The day we have all been counting down to, for different reasons, has arrived.
Uniforms are on.
Shoes are shiny and black, for the first and only time.
Lunchboxes are full.
We are ready for the first day of a new school year.
This morning I said farewell to my three, not so little, children as they made their way to their friends, new teachers - and away from me.
When the children were little they clung to be as though I was a rock and the school was the big wave trying to crash on them and take them away. As they got older, I would watch them play, but they would come back from time to time, to make sure I was still there. Today, was different. They really and truly did not look back. I got a quick good-bye and I was left, feeling a little awkward, reminding me of The Clash song, Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?
The look from my teenager when I sidled over to her, to ask her what classroom was hers told me it was time to go. You know the look? My patience is running out with you in exactly two and a half seconds. Apparently, this is another inappropriate question to ask one's teenager, along with, are you going to brush your hair (after she has perfected her messy bun).
All of a sudden I felt the need to flee; I toddled back to my car and into my quiet house that smelt like it had one too many wet towels left on the carpet over summer. Both the house and I sighed in relief, mingled with a stab of sadness.
Sadness that my children need me a little less with every passing day, sad that the long and languishing days of summer holiday and all that comes with it, are over. Relief that my children are venturing forth in the world without needing to hold my hand at all times. Relief that me, the house and the dog get to restore ourselves and think about other things. Relief my children will be coming home at the end of their school day. Relief that while I know I'm becoming redundant to my children in some ways, in others way I know I am not.
My role as a parent is changing. I am co-captain of a ship that is now full, but I must keep it sailing. I need to make sure there is food aboard and the rats at bay. I need to be there to enjoy the days when the water is calm and steer the ship through the rough and wild storms. I need to work with my co-captain to navigate unchartered waters. I need to issue books for pleasure and talk through life, homework and friends. I need to cheer them on. Know when to hold tight and when to let go. I need to learn when to speak and when to (increasingly) say nothing. I need to be there, maybe not in the same intense way of times gone by, but as the captain of the ship to take my family into their futures.
At some point my ship will find its port and my children will hopefully not stumble or run, but walk off and into their own lives as adults. I don't know yet how I will feel when that day arrives, but I suspect that my husband and I will spend a long time walking through our ghost ship, laughing at our family memories, crying at our heartbreaking loss and forgetting the mundane domesticity that accompanies having a family. Not today, thank goodness. Today, I am cleaning our ship, thinking of my work, the days ahead and mostly, feeling the transition and tilt of the world.
I'm a passionate about helping children read frequently - forging a life-long connection with books. In this blog, you will also find helpful, practical advice for parents to help support them in their families reading journey.