My daughter started school a few weeks ago. I knew it was going to be a huge step for both of us, and in the months and weeks leading up to her first day I tried to prepare us both as best I could.
When the big moment came we were both excited, but nervous. To me it seemed a quantum leap from a small kindy of 30-something children, carefully nurtured by solicitous, motherly teachers, to a school of 700 where she would have to step up and fend for herself, at least to some extent. What if she had no-one to play with? What if she hurt herself in the playground and no-one was there to help? What if…she just hated being there?
That first day, contrary to stereotyping, there were no tears when I dropped her off (from either of us). From then until 2.45pm, however, I paced nervously around the house, picking things up, putting them down, unable to settle to anything. I felt as though I had been set adrift. When it was time to pick her up I almost ran to her classroom and snatched her up to reclaim her as my own. There were only four weeks to go until the school holidays started, and I couldn’t wait. I wanted to drink in her presence and feast on her company. (Which I did for the first few days, until the novelty started to wear a little thin. Anyone who tries to tell you that five-year-old girls are constantly nice to be around is lying through their teeth.)
As it turns out, my daughter has handled the transition remarkably well. There have been a few issues to iron out, a few ups and downs, some unhappiness and a whole heap of exhaustion. But there has also been excitement, enthusiasm, and a growing sense of her own wonderful abilities and potential. (And cupcakes and jelly and pizza. Her teacher makes all these things in the classroom, for heaven’s sake. Sheesh! Back in my day we were happy with a cup of lukewarm milk and a clip around the ear. I now sound about 70.)
And me? That first week the tears did eventually come. I cried for the loss of her little-ness and for the loss of my role as her primary companion. For the loss of our secret days together, when the world was at work and school and it was just us. And I cried because she is my only child: I don’t have a second one with whom to treasure the remaining preschool days, and I will never have the chance to see another little person off to school.
There is a part of me that just doesn’t want her to grow up. Sometimes I catch myself thinking, “If only I could bottle her just as she is; suspend her in time so that she never grows beyond this particular stage.” I thought that when she started to smile. Then laugh. Then talk, then walk, then sing…every new stage was magical, but meant the relinquishing of the last. And this particular relinquishing has been the most poignant.
As I write this I am listening to one of my favourite Irish singers, Mary Black. Not only is her voice unbelievably pure, but her songs themselves, both lyrics and melody, are intriguing, unexpected, intelligent. “Bless The Road” (check it out on YouTube), sums up how I feel about my daughter starting school.
I am so very blessed to have spent most of her preschool days by her side, and I will always treasure those years. She has not gone; I am still her Mummy. She still looks to me for guidance, protection and nurturing. Her father and I will always be her First Loves. But a big shift has taken place, and part of my job now is to let it be…and to let her grow up, with my full blessing.
Bless The Road
Remember when we walked on hills of heather
Singing weaving mystical rings
Now in a while my precious child
You will unfurl your wings
And I`ll have lost what I believed
Had promised everything
But before you go my friend, my kind companion
Listen to this song I sing
Then go in peace and grow in grace and goodness
Know that you have nothing to fear
And dry your eyes my little one
And let there be no tears
Send me a dream from away beyond
I promise I shall hear
Oh beautiful beloved soul companion
Thank you for those beautiful years
And heaven hold and watch your way forever
May your every dream come true
Forgive all wrong, always be strong
And do what you must do
You stand before this open door
And you must now go through
My precious friend, my own my sweet companion
Bless the road that carries you