There was never any doubt that today would result in tears. Mine were a certainty, Charlie’s less so and MM kept it cool. Proud but cool. I justified my tears by telling Charlie that they were happy tears, because it was an exciting day and a special time. We are trying to teach him that all emotions are important, I did not brush my tears away for fear of him seeing me cry. I never want to associate crying with something that is wrong or to be hidden. I want him to be emotionally literate, to learn to sit with his feelings and to know that emotions matter. So openly I cried.
Charlie looked almost bemused by this, he may or may not have even rolled his eyes.
The bell goes and I see his teacher look at me, kindly, knowingly. It’s time to go.
I stand back to leave and I watch him say hello to a little girl, I am a witness to his kindness and his bravery.
In his too-big-for-him uniform he is immensely cute but looks so small. I look around me and think he is too little to be here, I worry that he will get lost in the vastness of the school grounds.
We have had nearly 4 years of me leaving to go to work each day and we have just had a year of Kindergarten and yet this goodbye, on his first day of school feels different, profound and urgent.
Another milestone but one that is bigger than what my heart can hold on to. It’s extraordinary what the heart can hold.
What happened to the last five and a half years and why didn’t anyone tell me it goes by so fast?
Once more I am experiencing that familiar anguish that I have missed something in my quest to always hurry up.
Hurry up, it’s time to leave, hurry up and eat your dinner, hurry up and put your shoes on.
PLEASE GOD HURRY UP AND GO TO SLEEP.
I remember those times when I am holding his hand as he skips, hops and jumps. Stepping in and around the cracks on the pavement, laughing and singing nonsensical songs. But I tell him to walk properly, to hurry up, and now I don’t even remember why we are and were always hurrying.
Motherhood feels like this constant need to go go go, but in contrast is the desire to stop.
The milestones keep coming, telling me to slow down.
Motherhood is but an endless contradiction. It can be suffocating and uncompromising but so utterly delightful.
I reflect back on all of the stages, the tiny newborn waking in the night, the relentless exhaustion, the vulnerability of it all, feeling untethered and at sea. Despairing over the sticky finger prints on walls, the mountain of laundry, so much bloody laundry, spaghetti bolognese dinners, the sounds of Giggle and Hoot ringing in my ears and the feeling that I am perpetually talking to myself because no one seems to hear me or respond to my requests. I wonder where my life went but so glad to be here. I kept wishing for each stage to pass, to move through them quickly and expertly because I believed each phase would be different, better, easier. I would go looking for the elusive and magical parenting sweet spot without realising that the sweet spots were in front of me the whole time.
I am thinking of those seemingly inconsequential things I worried about during those phases, the persistent googling searching for answers and the fears and anxiety that existed in equal measure. Not to dismiss those moments because they were true and real but how I wish I had that time again, because knowing what I know now is that so much of it did not matter.
Letting go is so hard because all I want to do is to hold tightly to him. I’m anchored between looking back and looking forward. He is growing and independent and yet so dependent on me, just as he should be. Climbing and clambering all over me, demanding of my time, my mind and my heart and for a brief moment I want peace and solitude but then I find myself checking on him, when he plays and when he sleeps. Is he okay? Is he happy?
Is he hiding in the pantry eating my chocolate biscuits?
At night I place my hand on his heart and feel his chest rise with each breath and I reminded of what it is like to be so lucky.
It’s time to pick him up from school, it is only day one of thousands to go and it is all so new to me.
We walk to the car and I let him skip.