My baby started school today. In her too-big uniform, with her hair looking tidier than it has for months. With her huge school bag and her carefully packed lunch (that she’d helped to make – I firmly believe in starting ‘em young!).
I knew I would feel a pang as we left her, but my husband cares for our girls all day, so I expected that the biggest impact would be for him and his routine and that he would be saddest. But as she went to sit on the mat, it was my confident girl’s unexpected timidity in the face of a classroom of new kids that made me have to quickly turn so she didn’t see me cry. Oops, didn’t expect that.
As we left, three other mothers from other classrooms noticed the sniffle and the watery eyes and spoke up to reassure me and laugh with me and share their own experiences of their first leavings. So kind, so open, so generous! Didn’t expect that! And after trying to do that for other mums in so many ways since I first experienced the reality of mothering, it was so lovely to have it returned, and so spontaneously. These are women I hope to see again in our school journey, but if I don’t, I am grateful for their understanding today.
I received a phone call at midday – my husband – and I could hear our newly abandoned and lonely 2-year-old ‘baby’ hiccupping in the background. She’d been sobbing and asking to ‘go pick-up Wooby, want pick-up Wooby’. Oops – we hadn’t expected that and had to quickly formulate a plan to help transition our little one through this change. And I was stuck at work on the end of a phone. Tears in the eyes again – oops, hadn’t expected that!
At 4pm, I got another call – husband again – did I want to talk to Ruby on the phone? Huh? Ruby is vehemently opposed to talking on the phone. She adamantly refuses to talk to anyone via any sort of telecommunications device (yes, the irony of this is not lost on us, and we know that we will look back on these days and laugh ourselves sick while we install a second phone line so we can make the occasional call of our own). But she wanted to tell me about school. Apparently it was ‘fine’. And she made a friend at lunchtime! Yay – the shy genes of the mother have not been visited on the daughter.
A few weeks ago I had been terribly upset at the realization that I wouldn’t be home at the time that Ruby returned from school, wouldn’t be there to hear books being read, help with homework, see the paintings from today. This hurt badly on two levels: (a) I wanted to be the Mum who did all that; and (b) in a previous life, I completed 2 years of primary teacher training … this is the age group and education that I know … I’m ready and waiting to get in there … but will be stuck at work. Then a lovely friend let me in on a secret: that when they come home from school, they’re tired and just want to chill and play. That when I get home at 5.30, they’ll be ready to talk about school and do homework. Oh! Didn’t expect that! Yippee! And sure enough, when I got home, she couldn’t wait to ‘read’ to me, and we stayed up a bit later tonight, doing ‘homework’ together. What fun! Counting to 20! Sorting the alphabet (Mum, what’s elamenna? “ahem, well, that would be l, m, n, o…”). Reading little words! Putting ticks in the ‘I’ve read this book to Mum’ column. Bliss, joy, excitement, laughs. Boy – I was hoping for all that but still didn’t totally expect it!
My baby started school today, but it was a journey we all began together.