She’s finished the countdown until Christmas; finished the countdown until turning five, and now Miss Melody has a new event to count down the days for: Big School.
Yes, after 15 years of motherhood, for the second time around I am about to watch my “baby” go off to big school. I’ve been here before, ten years ago, with my eldest child, and I can tell you it doesn’t get any easier.
I am filled with the same nervous butterflies for Melli starting school as I was when her big sister did all those years ago. Nervous that she will be okay in the new environment; that the teacher will be good for her; that she will remember which lunchbox is which; remember to go to the toilet and remember not to wander off from her classroom and get lost down some dark alley inhabited by gangs and drug pushers where she will meet a dark stranger who will introduce her to a cult where she will be brainwashed into leaving on some dangerous mission to a far-away place where she will parachute into a crocodile-infested waters...
While I worry about how she will go in those early days, I know where I will be within minutes of dropping her off to her new classroom on that first day. I’ll be exactly where I was a decade ago after dropping off her big sister; a blabbering mess sitting in my car wishing, in vain, that it was not so insufferably quiet and empty of her little kid chatter.
While I am running through all the possible disasters that may befall my little one when she starts school – as mothers do - she, on the other hand, is racing off in the other direction excitedly preparing for this next big adventure.
Squeaky new school shoes are being worn every day around the house; numbers and letters are being studied, pencil cases opened and closed a million times and back packs chosen.
She is counting down the days. She is ready.
I am not.
Neither is her little sister.
When Maddi, two, sees her big sister attempting to put on her new, bright, white school socks she springs into action. Although she does not know exactly what is going on, Maddi senses her fearless leader is up to no good and so she lunges for the socks and races off to the teenager’s room declaring: “That’s Lella’s socks”. She recognises the socks are for school kids, big kids, and goes to return them to the rightful school kid of the house – 15-year-old Ella.
I should stop her, but inwardly I am barracking for my toddler at this point: willing her chubby little legs to run, run, as fast as they can and take the makings of another school kid with them. Yes, Maddi, I think. Let’s put a stop to all this “big school” madness right now. Big School! A preposterous plan. Outrageous! Let’s nip it in the bud right here...
But I have already brought two six-packs of the white socks, haven’t I (you can never have too many socks), and Miss Five has simply put on a new pair, pulled high to her knees. Maddi’s plan is foiled and at the sight of those white school socks and shiny black school shoes on those skinny little legs, the tears I thought would be saved for the car on the first day of school are leaking out early.
“Oh, Melli,” I splutter. “How did you get so big? I will miss you so much when you are at big school.”
Melli looks over at me, beaming with “I’m wearing my big school clothes” pride and then clomps off in those ridiculously big black shoes to the kitchen table to retrieve her latest artwork. She returns and thrusts it into my lap with the instructions: “Here, Mum, you can look at this when I am at big school so you don’t miss me.”
I look down at the picture. A sticky, glued-on mess of fabric scraps, texta colour and glitter and I can see there is a resemblance. A sweet-faced girl with stringy yellow hair... It does kind-of look like her. I will frame it and I will look at it every day, but it will never be as good as the real thing.
Here’s the thing nobody tells you when you become a mother : No matter how prepared you think you are; no matter how many classes you take, books you read or advice you listen to – no matter how many years practice you have -you will Never. Be. Ready. for this day.
But, your kids will be.
And they will race forward into the future regardless of you, and you must take a deep breath, brush aside those tears and sprint alongside them to keep up, puffing and panting as you go.
They grow Big. Fast.
Whether you are ready or not.