she adores her teachers. She has blossomed from an anxious child, lacking in confidence to a bright, helpful child who actually asks when school will be back after the holidays as she loves it so much.
I know he will love it too. He will run out of those doors into my arms every day, full of stories about his day, the friends he has made, the games he played at break, the things he has learnt, that he saw his sister at playtime and what he had for lunch.
I will take him in my arms, I will listen to his stories and I will never tell him that I missed him so much that I cried after I dropped him off the first time. I won’t tell him how much my heart breaks that he is old enough for school, that my baby is gone forever.
Instead I will just have to keep reminding myself that in my baby’s place, I have a bright, sweet, caring little boy. Someone who loves to look at picture books, who will be so excited to be able to read himself. Who loves music and is excited to do more. A little boy who loves to play with his friends, who will delight in break times. A little boy who will revel in mealtimes with his class mates. A little boy who will adore his teacher with the same fervour that his sister has always had for hers.
The hardest part of being a parent is letting them go. Recognising that a huge part of your job is instilling in them the confidence to walk away from you without tears. To wave them off cheerfully while your heart feels bruised to watch them go. That is my role as a parent and I will make sure I do it well.
I’ll just have to make sure I have some chocolate at home for when I get back!