It’s here. Finally.
The big first day. Of actual, real-life school.
As I write this, Elvie is doing goodness-only-knows-what in her classroom, dressed in her delicious little uniform, surrounded by her friends.
Whilst Wes walks Joel around outside in the buggy, to try and calm the toddler tantrum that ensued when he wasn’t allowed to stay with her.
It’s been a long time coming. For me, anyway.
7 weeks of summer holiday. And 10 days fuming at everyone else’s “first day of school” pictures on Facebook. Seriously. What school in their right mind waits until the 10th of September to open?
We’ve done our very best to make it an occasion. And to conceal at least a little of our bare-faced joy.
She’s had little presents from family members. Special pens. Alphabet charts.
Last night she had a we’re-proud-of-you card, and a free-choice dinner. The opportunity to eat anything in the world, as a special treat. Whatever she wanted. Which, as it turned out, was chicken pie, baked beans and raw carrot. She’s easily pleased.
Today she was up bright and early, asking if it was morning yet? Could she put her uniform on already? Could she wear her special blue hairclips? What bags did she have to take? Could she decorate her water bottle?
Who knows? She’s not the only one that’s new to this.
Several hours, photos, changes of hairstyle and stretches of double-sided sticky tape later, and she was waiting again. This time, in the playground. In a cluster of old friends, new faces and parents trying to get their overexcited offspring to just-stand-still-for-one-picture-please. And the little girl who turned up a few days early for the start of nursery. Oops.
She was nervous, by her own admission. Holding my hand. Not wanting to run off and play just yet. Turns out she is human after all. If you ignore the green skin on her stomach where yesterday’s paint proved a little too stubborn to remove.
And then we went inside.
She is amazing. Just turned 4. In a brand new environment. Albeit one that the nursery staff have prepared her brilliantly for.
Her confidence blows me away.
We found her peg, her drawer, the box for her water bottle. She found her chair, her whiteboard to write her name on. Her own pen and rubber. And she was away. With an absolute gleam in her eye.
A few minutes later, having demonstrated the use of the rubber, I was dismissed, with the traditional “Goodbye, Mummy,” that I’ve come to expect on such occasions. And I watched from the doorway for a moment, as she sat in her chair. Her little blonde head bent over her board. Rubbing. Concentrating. Completely absorbed.
And I smiled. She’s going to be just fine.
As are we all.
This is a big change for everyone. The first day of the next seventeen years of our lives – if you count Joel’s schooling too. Which we probably should.
It’s a change of pace. A change of intensity. More bake sales, more parents evenings, more letters home and endless form-filling. A sabbatical for the Frozen soundtrack. And a gradual letting go of the total influence I’ve had over what she sees, or hears, or learns.
I’m not as scared of that as I thought I’d be. In fact, I’m mostly grateful. Grateful that she has somewhere, just round the corner, to spend her days. With an outdoor classroom in the woods. And a vegetable garden. Not to mention her friends, and the occasional deer.
I’m grateful that she’ll have hours of stimulation, every day. For her mind and her body. Grateful that she’ll have a way to satisfy her desperate thirst for knowledge. That doesn’t involve Google. Or our fridge door.
I’m grateful that even as I write this, I can see her from my bedroom window. Speeding round the playground on a little yellow scooter. And hear the accompanying whoops.
Yes, she’s very young. Yes, she doesn’t always cope brilliantly with authority figures. Yes, she hasn’t tried the school dinners yet.
But, from where I’m sitting, this looks like the start of something beautiful.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have twenty minutes, and an entire cup of still-hot tea before pick-up time.
Honestly. What’s not to love.