'Just'. What a deceptive little word! There was nothing small or simple about sending my not-so-little son off to school. I thought I managed quite well really, after all - I managed to walk him to the door, and leave before I cried. I held it together while he lost it and made sure he had his Baa-baa (the grotty old toy sheep he's adored since birth) clasped tight when Bean and I left. I even managed not to cry while Bean had a wailing tantrum about being separated from his 'best friend in the world and life'.
But my eyes betrayed me barely an hour later, sitting in a cold church hall at our local toddler group. Despite battling valiantly to hold back the flood, those determined tears started leaking out all over the place and I had to admit defeat. I was truly, truly sad. Hunkering down with Bean on the playmat, I asked him solemnly whether it was ok for us to go.
Looking up at me and considering the situation carefully, Bean replied, 'We go to Nana's house?' Sensible boy.
There are days when a support network make all the difference. My parents have been a cushion, a safety net, a sounding board and a home for us over the past three years. Even though the boys and I no longer live with Nana and Grampa they are a huge part of our family life. We all know that when the going gets tough, it's time for a cuppa with them. Even Bean, who's only two!
Sprout going to school has hothoused some very complicated feelings for me over the past 9 months. I deferred his place back in September, hoping against hope I would be able to find a way to carve out time to home-educate him. I am a passionate advocate of 'education otherwise' - all the various ways you can school a child without actually sending them to school. Since before he was born, I've anticipated doing something alternative with him and his brother when the time came. Well, it's come. And I have to accept that right now, I am not in a position to give either of them the time and attention they deserve to be unschooled, or home schooled, for now.
As the tide of emotion subsides, I have been reflecting on what sending the boys to school means to me and my sense of who I am as a parent. The funny thing about parenting is that no matter what you do, there's a hell of a lot of compromise involved. The parent I imagined I would be sure as hell isn't the parent I've turned out to be. Some of that is the oddness of life, happening to us. Some of it is simply realising I am not entirely cut from the tie-dye hippy cloth I would like to be. Some of it is the parenting I had as a child escaping out from inside me. It's not a question of blame or fault, it just is.