It is hard – maybe even impossible – to put into words how I feel about you starting school.
When I dropped Arran off at school for the first time, it was so emotional. I saw my tiny little boy go into school in his smart blazer and then I turned around and walked out, feeling like I was losing him a little bit, tears stinging the backs of my eyes.
And then I walked home – with you.
Every day, when I dropped him off, it felt a bit more normal, and he’s been so happy there – and I kiss him goodbye and then take your hand. Yes, sometimes you go to nursery, but often we walk home together. You make me laugh by always asking for a snack on the way home, even though it’s not even 9am yet and you’ve just had breakfast. You chat non-stop.
When I drop Arran at school this week, and then drop you too – how am I going to walk out of that building without your little hand in mine?
I thought that Arran starting school was a huge transition, but really it was just a toe in the water. I experienced that first pang of letting go, and then got to take my baby girl home and carry on being a pre-school mama.
They say that when a baby is born, two new people are made: a child and a mother. When Arran arrived, my whole world turned upside down and I was transformed – sometimes shatteringly and mostly joyfully – into a mother. I’ve written before about how by the time you came along, I was already a mother, and you just fitted nearly into the space that was waiting for you in my new existence. Now I realise that Arran going to school didn’t really change anything, but with your first flight out of the nest, I am transformed again. I am the mum who has two children at school. It might not sound like much but it feels like a lot.
I don’t think I even really know how to be me without you by my side.
This is all about me, though – let’s talk about you, my sweet baby girl.
You are special. You have an absolutely enormous heart. I couldn’t imagine a child more loving than you. You really care about your family and friends, and you are, and have always been, naturally kind. You are so SO silly and crazy, with a great sense of humour and a ready laugh. If I picture your face in my mind, I can just see it lit up with a huge grin. Your beautiful triangular-shaped eyes shine. Even when you are playing and you pretend to be sad with a pouty lip, you can’t stop your eyes sparkling and the corners of your mouth twitching up into a grin. Your dancing is bonkers and hilarious – and really quite good! Your bottom wiggle is hysterical.
I love listening in on the games that you play, with elaborate storylines taken from your wild imagination. I hope school teaches you to write really quickly, because I can’t wait to read some of those stories you tell me.
When you were littler, you were so shy and I used to worry that you would never talk. Now it seems like you never stop! When you are in your swimming lessons and I am sitting in the café on the other side of the glass, I can still see your mouth moving as you chat away the whole time, even when there is nobody near you! Yet with this chattiness there is still a residual shyness at times, and a hesitation in pushing yourself forward. I remember watching you at the back of a group of little girls at ballet; they were all pushing in to get their ‘wands’ for the princess dance and you were just waiting – scowling a little, but definitely not pushing. The lady running the ballet class was grinning at the eager little ballet dancers who were all in her face grabbing wands, and she kept turning from side to side and missing out Eilidh. I felt the tiger-mama rise up in me and wanted to say, ‘Stop teaching my daughter that politeness means you get ignored and shoving means you get what you want!’ I didn’t, of course. Now I worry that you won’t push yourself forward and make the friends, or dance with all your bottom-wiggling glory, or show the teacher your lovely singing voice or share one of your imaginative stories. I can’t be in the classroom saying, ‘Go on, Eilidh!’ and to the teacher, ‘Excuse me, I think Eilidh has a question she’s been waiting to ask’. It’s probably just as well...
You’re not all sweetness, of course – you are definitely the most stubborn girl since… well, since me really. I see a lot of myself in you actually, and sometime it helps me parent because I can totally feel how you are feeling, and other times I worry for you, because there are things about me that make it hard work to be me. Like me, you care very much about what people think of you. You might be stubborn, but if I turn around and say to you, ‘Eilidh, I am not pleased that you won’t even try to put on your own shoes’ you’ll melt in floods of tears. Even worse if precious Daddy raises his voice ever.
You love to draw and colour and ‘make things’. I hope school have got a big, big stack of paper and colours and glue ready for your arrival! I’m amazed by your concentration as you sit and make things for hours on end, and I love the pictures you draw of our family best of all. We are your world right now – but that world is about to get bigger. Soon it will include all of the different elements of school, and at some point maybe playdates, or a trip out with your class. Just thinking about these things makes me feel like I want to hold you. Keep you here, keep you safe.
I can’t hold you back from your life and I wouldn’t really want to. Thank goodness you are only four and a playdate is the extremes of your nest-hopping for now. Don’t go to university too soon, will you? I can’t take it.
We are so lucky that school is nearby and part of our extended world here. There is no disconnect between school and home at all. I know your teacher and think she’s wonderful. I think the school ethos fits with mine extremely well. So in that way I don’t feel the change too keenly. I am content knowing your days will be happy and fulfilled and rich.
I’m just going to miss you. My tiny, nut-brown, upside-down-eyed, bottom-wiggling, ever-loving, easy-crying daughter. I’m just going to miss you, that’s all. I’m going to somehow walk out of that building without your small hand in mine. I’m going to walk home, my head ringing with the silence where your chatter ought to be. I’m going to walk into my house, and wonder how the absence of one small person can create such a huge empty space.
And then I guess I’m going to find myself. Find out who this new school mummy is and how to navigate this next chapter and how to fill the days with work that is good and productive for me whilst waiting for 3.30pm to have you back again. Back so that I can go on loving you and nurturing you and growing with you, into the great friends I want us to always be.
I’m not 100% sure what this next chapter is going to look like, but one thing I do know for sure is this: I love you with all that I am and I always will. Wherever you are and whatever that feels like for me, I will love and support and love you some more, my precious daughter – forever.