From the day that Eva was born and placed into my arms, opened her eyes and stole my heart, I knew that we were on borrowed time. When we took her home from the hospital, the proudest parents in all the world, through those crazy baby days, those long nights feeding and winding, those moments when she called me Mama and took her first steps, I could hear the distant sound of a ticking clock. Tick tock, tick tock, the constant reminder that time would pass us by so fast.
Through her first Christmas, her first birthday, our first holiday together, it was always there, like an irritating itch that I couldn’t quite scratch, a niggling feeling in the pit of my stomach. Tick tock, tick tock, the dreaded reality that the weeks were fast turning to months, the months turning to years.
As two turned to three, and three turned to four, the ticking noise became louder and louder, and where previously I had tried to push it away, to banish it to the back of my mind, tell myself that it wasn’t really happening, now it consumed me.
Tick tock tick tock, tick tock…
And finally, last month, I had to face it head on, thrown right in at the deep end, with the dreaded “Primary School Induction Evening.”
And I cannot stress to you enough just how emotional this has made me. In my mind, however deluded, my baby girl was just born. It took all of my strength to hand her over for just two mornings a week at nursery and there was nearly a full on melt down when she began her fifteen hours at pre-school. But now, the idea of waving goodbye to her for five days a week, makes me want to wrap my arms around her and never let go. The thought of watching her disappear behind a closed door, knowing that for six hours of every day she will be just a few metres away down the road, but not with me, not with us, kills me.
I’m sure that many of you are reading this thinking, For Gods sake woman, get a grip! And perhaps I could well do with a good shake, someone to remind me that she is four, that she is ready to learn, ready to find her feet and no doubt flourish within the support of a classroom environment. But then not everyone will understand when I tell them that Eva is special, as all babies undoubtedly are, but to us she is the baby that we genuinely never believed that we would have, the baby whom we fought so hard for, whom we wished and hoped for and, four years later, still pinch ourselves that she is really ours to keep. She was the first baby sister for Lewis, the first to prove to us that miracles do happen, that after all those years and everything we went through, we were sent the most beautiful of rainbows to heal our hearts.
And in that way, starting Primary school is a minefield of fear, anguish and upset. As we looked around the school during the Induction Evening, I could see Gaz doing a quick risk assessment of every classroom, commenting on the steepness of the steps, the low level of the gates, imagining in his head the possibility of our little girl tripping, falling, escaping…and I knew that it wasn’t just me who was worried, it was him too.
And her teacher seems lovely, she really does, but then she too has no idea how special our daughter is. It took all of my self restraint not to grab her, to take her by the hand and tell her please don’t assume that Eva is just another child in your class, please take care of her, know that she is so precious, that we waited for such a long time to have her. I wanted to tell her that Eva needs constant reassurance, that she often feels over-whelmed in large groups, in new environments, with new people. I wanted to tell her how Eva needs direction, a warm hug, a hand in hers, she needs praise and encouragement and an opportunity to let her imagination run wild. I wanted to tell her that Eva still struggles to say her ‘R’s, that she sometimes writes her letters back to front, that she can be shy and scared and worried, and there are days when all she really wants is her Mummy. But instead I just stood there, my jaw clenched, every muscle in my body tense, imagining her there in the classroom, choosing a reading book, counting blocks, painting me a picture. And, as I blinked back my tears and swallowed the lump rising in my throat, I headed back home to my daughter and promised myself that I would make the most of every single day from now until September.
But it’s still there, the whole time, that sound, the constant ticking of that clock, tick tock, tick tock. And I want to put my hands over my ears, to sing “La, la, la!” in a child like manner, to stamp my feet and stick out my tongue and say, “I’m not listening!”, “I cant hear you”, “I’m not ready…..”.
But in actual fact, today as she tried on her new uniform, I realised that I couldn’t deny it any longer. As I stood there looking at her little face, so proud and excited and unafraid, I realised just how fast these next few weeks will fly, how in no time at all I shall be sobbing on my doorstep, a wreck of a mother, tears and snot and complete devastation that my baby girl is all grown up.
At the same time, I know that we have been through this before. I experienced the upset of Lewis’s first day at primary school, a day so traumatic that, having cried so much on the drive home, I smashed my car straight into a brick wall. Just last year I experienced Lewis’s last day of Primary, his first day of Secondary, days which I had dreaded for months beforehand, that I had been sure would completely destroy me. And yet I survived them, I adapted, I realised that actually it is an amazing thing to see my child grow, to watch them experience new things, reach new milestones and discover their independence.
And I also know that it will always be far easier to see her growing healthy and strong, to watch her running down that school path with her brand new little book bag, her red ribbons streaming out from behind her braids, her face flushed with excitement and anticipation, than to have never experienced it at all.
I am so, so sad to think that she is at this age already, that she is spreading her wings and leaving me behind, but it hurts that little bit less when I remind myself just how very lucky we are, how very blessed we have been, how utterly wonderful life is to have the most beautiful little rainbow of all.