On Monday all three of mine went back to school for the first day of a new year.
I forced them to have the obligatory ‘first day back’ photo which has happened every first day back since 2008 when Eldest started in reception.
Actually I lie there was one year when I forgot. That came up on my FB memories recently. I did a second day back shot instead.
This year’s shot had the same poignancy as that first ever photo in Sept 2008. And that is because it is the last time all three of them will go back to school for the start of a new year.
Somehow those 13 years since that little boy set out into the academic world in his grey shorts and with his shy smile have trickled away.
When you have a baby and the days seem interminable, one long round of feeds and nappies and crying, older and wiser parents tell you to cherish the moments as the years will fly by.
Of course no new parent takes this advice on board. We all rush for the next steps. The weaning, the crawling the standing, those precious words, using toilets. The first question is always ‘Is he crawling yet?’ or ‘How much weight did she put on last week?’. Wishing away the time, striving for the next milestone. Worrying about any perceived delay. As if it matters. Which it doesn’t.
To be honest I did find the early months of Eldest’s life long and tedious. The days were cold and the nights long and dark. I was bored and tired. I didn’t enjoy his babyhood. He was hard work as a baby (and I only knew this once I had his siblings) or maybe I made hard work of it. Probably the latter.
But once Middlest and then Youngest came along life sped up. I enjoyed their toddler hoods and their preschool years. We were a tight knit foursome and had a great social life.
But then the treadmill of school kicked in. The years suddenly became punctuated by half terms and reports and parents evenings and the holidays rushed towards me at hurtling speed.
And then the move to secondary school sees time hit the turbo button. The tests and assessments. The week full of clubs and sport and music lessons and driving. The endless driving. The holidays offered some respite but were still full of activity.
Even a pandemic didn’t seem to slow it down much. Those terms with them learning at home, which I secretly enjoyed, still whipped by. Even when only allowed out once a day.
And then you suddenly find that you are at the end. You paste on a happy face whilst discussing unis and being treated almost as an irrelevance by your teens, except for that endless driving (which of course you are doing all wrong) and food and cash.
I dropped mine off this morning as I have done every day for years. I remembered the countless days of discussing homework and teachers and mates in the car. Singing along to disney hits. Cursing the traffic. And it hit me that those countless days weren’t countless at all. They were finite and precious.
And although I have made the most of them I know that many have been done unconsciously, almost carelessly. With rush and stress and hurry.
And I think it will be those moments I miss the most. The little gems of conversation and humour. And also the rows and annoyance that dragging 3 kids to school entails.
Even though I will still have one year left with Middlest and another couple after that with Youngest, once Eldest leaves that dynamic will change.
And so almost too late one realises that all those older and wiser parents were right.
Time really flies.