I never really understood why people got upset when their children started school. As a working mother, it seemed like the perfect childcare solution. And as the mother of a little boy that loves learning, I knew he’d enjoy it as much as I enjoyed the guilt-free time to work.
I used to laugh with my friends about dropping him off on his first day and tap dancing back to the car – and I was only half-joking.
But with only a few months to go until Stanley walks through the school gates for the first time, the realisation has hit me hard.
And I finally get it.
I totally get it.
Because, even though little doubts are starting to creep into my mind about how he will settle, the fact he may struggle with tiredness, and the possibility of him not making any friends, my sadness isn’t really about that.
It’s about the fact it’s the end of an era.
And it’s the first milestone I really don’t want to hurry up.
It’s a cliché, but time has gone too quickly. It only seems like yesterday that I held him on my chest for the first time, staring at an angry baby I’d been growing for 9 months with a mixture of utter fascination, elation and exhaustion. And those early days at home, when we survived on a mix of sweet-smelling formula made through bleary eyes at 4am, early morning caffeine fixes, and long afternoons waiting for the clock to tick around to Daddy getting home – I remember them so clearly that I can still smell that formula, taste that coffee, and hear that clock so vividly in my mind.
I remember thinking that we had all the time in the world. School didn’t feature in my thoughts at all – and if someone had mentioned it, I would have thought they were bonkers.
I didn’t need to worry about school yet! That was miles off! That was for older parents, not for new mothers hibernating with a tiny little person!
One minute he was falling asleep on my chest as we watched re-runs of Keeping Up With The Kardashians – and the next, we were moving him into a toddler bed and hearing him get up to go for a wee all by himself.
How did it happen so quickly?
I have a boy now – and I love the fact we can have whole conversations about the colour orange, a little kingdom of elves and fairies, and the fact he believes a lion fish is hiding upstairs at Granny and Grandad’s house. I have more than a son; I have a little friend, who I genuinely enjoy hanging out with. I no longer have to interpret his cries with a poorly-designed app on the iPad – he will (and does frequently) tell me exactly what isn’t right with the world.
I wouldn’t wish us back to those early days for a second.
But I am still not ready to have a school age child.
I’m not ready to admit to myself that he is no longer a toddler.
I am not ready to watch him graduate from nursery in a few weeks with the friends he’s had since he was 18 months old. I’m not ready to walk out of that warm, friendly, nurturing place for the last time. I’m not ready to fold up his nursery polo shirt for the last time and store it away in a box, nor to buy his first school uniform.
And I definitely won’t be tap dancing back to the car on his first day in September.
Because I finally get it.
I totally get it.
It’s the end of an era – and I don’t think I like it.