Last month, Plum started school. He’s our number three so we’ve been through these first days before, but he is also our little one so this is our last first.
He and I have both been looking forward to this new stage. All summer, he has been excited about “big school” where he could spend the whole day with his friends and even eat his lunch. I’ve been looking forward to the luxury of empty hours to spend as I like and the ability to focus without interruption. From both sides, it looked like bliss.
But we’ve both learned it isn’t easy.
Each day starts with letting go. Plum rides to school on the back of my bike, his blue penguin helmet firmly buckled on his head and his eyes wide open for green lights and green cars. When we lock the bike by the gate and hold hands, I try to keep things light and cheerful, chatting about other green things and his nice, new raincoat, but by the time the bell rings and the kids flock to line up, Plum’s hand feels welded to mine. I crouch down to tell him it is going to be a good day. He looks back at me with a determined look and nods. So I let go and point him towards his teacher. He steps forward. I step back. Some mornings, he turns and even returns to hold on again. Some mornings are hard. I try to look brave and smile. He tries to hold on and then to let go.
Back at the bicycle, I buckle his helmet into his empty seat and check my own helmet. I try to think about my older kids already settled into their school days. I notice the fallen leaves under my tires. I cycle home and the house is quiet. I’m not sure what to do next. Time is a difficult friend.
This is the first time since I’ve become a mother that I’ve had my days to myself. Twelve years ago, I learned Beangirl was on the way, and in all the days and seasons that followed, I’ve juggled kids and work and so many snatched scraps of time for the things I wanted to do. Days stretched and I stayed up late. Now everything feels different. There is open time. I might do anything. To everything there is a season and all that, I think, and this will be a good one, but I’ll need to learn the way. I feel nervous. I don’t quite know what to do with myself. Sitting alone in my house, I’m not sure who to be kind to. Alone in the house, love feels abstract.
I called my mum and we talked about it. She told me that it was the same for her. Just the same. In the long afternoons, she used to sit on the edge of the sofa cushion and wait for the sound of the school bus turning the corner onto our street. I never knew that. I’m glad she told me. I told her about the bike ride and the leaves that are beginning to change in the park and she said to write it down so that I’ll remember. This is always the advice she gives me. She knows me well. She tells me to be kind to myself.
Finding the words
So yesterday, after dropping Plum off at school, I went shopping for a new keyboard. I’ve been finding the space bar on my laptop temperamental for a while and my words string together inconveniently. It makes everything look rushed and awkward, and I need to retrace my steps to add in enough space to make things legible.
The new keyboard is sleek and attractive. The angle is good, though unfamiliar, and the pressure for each key feels right. I plug it in and know I will be productive, when I get used to it.
For now, simply recording the small moments helps me turn my thoughts and my heart towards gratitude. Buckle, season, cushion, corner. The sound of my mother’s voice. The still-green leaves. These are small prayers. This is a path towards gratitude.
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