Today was your second day of school. And as we drove there this morning, I glanced back at you at the traffic lights and you looked so small and vulnerable. “Are you excited?” I asked in a cheery voice. You shook your head, refusing to meet my eyes and turned to gaze out the window – and as we pulled away, I felt tears prick the back of my eyes.
I wanted to turn the car around and head home. Back to our apartment to eat pancakes, back to your brother to fight over toy cars, and back to the warmth and familiarity of the nursery we both loved so much.
It goes against all our instincts as mothers to send our children to school so small.
So small that your shorts fall down even though they are the smallest size.
So small that you still need to sleep in the middle of the day, clutching your bunnies just as you did as a baby.
So small that you sob with tiredness when we get home and can’t even articulate why you are so upset.
But I didn’t turn that car around.
I kept driving, because I know this is part of life. And just as I felt sad when I folded away your newborn clothes three years ago, when I saw a small baby in the supermarket jump at a loud noise and realised you no longer did the same thing, and the day your brother was born and I watched the smile in your eyes fade when you walked into the room and saw him in my arms, I will soon appreciate that this is all part of the person that you will become.
And if I set aside my own sadness at you growing up far too quickly, I am excited for you too, because this is just the start.
I can’t wait to glance inside your classroom and see you running around with a friend, to see you running out clutching the things you have made with a smile on your face, to see you perform in plays, kick a ball in matches, and to watch your excitement bubbling as the holidays approach.
And I can’t wait to spend every second of the now-precious weekends and holidays with you, trying to soak up every moment I am allowed you to myself.
I know that my mother must’ve felt the same when I stepped through the door of my classroom for the first time back in 1985, with a skirt threatening to fall around my ankles and sobs at the end of the day when I was too tired to understand why.
And I know there are thousands of other mothers feeling the same as me now, as they say goodbye to their grown-up baby and walk out of the classroom without a small hand clutching theirs.
It goes against all my instincts as a mother to send you to school so small.
But I know it is part of life.
I know the sadness will fade.
And one day, I know you will grow into those shorts.