When William started school I was bereft. He was growing up too quickly, five days a week was too much time to be apart and no-one would look after him the way I could. When Scarlett and I left him on his first day, I was crying, she was crying (“I want my brubber!”) and we clung to each other like extras in a Made for TV melodrama.
And now she’s going too.
I thought it might be easier second time around. She’ll be going to the same school as William so I know the ropes. I know what uniform to buy, which playground to wait on and exactly what we can and can’t put in their lunch boxes. I also know that, even if she finds it hard to settle, she will get there eventually and will make friends, enjoy learning and take part in as host of activities I couldn’t hope to replicate at home.
But this time I’ll be walking away from the school gates on my own.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a big part of me looking forward to the two days a week I’ll have at home alone to get the shopping done and clean the house. (Sorry – Dan was standing behind me then. Obviously I meant read books and watch Escape to the Country.) But there is also another largish part which mourns for the time that Scarlett and I have had on our own these last two years. Drinking latte and babycino at Costa, trying on shoes and dresses we didn’t intend to buy, visiting friends on maternity leave and cuddling their babies.
There is the temptation to fill the gap with another baby. I’ve reached the age when my ovaries are chucking out my last remaining eggs in the style of me emptying the cupboard under the stairsand I think they must be triggering some ‘now or never’ hormone which makes me weep at the sight of newborns. Nevertheless, as I am pretty sure my parenting abilities wouldn’t extend to more children than I have hands, I have to accept that there will be no more babies in the house.
However many children you decide to have, there will always be a ‘last one’ and when that one goes to school, it signals the end of an era. High chairs and stair gates are a distant memory, pushchairs have been sold or given away and every time they climb on your lap for a cuddle, you hold them tightly knowing that, this too, will not last forever.
Many things are easier with a second child. Nappies, feeding, knowing how many spoonfuls of Calpol they can have in a day. But, as I look at the brand new pair of black patent shoes by the door, I find that the second time of the ‘First Day at School’ is no easier than the first. In fact, it is a lot more difficult.
On Monday, when she puts on that blue checked dress and goes into school, my heart will be bursting with pride, but it will be breaking a little too. I will be dropping off my baby and collecting my grown up girl.