From the day you were born, I barely let you out of my sight. You came everywhere with me. Happily snuggled up in the sling at parties and weddings. I carried you from room to room throughout the day, never wanting you to be left alone. You shared my baths, stared at me while I peed (not in the bath) and slept on my chest while I made dinner. We went everywhere together, inseparable best friends who didn’t want to be apart even for a second. You slept on me or Laurie in the evenings, while we watched television, and then accompanied us up to bed at night. You slept next to me, my arms around you for protection, snoring softly with each breath.
Then you learned how to walk, and we didn’t need a sling anymore. You followed me all by yourself. You would appear in the doorway to help me unload the washing or tidy up the toys. You would run off across the park by yourself, but always looked back to check I was still following you. You were independent, but you still wanted me closeby. And still, every night you snuggled up in my arms for sleep. We went on adventures together, and every stick or stone (and once a dog poo) you stumbled across was proudly presented to me as a gift. We spent our days reading books and playing as you explored the world around you.
You seem to grow so quickly, in just the blink of an eye I notice that you look older, taller and more grown up than you did before. When you turned thee, your best friend, Daisy, started preschool so you wanted to start too. You did just one morning a week. You didn’t cry the first time I dropped you off, you were just excited to go and play with you best friend. In fact, you didn’t cry once at preschool, always so excited to play with their toys and see your friends.
And then it was summer, and we spent eight glorious weeks together. We visited the beach, went bowling, ice skating and to the cinema. We went to museums, parks and art galleries. We hung out with your friends and you got to know your Auntie Rosie a little better. We played in the garden, we read stories and we played with all of your toys. And even though I didn’t get so much work done, we had the best summer ever.
And then it was time for nursery. You didn’t want to go, you said, you wanted to stay at home with me. You said it once, and then never again, as your excitement for nursery grew. We bought your uniform, chose your special nursery wellies and talked about what you might do at nursery. And you started to get excited. You told me you were looking forward to making new friends, to playing with dinosaurs and to playing in the house.
We went to a taster session together, and you switched between strolling around confidently and shyly holding my hand and taking me with you. You wanted me to read you a story, then you’d run off and play again. On the way home, you told me it was just like preschool and you loved it.
Then this morning, I dropped you off there alone. You were excited from the moment you opened your eyes, ignoring my hangover (note to self: don’t drink on school nights anymore) and telling me how excited you were to play in the house again. You got dressed, telling me how cute your uniform was. You grabbed your coconut milk and ran out the door. You ran the whole way there. When they opened the doors, you proudly showed them your vegan milk before turning and giving me a big cuddle. You told me to have a nice day at work (again, ignoring my hangover) and gave me a huge kiss, then you ran inside without a backwards glance.
I peeked through the window and saw that you’d kicked off your school shoes and were switching them for a pair of princess heels. You didn’t look around for me, or look upset that I’d gone. You’re too independent for any of that. You just want to play and have fun and make friends. And so I walked home alone, shedding a couple of silent tears on the way. The house felt eerily quiet when I got home. Your dressing up clothes sit in a heap on the living room floor, and your breakfast things are still on the playroom table. But you’re not here, because you’re too busy growing up.