The clue’s in the title really. Today was Anna’s last day at nursery – we now have seven weeks of summer holidays before she starts ‘big school’ in September.
She is nothing but excited. She has absolutely loved nursery, to the extent that when she’s been too poorly to go in we’ve had tantrums, but she’s now undoubtedly ready to move on, and is really looking forward to school. That’s great, and a testimony to how well the nursery teachers have done their job. The one in emotional crisis is me.
It only seems like five minutes since we were preparing for her to start nursery; the year’s gone so quickly – it’s only when I saw the photo nursery took of her on her first day that I realised how much she has grown up and changed during the time. This has been the year that she’s taken her first steps to living a life independent of me. And that’s been ok, I’ve been so proud of how well she’s done, how friendly and sociable she is, her voracious curiosity about how the world works, her enthusiasm for ‘learning time’.
And the thing is, 15 hours a week has been about the right length of time – I’ve had some writing time, some cleaning time and even, occasionally, some me-time, but I’ve also had afternoons where we can potter around at home, bake cakes, go to the park, see friends, visit museums and just generally hang out together. Come September, those afternoons are going to vanish, as I suspect, at first, I’ll probably have a very tired and consequently grumpy little girl to collect at 3pm.
I almost held it together at pick-up time today, but being presented with her elephant undid me. Anna is in, sorry, has been in, Elephant Group, and every morning her first task on arrival at nursery is to find her elephant – a small cut out with her name on it velcro’d to the wall – and place it in the Elephant Group envelope. Every morning for a year I’ve followed in the wake of a small whirlwind who just wanted to get on with the important business of playing, reminding her ‘go and do your elephant’ – sometimes in honeyed tones, sometimes practically screeching, depending on what kind of a morning I’d had. Today we took permanent custody of a now redundant elephant. I gave up any attempt at a cool, calm demeanour and sobbed openly. I was far from being the only one – most of the teachers and several of the mums were in a similar state.
The last four and a half years as the stay-at-home mum to a pre-schooler have been exhausting, exhilarating, demanding, exciting, boring, fulfilling, frustrating and, above all, blissfully happy. Anna is undoubtedly ready to move on to the next stage of her life, but I’m not yet sure that I am.