My 'baby', Crazy, celebrated his 2nd birthday last week. That came around quickly, it feels like only a month or so ago I was cooing over this teeny tiny being, grasping my finger and making scrumptious snuffly noises in his still-too-big, newborn sized onesie. Yet, at the same time it feels as though he has always been around. He has his very own personality and little quirks and I'm so very proud of him. He is stubborn, energetic, funny, alert, peculiar in an endearing way- I'm his biggest fan. Whilst he is my world, I will ensure that he grows to learn that the world does not revolve around him. He will learn to take turns, to share, to be polite and thoughtful and to work hard- he is not owed, he must earn. With his baby sister due in February he may have to learn to share sooner than he likes. My time and attention will be split with another, which seems almost incomprehensible to me, never mind a toddler.
Today Crazy spent his first morning in preschool. We have been for a few visits and he has always very much enjoyed his time there but I was always around, in the background, for whenever he felt the need to check in. On our last visit he barely looked my way more than twice so I was fairly confident that he would be just fine today... I'd almost started to look forward to a bit of time to myself. We arrived at drop-off time to an excited 'Yay!' from Crazy, said our goodbyes and left him playing happily with a train set. After a blissful breakfast in a café as a grown-up (for those unfamiliar with toddler life, any meal out usually requires entertaining a demanding smaller person that becomes bored and vocal about said boredom within minutes, they will seek and destroy anything within reach and when food arrives, at least half of this will be thrown on the floor/at fellow diners, wiped on chairs/clothes/anyone within reach and as much time is spent clearing up the mess as is spent eating your own -cold- meal) I headed home. Home was simply, 'house'. The heart was missing. The mess was there, so I put it away. Then I cleaned and polished and steamed. I continued doing these things in an attempt to stop the clock from shouting at me. 'Tick-tock! Tick-tock! Your son is with strangers! You are not in control! Tick tock! You still have an hour to go!'. This exciting child free time sucks!
I hurried back to collect him- I was the first at the door of course. I was closely followed by a second timer. The second timer knows how you feel, they were a first timer just the other day. They know it is worse the second time because your small people know of your betrayal, leaving them in this new place with these new people. The second timer has endured the meltdown at drop off and pities your hopefulness and false confidence that your own small person has been playing busily without even noticing you've slipped away. The old-schoolers arrived. Their small people are into a routine, they know the score. They've gone through the tears and tantrums and their children really do play happily whilst they enjoy doing grown up things. They don't mingle with the first and second timers, the old-schoolers have their own clique. The door opens, we hurry inside to find our small people. Crazy is sad, his eyes are red and puffy and he is snotty and hiding in the corner. The second timer is relieved to spot her small person engrossed in a book- I notice there is no sign of this morning's drop-off tears for their small person. They are already transitioning to old-schoolers. Maybe there is hope. But right now I feel incredible guilt. Crazy is clinging to me, wondering how and why I left him and he is marching me to the door- we must leave this place immediately before I disappear again and he is made to do fun things like drawing and playing with toys. The lovely preschool people tell me about his morning, that he has been tearful on and off, that he didn't want to participate in snack time but he did like to play with the train set. They presented me with his first drawing to be displayed proudly on my fridge and they reassure me that it was only his first day and that eventually he will learn that I always come back. We scuttle off to the car and whilst Crazy is happy once again- and I'm pretty sure he has forgotten the whole ordeal already- I am holding back tears and already thinking about how much harder it will be leaving next time knowing that he needs me and I won't be there. I am reminding myself that it is good for all of us that he has a couple of mornings a week at preschool. He is learning to socialise independently, to build confidence in being a person in his own right and not being directed by Mummy. I am making time to rest until the new baby is here and then to devote my whole attention, for a short while, only to her. It is good for us all and once Crazy has settled, he will happily go in to play just like the old-schoolers.
My little 'baby', Crazy, is his very own person. He is out there being himself and making his own decisions, however small they may be. His path in life has started and the lessons I want to teach him are already underway. He is learning and I am proud. I have kept the first promise I ever made him- that we would both learn along the way. What I didn't realise is that he would be teaching me every bit as much as I am showing him the way.