As parents the ultimate job is to raise our babes, all helpless and needy to be practical and very much not needy individuals who can cope without us. Sounds reasonable enough!
Why then is seeing them make those first tentative steps of independence so darn hard?!
Is there anything so heart-wrenching as hearing the cry of ‘Mummmmeeeeee!!!’ as you leave them in the care of strangers? Only the stab of being not needed when they gleefully turn on their heel into the activities of strangers?
Either way, the heart is destroyed, either broken or melted. And a wrecked heart can only result in salt water welling in the eyes, fighting back torrents of tears.
As thus I swallowed the tears away as Noodles started his first day at nursery school. He walks in, so eager, with a loud and proud ‘Heh-woh!’ into the big playroom that he so stubbornly refused to step foot into when we went for his taster session. He immediately starts lining up wooden trains on the play table before running up to the wall to count the numbers to 10.
And it’s not that he seems so small. It’s that everything seems so small. The chairs and tables, the toddler-sized tent with the toddler-sized torches. And the scaled-down cubicles and sinks. And all the little people doing their thing, just pootling and pottering, whilst we adults seem too big and out-of-place. This isn’t a place for parents; it’s the realm of the small people. Who are small for such a tiny fraction of time.
And I try not to think about it being his first day in education. His first step on a journey that will possibly last til he’s 21. Obviously, by making an effort NOT to think about it I did just that.
A surreptitious wipe of the eyes. Like I’m fooling anyone! These teacher’s have seen it all before – including me and my overactive lacrimal glands – and I feel like classic helicopter mum as I try to assess when I should leave. I sidle up to another mum whom I recognise and make small talk to fend off a) my hovering and b) my desire to sob.
And I think I have it nailed and we’re being told to go…but then Noodles decides he doesn’t want to do painting and he clocks that I’m going.
His little face, all plaintive as I head for the door regardless. Oh, hell, it IS worse when they don’t want you to leave. He’s the only kid crying and I’m the only parent with a quivering bottom lip as I hit the exit button. His shrieks have got higher-pitched as the door closes behind me.
I spend the next 2 1/2 hours with the phone within easy reach. I shower and blow-dry my hair. It’s been that long since I had time to sit down and do my hair properly that the drier fuses! I watch Wanted Down Under and count the minutes.
And eventually it’s time to pick him up. And out he comes, all bewildered but happy, bits of paper to pass on, including My First Day. Apparently he settled down quickly once I left (or do they always say that to reassure parents?) and played with the trains and told his key worker his colours and watched the other kids play.
And he at once seems so tiny and yet not as tiny as when I dropped him off first thing. And wearing different trousers (having spilt his drink down himself).
‘Did you have a nice time?’
‘And do you want to go back again tomorrow?’
I suppose it gets easier. For both him and me! At least until the next step.