Let’s deal with the royal baby first shall we? I’m a sucker for babies, and am incapable of watching a birth on television without a little tear. Which is impressive for someone who used to be famous for having no emotions whatsoever. So I’m looking forward to the pictures as much as the next person…unless the next person happens to be Carole Middleton. She might just edge it.
Obviously I’m thinking of Kate, and hoping that everything goes as smoothly as it can. (Sometimes it goes smoothly, right?) Mostly, I’m impressed by the royal family’s dedication to providing an event of national signifiance during every year of Elvie’s life. First there was the wedding…
then there was the jubilee…
and now the royal baby.
We’ve gotten more use than I expected out of that flag.
It’s enough to make you come over all patriotic. I briefly considered making something red,white and blue for dinner. (Then I remembered that it would just be me and two under-threes who don’t care at all. We had curry.)
The world and his wife will be giving advice to poor old Kate over the next few weeks (months?/years?) I’m not sure that I have anything worthwhile to add. All I would say is, keep your eyes peeled, because those milestones creep up fast.
This morning was Elvie’s trial session at nursery. As of September, she’ll be there five afternoons a week. Which means I’ll have 15 hours a week one-on-one time with Joel…admittedly, I’m hoping he’ll have a post-lunch nap. We’ve been going to ‘nursery club’ for a few weeks now – she’s met some of the children who’ll be there with her, and chatted to several of the teachers. But that was at the Children’s Centre – which is her second home. Today was her first visit to ‘proper nursery’. I’ve been crossing my fingers for weeks that it would go well.
And it did. She loved it. She was out of sight within minutes – beside herself with excitement at the trikes and slides and sand pits and buggies and space. She wasn’t bothered at all when the older children came out to the playground. She had a litlte wobble when I went off to the parents meeting, but by the time I returned she was tearing around, hitching lifts on the back of other children’s bikes.
I knew she would love it. I’ve always known. She’s wildly independent, very happy in her own company and not normally worried about new places or strangers. She’s bored of being at home with me and the brother, and needs more stimulation than I can give her. She’s talked of nothing but nursery since she found out it existed, and has been trying to persuade me that she is already “a grown up girl” so that she can start earlier. I’m sure there will be a few bumps along the road – especially when she realises that she has to go every day. Or that not everybody wants to be her friend. Or that she’ll actually need to do as she’s told. That could be tricky.
Today was a formality for Elvie – with some great toys and a carton of milk thrown in for good measure. It was a bigger deal for me. I’d always known that I wanted my children to go to nursery and school and have a ‘normal’ childhood. Until Elvie was born. At that moment I knew that nobody else would ever look after my babies. I wasn’t going to let them out of my sight. I wasn’t going back to work. I told Wes that I had decided to homeschool.
He has a great look that he saves for just such occasions. It’s a very kind look, usually accompanied by an “ok darling”. It sounds like agreement. This is deceptive. What it actually means is “this is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard, but I’m just going to sit back and let you figure that out for yourself.” He’s used it a few times over the last seven years.
I was determined. I looked up homeschooling on the internet. I looked on Pinterest for cute project ideas. I checked that it was all legal. I had visions of our kitchen as a schoolroom – with the children sitting sweetly and working on their lessons. Elvie would be wearing a gingham dress. And pigtails.
The problem was – none of this homeschooling plan was about Elvie, or Joel. It was about me. I was terrified of letting them go. Letting them out of my sight. Letting someone else look after them. I was nervous of them meeting ‘undesirable children’ and coming out with choice words at dinnertime. Or that they would be taught things that I didn’t agree with. I didn’t want them to think I was abandoning them.
I’m sure most mums sending their children to nursery for the first time feel the same. There’s a reason for all those tears in the playground. But honestly, that was a tiny part of my homeschooling motivation. Truth is, I just wanted to be the best. I wanted people to be stunned by how brilliant my children were, and how it was all my doing. I wanted to nail the homeschooling, self-sufficient, hippie-chic lifestyle. I wanted to be great at something. And I wanted people to be jealous.
It’s been a long time since I felt like I was great at something. At school, I may not have been the most popular, the sportiest or the prettiest, but I got good grades. I knew that I was achieving, and that I was doing well. Since then, success has been harder to define. I left school twelve years ago. That’s a long time to spend feeling as though you’re muddling through.
I found my feet for a while at Central but, while my classmates are now actors, directors, writers, teachers and magicians, I’m changing nappies and singing nursery rhymes. There’s no interesting answer to “so, what are you up to now?” I figured homeschooling would help. I’d have a purpose. I’d be a bit wacky. At least it would sound like I was doing something. And, when my children turned out to be world changers and artistic legends, I’d be a hero.
People homeschool for great reasons, and I stand amazed by them. I know for sure that it would have killed us. But still I dream of the schoolroom kitchen and the homemade pasta and the shiny, perfect, awe-inspiring family. Turns out it’s not only Elvie that I need to let go of. Motherhood is not a competition – at least not one that anyone can win.
Perhaps that’s my advice for the Duchess.