* labels don’t stay put while you are writing on them
* trying to keep them in one place means your fingers are taking up 2/3 of the available space to write on
* most labels somehow magically prevent loops and up-strokes, allowing only a kind of katakana-capital-letter-hieroglyphic writing
I also put his name on a tired tupperware pot filled with three (3) mini rice cakes (apple flavour), one (1) dried apricot, a little pack of raisins and a broken Jacobs Water cracker. I learned another lesson when I examined the pot again in the morning: you don’t put dried fruit and crumbly crackers in the same pot as they amalgamate into a new and unappetising species overnight.
I filled in all the forms, and discovered – too late – that I should have photocopied his birth certificate. Which also meant finding his birth certificate. I decided this would just have to wait a few more days.
Then, I did the washing up.
Then I had run out of busy work and had to stop and realise: my son was going to start pre-school in the morning. Every morning. From now on until eternity.
I suddenly understood why I had been feeling so sad all day. Optimist that I am, up to that point I had only been looking at the advantages and benefits of having mornings free of increasingly articulate demands for snacks, Team Umizoomi and general undivided attention; free of trying to tactfully break up tiny-toddler-crushing hugs that are meant well but could cause serious injury, possibly death; free of constant denial for the need of a toilet trip, followed by yet another clean pair of trousers and another load of washing to put on; free of sudden rage, tears, remorse, saying sorry, then juice and hugs (and that is just me). In short, mornings when my confident, independent little girl can play and then (blissfully) nap, while I do freelance work, lesson prep and writing. It had all sounded so good up until then. But suddenly it hit me that these would also be mornings without sudden sneak attacks of affection, without puzzles and games with a little boy that gets these things now, without a window into his hilarious imagination, without a little voice at my elbow, offering to help me with the chores.
I smoothed his labelled clothes once more, added another few pairs of clean underpants to his George Pig backpack and went to bed. All night I had anxiety dreams in which I just could not leave the pre-school, or had said I would look after a friend’s child at the same school but lost him, and most importantly, in which I had forgotten to label an essential item of clothing.
At 6.45, the Boy woke up full of excitement, untroubled by visions of disaster. He was looking forward to school. Once we arrived he headed straight for the sand table and barely looked up when I said goodbye.
At home, time passed quickly. The Girl kicked off her “zhuzh” with a little cry of glee and ran from toy to toy, unable to decide which one to play with first now that no one was about to snatch them off her. In fact, she did an adorable little dance in the centre of the room, which I freely interpreted as her Happy Dance, to celebrate a brother-free morning. After a little play and a snack, I put her down for a (very) early nap and did a good hour of work. Before I knew it, it was time to collect the Boy again.
He was touchingly delighted to see us. He ran into my arms, then hugged and hugged his sister and gave her kisses. He had had a wonderful time but was pleased that we were back.
Tomorrow, we do the whole thing again. And the day after and the day after that.
The whole thing feels strange, like I have forgotten something – left my wallet at home, or my shoes in the car. The house is eerily quiet. The Numberjacks lie on the sofa, lifeless, just toys now. The TV is off.
So I sit at my laptop, doing work, sipping a hot cup of tea, and grieving. It’s only the morning, only a few hours that pass in a flash. And yet, I feel like I have lost my shadow.