Thursday, 8 September 2011

Where did my babies go?

Oh God, What an emotional day it's been.

My little girls.
Not so little as it turns out.
An emotional week, to be honest, but at least today I have an excuse for being emotional as it's my youngest daughter's first morning at school. The rest of the week has seen me all over the place for a whole variety of reasons but today it's because I took both my daughters to school and instead of coming away again with one of them I left them both behind. They both have coat pegs with their names above them, places in the classrooms with their names on and book bags with their names on with new reading books. 

That reminds me, I forgot to write Katy's name in her coat. How did the world keep turning today...?

Pause. Right. All done.

My baby is now at school. Her eyes were so big this morning and just starting to fill with tears when I left her in the classroom and she was having a worry that she wouldn't be able to run fast enough at playtime. She expertly dealt with a dot to dot boat and was setting about colouring it when we left and she didn't watch us leave. I looked back enough times. Two minutes later when I dashed back to check with her teacher what time I was to pick her up (only mornings this week) she was concentrating on her colouring and looked perfectly peaceful and collected. 

Unlike me. There's other stuff going on at the moment that is overwhelming me but I am quite sure that it's the emotional milestone of Katy's start at school that has left me in bits. This morning I felt as if I was falling apart. 

Thankyou, Father, for the delight on Katy's face when she came running over to me at lunchtime with her eyes shining and her new book bag flying. Thankyou that she had a good morning and she has mastered the simple few words in her story books straight away. She was dancing round the living room shouting, 'I can read! I can read!' and just couldn't wait for Lizzie to come home so that she could demonstrate her new literary prowess.  Just now (after school) the two of them have been sitting heads together reading their books (of course, Katy's took minutes to complete but Lizzie's books are much more involved and Kate struggled to stay attentive despite the increasingly dramatic narration). I am so proud of my girls and I want to thank you, Lord God, from the bottom of my heart that you seem to have given them both a love of reading. 

Reading is something that is so precious to me. I don't know what I would do if I could no longer read. I read to learn - every stage of my life is charted by my bookshelves; books about everything I've ever needed to understand and many more. I read for entertainment and I read to escape. I've been brought up in a house full of books and my house is just the same. I love it. I love books. My Mum was a librarian and she met my Dad at the library. 

Mum and Dad always used to tell me that once I could read I need never be bored, and I've found it to be true.  Long journeys, waiting rooms, bedtime, when unable to sleep, whenever I get a minute I always turn to reading. I have a pile of books on the go at any one time and a shelf full waiting to be read. Now I can read on my iPhone, on the computer - Bryan has a Kindle so he can carry round an immense library without needing to turn a page.  I'm not sure I'm ready to grasp such technology yet but I can see that it might be the way forward as we're running out of shelf space.

Lord, thankyou for books. Thankyou for wise people who wrote down their wisdom so that I can read it centuries later. The Bible. Thankyou for people who wrote down stories just to take me out of my life for a time so that I can be someone else and experience things in my imagination that make the world a bigger place. Thankyou for the teachers who taught me this most valuable of skills and thankyou for parents that encouraged me and made me understand the value of it. Please help me to do the same for my daughters and not be impatient or too perfectionist with their attempts. 

So Katy started school today and Lizzie is in Top Class and on Monday for the first time I shall have both my girls at school full time. I shall walk them to school, settle Elizabeth in Red class then take Katy to the other end of the corridor to Purple class and settle her there. Then I shall leave them both behind and have no babies to go home to. 

People keep asking me what I'm going to do with my time and the answer is that I don't know. Not 'I don't know' in a lost and worried sort of way, as I feel very positive about having some time. I know how blessed I am to be in the position of having some time, and I know how fragile this blessing is at the moment for us. When I say that I don't know, I mean that I really don't know. I don't know whether I should get a job, try to write something, volunteer somewhere, learn DIY (which in the current financial climate in our house has to stop meaning, 'Delegate It Yourself' and get a bit more traditional: alas at the moment neither of us could put up a shelf to save our lives)  or catch up on six and a half years of inadequate sleep and shirked housework and so on. The sleep bit sounds really attractive...

I can go to the supermarket on my own and not have to push around a small child in the trolley or be prevailed upon to buy small cars or too much salami.

Whoa. The mind boggles. 

No, the truth is that I really don't know. I've been asking for a while, Lord God, and either you're keeping shtum or I'm not tuned into the right wavelength because I still don't know. If you're waiting for me to step out in faith somehow I'd dearly love to know which direction. I'm trying to listen, if you're trying to tell me something? 

My littlest girl is off to school and I can't help but think that an era is over. How did it get to this stage so fast? It's not five minutes since I was breastfeeding round the clock and exhausted. Next I was holding the hand of a toddler and exhausted. Then they were preschoolers and the clue was in the title at that stage but still it shocks me that the time has come. 

I should have made more of the time while I had it. I should have played with the girls more while I had the chance before they were at school all the time. I should have been more creative, more energetic, more dynamic. At the very least I should have sat and snuggled on the sofa more while they watched children's telly. Now they're at school and those days are gone. No more chances. I feel as if I've spent years wishing time away and now I want it back. My little girls are so grown up these days and the time is flying. Help me make the most of it all. They'll be leaving home before I know it and will they come back? Will I get the chance to help them with their babies or will they live miles away and only visit occasionally? 

That is the worst bit of long range worrying I've done for a while. Sorry. 

So Kate starts school. She came home today having loved her day and was so excited. She read, she coloured, she played, she didn't have any problems running around the playground. She saw Big Sister who was doing something with a parachute in the hall and Big Sister waved to her which made her day. She has a peg with her name on and a place at a table with her name on and a book bag with her name on and she doesn't seem to mind that they all say 'Katherine' instead of Katy - her Best Name, as she calls it. 

My little girls. Big School. The next step in growing up. 

What's my next step, Lord?  Is there a peg with my name on it in a new place? 

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