Yesterday lunchtime the girls decided they wanted to have a ‘carpet picnic’ for their lunch. They had been so good when I had taken them out shopping earlier that morning and as a treat they wanted to get the picnic blanket out and have their lunch on the floor of the living room. So that’s exactly what we did- it’s one of their favourite things to do. After lunch, I was messing about with Mads. She was being cheeky, so I was play fighting with her on the floor, tickling her and pretending to nibble on her little bottom and ears. I buried my face in her long curly hair, and she was squealing and giggling in delight. Then without being a tad dramatic, all of a sudden I felt this huge pang of emotion that nearly took my breath away.
I felt tears prick at the back of my eyes and I had to blink a few times to stop them from freely falling down my face. Mads was none the wiser, still laughing, joking and jumping on me, and smothering me in ‘Mummy cuddles and kisses’. She was climbing on my back, wrapping her little arms around my neck, while whispering in my ear ‘I love you Mama- forever and ever.’ But my heart was still beating that little bit faster and it took me a few seconds to actually pin point why.
We are on the countdown.
Like with any countdown, when you want it speed up and come quickly, say for a holiday or a special occasion, time seems to go so slowly and drags on and on. But for a slightly less appealing countdown, it seems to whizz past and before you know it the time has arrived. And that’s whats happening now.
The countdown to school.
In many ways Christmas Eve 2010 feels like yesterday. The day I first held that slightly wrinkly, gunky little person in my arms. Her little black eyes stared deeply into mine, blink blink blinking as she adjusted to her new surroundings. In that instant life as we knew it changed. Everything I thought I knew about myself before changed when I became a mother. This tiny creature arrived in our world and completely turned it upside down. Although it feels like she’s always been here, I can still feel the enormous range of emotions that came with seeing my eldest daughter for the first time.
In those four years there have been long days. Many of those. Days where I paced around the kitchen, waiting to catch a glimpse of Mr E arriving up the driveway, ready to hand him a screaming baby or a defiant toddler, just so I could have a tiny break. Days where I was so tired that I would just want to cry over the smallest thing. Where I did cry over the smallest thing. In those four years there have been tough times. Many of those. Times where it all got a little bit too much. Sleepless nights, challenging behaviour, strained relationships. Days where it felt like it was never going to end. Days where the responsiblities of being a parent became almost overwhelming.
For two years it was just me and her. Two years of getting to know each other inside and out. Fun times, sad times, tricky times, but most of all happy times. Contentment and love. During the week we were a pair while my husband was at work. A duo. A double act. We learnt from each other. She taught me that the simplest things are the most important. She made me a better person- less selifsh. More considerate. She made me a mother. Then in February 2013 our second daughter arrived. I fell in love with her in an instant, but I also fell even more in love with my big girl. The way in which she accepted her new baby sister without so much of a doubt, into our little club. Our twosome became a threesome. We became a team.
And that’s the way it is now. We have our own little routine, our own little structure. Mads has Nutella sandwiches for lunch, LL has peanut butter. Mads likes to sit on the left hand side of the sofa when we watch television, LL sits on the right. Mads is always Harry when we put on One Direction shows, LL is always Zayn. That’s just the way it is. Yes we still have those tough days, or long days, but for the most part we love our days together. And I am just not ready for them to stop. I’m not ready for this period of our lives to be over.
In just a few short months, my big girl will be going to school. The application form has already been submitted, we wait with intrepidation hoping that we have got into the school that we want for her. Those days of constant nappy changes, those morning’s sitting breastfeeding in a cafe gossiping to friends while eating the largest slice of chocolate cake, those times spent batch cooking copious amounts of pureed carrot and sweed ready to put into the freezer- they seem to have passed us by in a blur. When did they stop? And a bit later, those days where I begrudged paying an extortionate £20 to go to soft play, while she no doubt picked up every germ under the sun and all I got to show for it was a slightly soggy panini and a bowl of greasy fries- I wish more than anything I could rewind them all again.
If I could, I would cherish every single second of the replays. I would hold her in my arms for a little longer after her milk, breathing in her sweet baby smell and resting my chin on her soft dowdy hair, rather than putting her straight in her cot. I used to like stroking the fontanelle spot on her head ever so gently, it felt as soft as silk. I would play tea parties for that little bit longer, enjoying my seventeenth cup of tea and umpteenth wooden digestive biscuit, rather than going to clean up the kitchen. I would soak in every single cuddle, every single morning ‘just the three of us’, I would be more present rather than being on my phone or checking my emails. I’d read one more story. And then I’d read another one. I’d stay in our PJ’s and let her watch one more episode of Peppa Pig. I’d never stop cuddling her.
But hindsight is a wonderful thing. This way I am feeling right now, it won’t last forever. It will come back, in periods, throughout their lives, that I am sure of. The way it hurts a little bit loving them. The way each new milestone and moment seem so bittersweet. But no doubt next week or the week after that, I will get impatient again. I will get tired of the same question over and over- I don’t know why Tree Fu Tom and Mike the Knight aren’t friends who hang out together. Yes you can have lemon juice with two drops. Yes two drops. I don’t know why the worm we saw on the road by the garden centre two weeks ago isn’t wanting to be in the soil with his other worm family. I’ll inevitably get a little frustrated when she takes ten minutes to get into her car seat even though we are in a hurry. I’ll have days where I breathe a sigh of relief when they are in bed and I can sit on the sofa and just switch off.
But in the back of my mind, I am all too aware we are in the countdown.
All too soon September will come and my little girl will be at school. Five out of seven days of the week she will be with her teachers and her new friends. They will see the way she scrunches up her nose when she yawns. Or the way that she likes to play with her ear when she’s nervous or in need of a comfort. The way her little fingers go in her mouth and she sucks them when she’s unsure of herself. They’ll experience the pleasure of my biggest girl- the little quirks and traits that make her who she is, the good and the not so good. It’s not that I am sad that she is going to be away from me, she goes to nursery three long mornings a week already while I work. It’s more that this period of our lives is soon going to be over. It’s a line under the baby days, the toddler days and the days of just being together. That we will never be able to get it back.
I’m a little sad she won’t be here every day with me, but I am excited to see her begin the next part of her journey. I’ll be there waiting to see the artwork she pulls from her bag, to hear her excitedly chat about what her and her friends did that day, or what she learnt in English class. I’ll be the one cheering the loudest at Sports Day. I’ll be there standing with all the other parents at the school gate, waiting to see her run out with her long curls blowing behind her and her cheeks flushed red with happiness. She’ll grow, she’ll soar and she’ll become the person she was meant to be. She’ll lose a little bit of that pure innocence that comes with being at home with her Mummy, that little bit of innocence that comes with being little, but she’ll be full of potential and promise. Whatever happens, she will continue to make me the proudest Mama alive, just as she has done since the day she arrived in the world on the 24th December 2010.
I knew that this day was coming, way back when she was tiny, and school just seemed like a far off dream. Something I didn’t have to think about for a while. But now the countdown is on.
Growing up hurts a little, I know that all too well. I’m a little bit sad and feeling a little emotional about it all. But why we may all too soon be finishing this chapter of our lives, deep down I know this is just the beginning of my little girl’s story. And I’m excited to see just what that story may be.