So, this is the first weekday morning in Pickle’s lifetime, more or less, that I have bothered with mascara. And, of course, this is the morning I cried.
I’m writing this in a coffee shop, alone. No one’s blowing bubbles in their apple juice. No one’s wailing because they’re not allowed another piece of chocolate cake. No ketchup is being smeared upon the furniture. Actually, all these things are most likely happening. Crucially, I am not responsible for them.
So first of all Pickle was moved up to the Big Room at nursery. This is obviously neither here nor there, since Pickle’s nursery basically consists of a chaotic rabble of little kids marauding from finger paints to play kitchen and back again. Yet this morning, to me, this felt like an enormous milestone. I wept. Pickle ran off with a vague wave, saying ‘see you soon!’ I pretended I wasn’t crying but the fact that the nursery lady gave me a quick hug suggests I wasn’t as surreptitious as I’d hoped.
Then it was Ziggler’s turn. The big S. She has been wriggling with excitement all summer about starting school, so much so that I was wondering whether I ought to, erm, ‘manage her expectations’ a bit. I didn’t. In glad I didn’t. On the way there she wondered aloud what would happen if she hurt herself at school. What would be for lunch? Would she do any learning? I wondered internally if the teachers would be strict. Would Ziggler be stressed out at lunch time? Would she eat anything?
School is not what it once was. Thinking about it my reception teachers were in all likelihood not terribly strict and I have to confess that I was something of a wuss. Ziggler was patently a bit nervous when we arrived but I could feel her steeling herself and deciding to Just Get On With It as she went in. We located a peg. She saw a best mate from nursery. She went in, turned and waved, and was off. She set forth and I flapped around ineffectually in her wake. She was fine.
And then, as I had a small cry outside the school gates (where I might set up a stall selling hankies next September), I realised that for the first time since Pickle was born not only was I wearing mascara but I had a guilt-free, regular morning off. The kids were having fun, the immediate locality was my oyster and I was my own woman. And of course I didn’t have the foggiest idea of what to do with myself.
Funny how the big days in our lives are also the most commonplace. How many people get married every week? Babies are born, loved ones die, new jobs are begun. Four year olds start school. Thousands of ’em, enormous-bagged and crest-jumpered, grinning up from Facebook photos. But today is a day my life changed. It will never be quite the same again.
Ziggler, Pickle and I have spent the last 9 weeks (I’ve counted) in each other’s company, pretty much 24 hours a day. We’ve had an unexpectedly lovely time together, along with the times when everyone was crying or there was poo everywhere or nobody was doing anything they were told. But it’s safe to say that we all need a break from each other. Perhaps they make the school holidays so long so that by the end everyone is so desperate to get away from their immediate family the transition to wherever they’re headed is easier to make.
Ziggler may feel differently about school tomorrow and almost certainly will when she realises she has to go there every day for the rest of her childhood. Pickle may realise her peg is in a different room and rebel (more than usual) next nursery day. But this morning has taught me that they have inner resources, my kids. Did I give them to them? Dunno. Probably not. But I am as proud of them as if I did on this big, and insignificant, day.
I hope they’re not serving liver for lunch though.