Today was The Youngests first day at school. She is only three. Where I live kids start full-time school the term before they're four. She will not be going full-time untill September, but in the meantime will go one day a week in order to get slowly accustomed to school life before she begins reception class properly after the summer holidays.
I got up even earlier than usual to make doubly sure that we had plenty of time to get ready, figuring that if she was feeling at all nervous about going to school for the first time, the last thing she would need was a rushed and chaotic morning. We went through the usual routine of breakfast, teeth brushing, face washing and getting dressed. Then I brushed her hair in front of the big mirror in my bedroom and arranged it into two plaits. I smiled at her reflection and asked how it felt to be a big school-girl. She hugged her toy cat and said, 'Meow.'
Her brothers shot like bullets out of the car and into the playground as soon as we got to the school. Their bags slapping against their legs, they disappeared quickly round the corner to the school entrance. I lifted The Youngest out of her car seat and set her down on the pavement just near the school gates. I went to take her hand but suddenly she was off! Like a coiled spring, her little legs motoring as fast as they possibly could, her plaits flapping in the wind, determinedly hot on the tail of her older brothers. She ran as fast as she could into her classroom and didn't give me so much as a backwards glance. I hovered neurotically a while at the classroom door asking her teacher to please remind her to go to the loo, and please would she phone me if there were any problems at all, but The Youngest had already made herself perfectly comfortable at a table with some other children and was doing a spot of colouring.
Ah... mixed feelings. She's my last child, and while a big part of me is relishing the prospect of having more time to do my own thing and pursue my own ambitions, another part of me felt heavy hearted today. My beautiful little girl is growing up and becoming more and more independent, and while I know this is something to be celebrated, I must admit to a small lump forming in my throat as I walked back out through the windy playground towards my car this morning.