Today is an ending. It is the final day of pre-school you and me, snuggled on the sofa. Today, little bean, is the last day – the very last – that we will walk home, hand-in-hand, after dropping your brother at his classroom door. After today, I will not stay at home just to watch you. I will not be a mother of babies, dependent on me for all. The school holidays are a breath away and the days when daddy is at work and your brother is at school are nearly finished.
This day is one more in a long succession of final moments, one more last in a parade of endings and new beginnings. It is one more milestone on the hurried pathway of your childhood, one more moment passed and gone forever.
First, you gave up milk. The breast pump and bottles were packed away in the loft, next to the Jumperoo. Milky sighs and sleepy feeds were replaced with carrot sticks and messy faces, food splattered on the walls and floors. Now you cut and pour and slice all by yourself.
The clothes I once stockpiled for when you were bigger – aged 2-3 coats and dresses for 4 year-olds – have been given away or recycled. When I bought them, it felt like you would never be big enough. I packed them away like treasures, excited for the time when they would fit. Suddenly, the hems and arms are too short – worn once, twice, then a memory.
0-3, 3-6, 6-9, 9-12, 1-2, 2-3, 3-4.
Now I am saving uniform – grey skirts and pinafores packed away carefully until September.
Once, your baby cry was my life – electric distress that I felt in every fibre of my being. Now, I struggle to remember the sound.
Once, I rocked in the supermarket, the soothing repetition an instinct as the stroller wheels moved back and forth. Now, the urge to sway and shush is gone. I queue silently and never catch anyone’s toes with my harried oscillations.
Once, my arms grew numb, leaning over the cot rail with my hand on your chest, singing softly. Now, you jump into bed all by yourself. Sometimes you tell me you are “too big” for a bedtime song.
My arms and hips used to ache from the weight of you. But the time that you spent in my arms has slowly dwindled and now, I rarely lift you. You are never balanced, legs around my waist, while I stir your lunch or wipe your brother’s face with my spare hand.
I cannot wait to collect you at the classroom door. I cannot wait to hear about your day, to braid your hair, to help you with your homework, to see you make new friends and learn new things. I cannot wait to see you run across the playground, eager to see me, breathless.
But this day is a lump in my throat. It will pass without note or fanfare, save what I write here. It is a day like many others we have had before. I know there may well be days like it again – when you are poorly, or when the school holidays and training days do not quite meet up.
But it is still an ending, a watershed.
It is the ultimate privilege of a parent, to share these firsts and lasts with you. Long hours and short years merge before we have time to truly note when they changed.
This moment is nearly over – but not yet, not quite.
This afternoon I will set up the paper and pens and colours in the afternoon sunshine and we can paint together, just like you love to, little bean, while you are still mine.
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