I don’t want you to go to school.
Every time I think of September, I lose my mind a little.
I imagine leaving you at that gate and my chest tightens, bile rises at the back of my throat. I must dismiss the thought, focus on the three months I have to cherish four-year-old you, between now and then.
It seems so unfair that you must go, that you must return for five whole days in a row, that people who do not understand your quirks will be responsible for your safety, your happiness. You are so vulnerable, so filled with confusion and pain. I want to protect you from it all.
Every day is a carefully rehearsed feat of organisation. I know exactly which replies you need. I know not to say that someone is a princess when they are just dressed as a princess. I know not to exaggerate, or use sarcasm, or to jokingly say that something will take all day. I have dedicated the last four years to learning who you are, to making you as happy as I can. I control what I can to make your life easier.
Giving up some of that control is unfathomable to me. How can I let someone who does not love you, someone who has not spent the last four years learning to understand you – how do I let them take responsibility for something so precious and fragile?
You are mine. Both of you are mine. I know that such possessiveness is foolish, that from the moment you left my womb, you were always separate entities. Each second that passes moves you further away from me, further towards no longer needing me.
When each of you was born, I longed to see you grow. I longed to know that you would look like at five, at ten, as a man grown, as a young woman. When you would not feed, when you screamed for hours on end and seemed in agony, I longed for the time when you would eat solid food, when you would be able to tell me what was wrong.
I ached for that time to pass quickly because it was so hard and you needed me so much. Then, I blinked and now there are just a few breaths until you are five. I will exhale and your sister will join you at school. So much packed into the flutter of a human heartbeat – first steps, and tears, and dancing and laughter and tiny fingers grasping mine, getting bigger every day.
It is only school. Soon, it will be normal. By October, it will not feel so awful; the stab of dread will be become a mere prickle. Life will go on and we will all be fine. Even if you cannot cope, if we must find another school, we will get through.
But right now, it does not feel that way. It feels like I am losing something that I can never get back. Once it is gone, it is gone forever. And in a way, I am.
I blink. I take a breath. The clock ticks.
The grains of your childhood slip through the glass – and no force can slow them.
For more thoughts about parenting, you may enjoy: