I find myself in unchartered territory. Last year, the eldest child was leaving nursery and off to P1. I took that in my stride. (I didn’t take the summer in my stride, trying to entertain two small people who, after years of crèche then nursery were firmly institutionalised, thereby expecting wall-to-wall amusement.)
Call me unsentimental, but I’m not one to bemoan every last vestige of baby hood. To put it crudely, the sooner mine could clean their own arses the better. So they’ve finally lost their dummy? Excellent. Out of nappies and pull-ups? Yeeoooooo. No more reeking stench of ammonia to greet you of a morning. Ability to feed themselves? Result. All these are massive pluses in book, and means they are ready (or more than ready) to move on to the next stage.
Child number 2, to whom I lovingly refer as Father Jack because of her often un-sunny disposition, left pre-school on Friday. And I’m not quite sure I’m fit for the transition. She’ll be grand; I harbour suspicions that she’ll run for presidency someday. But for me, this means severing 5 years of almost daily contact with Hilcrest nursery on Anadale Embankment. I first dropped my eldest there when she was 9 months old, and I went and cried into a plate of mushroom soup in Graffiti on the Ormeau, on her ‘settling-in’ day. I wasn’t relishing the prospect of returning to work and leaving her in full-time day-care. ‘I’m such a bad mother’ I wailed to Louise, who soothed me more than child and assured me it would be fine. I neglected to check my teeth after the soup and when I collected her I must have looked like some medieval wench. (although after listening to the Reith Lectures by Hilary Mantel I now know that most people kept their teeth just fine unless they were punched out in a fight.) Louise again, didn’t pass comment at the blithering idiot I must have appeared to be and my baby was fine, and continued to be so until she left nursery last year and trotted on to P1.
And Louise was there through all the stages of crèche and nursery and in fact was the nursery leader for both the girls. And I’m a little devastated to be losing her. She’s heard it all: having endured all the trials of my working mum years, my building that fucking extension stage, my misguided decision to foster a puppy stage. She lets me come in and read the kids a story or teach them some French when a tiny ember of me wants to feel like a teacher again, (for a fleeting 15 minutes then that’ll do, thank you very much.) When my children have me driven pure demented she sympathises accordingly and assures me they never let me down a bucketful in nursery, thus saving all their tantrums for me.
Nothing makes my day more, than when I trot up the stairs and hear my child chatting and laughing before I clap eyes on them. Or if I creep in quietly and see then utterly engrossed in play. Or see them getting a cuddle or just having the craic with their teachers. When they can be such little tyrants at home it’s uplifting to see them behaving themselves in public.
So yes, I’m a bit gutted. Louise and the rest of the girls have been, without exception, an integral and wonderful part of this first chapter with my children. Tears were shed, less for them, the confident little buddies that they are, and definitely for me, as I sever these ties. So a massive thank you to all the people who make the early years such a special time for both kids and parents. You deserve all the credit. Ahh shit, there I go again, reaching for the Kleenex. If you see me on the Ormeau Road in dark shades you’ll know why. (Let’s face it, it’s hardly likely to be the sunshine).