I've been away for a bit. Quite a bit actually. So excuse me if I tentatively dip my toe into chocolatey water for a while rather than just leaping in the air, grabbing my knees and crying "Geronimoooooo" as I dive back in. When you are out of the habit of nonchalantly displaying your life so publicly, returning to blogging does rather feel like unpacking your swimming bag at a public pool to find that the only costume that has been packed for you is a rather flimsy white one. You know that however confidently you attempt to strut out onto the poolside, the second you hit the water, you are going to reveal more than perhaps the general public had bargained for. Over the last few months I've got as far as the poolside, but kept my toes dry. However, not being one to shun setting myself up for public scrutiny for long, I have returned, complete with a flowery swimming hat and goggles, to take the plunge.
Although of course I could be slightly easier on myself, you know, keep that metaphorical towel tightly wrapped around my body? Perhaps post a little piece about cute kittens and get away without having to explain where I have been or what has kept me away from the blog for so long?
Let’s try it and see how it goes. Cast your eyes on the ickle kittens…
They are really very cute, irresistible some might say and surely cute enough to be the focus of an entire blog entry? Perhaps we could just sit here and just coo with delight at the sheer fluffiness of all mother nature’s lovely creatures?
You feel nothing?
No gooeyness? No mushiness? Not even an “Ahhhhhh”?
You heartless bastards.
Ok, have it your way, but I reserve the right to not tell you where I have been in a neat, handily chronological order, but to instead to start with where I have arrived. I’m not just being awkward out of childishness you understand, it’s just that everything that I really should write about (and quite a few things that I really shouldn't) all seem rather insignificant today. They are simply things that have happened along the way to where I find myself deposited this afternoon.
I am talking about a journey that I wasn’t entirely aware that we were taking, despite having spoken, worried about and planned it tirelessly for the past two years. I only realised how far we have actually come when I lingered after leaving Dominic with his classroom assistant at school. As I stood next to the line of small multi-coloured winter coats which decorate either side of the infant classrooms, listening to the hushed chatter of the other mothers who were dissecting the stresses of trying to find a child sized space in a good school, I finally got to see Dominic. It was a typical blustery autumn morning where you have to keep the lights on despite the hour of the day. The relative dark of the corridor illuminated the mildly snotty, baby faced Reception class who were sat attentively, albeit restlessly, peeking out from the depths of their over-sized uniforms at their teacher. I have spent so many hours with this class, but it was the first time that I actually saw them the way the rest of the school must. Small, fidgety, eager and innocent, these children who sat unselfconsciously comparing pink flowers on their knickers or routing around in their noses have started a journey that will see them change immeasurably over the next 7 years. It seems sad to imagine the complexities that will change the class dynamic over the next few years as it all seems so simple right now, but there is an undeniable gulf between the class that sits on the carpet now and the class that they will be in year two, four or six.
My baby, the boy it feels like I have held my breath and wished through each year of his life, was sat with them, one of the class. A milestone, a hugely significant rite of passage for any child, and there he was, achieving it right alongside the rest of the four and five year olds sat on Reception classroom carpets all across England. The first milestone of his that I'm not celebrating alone, as despite everything, every obstacle put in his way, he put on his school uniform and clutched his pristine book pack and lined up with everyone else, transformed into a schoolboy at the same time as his peers. His first day was of course a couple of months ago now, but it was only then, quietly watching them through the door that I appreciated the huge leap it was for both of us. There I saw him, living, enjoying and being part of something that will change his life in ways that I can only imagine. As I stood there watching, I saw a boy who for that moment was happy being his own person, a little body separate from mine. I shifted my weight so I could also see the classroom assistant who was sat next to him. I watched his whole body animate as he said something funny to her and then saw his beautiful face light up with a broad grin as she laughed in response to his comment. The teacher then started asking the children questions. It's funny how personalities can be represented by the way a child raises their hand to answer a question. Some stretch up as high as they can go, seeming to be in physical pain at not being allowed to blurt out the answer. Some sat primly with their hands tidily raised, self assured that they knew the answer, whether they said it out loud or not. There were a few who chose to stare at the wall, or to inspect the person in front's hair closely, and then there was Dominic. I saw him tentatively raise his hand, just a little, as though he was unsure as to whether he wanted to answer or not, but wasn't ruling either possibility out. When the teacher chose him to speak, and the disappointed "Ohhh’s” had died down from those who had been so very desperate to answer, everybody's attention turned on him. He looked at the ceiling and put his hand on his chin, placing his elbow on his crossed leg looking as though he was deep in thought. I smiled to myself at his unconscious display of showmanship as he pondered his response. He did eventually say something in reply to his teacher and then shrugged as though he was uncertain if it was the right thing to say. I had no idea what he said, or if he was right, and I don't think it really matters. I saw everything I needed to. I saw him learning, I saw him happy and I saw how far he has come.
The children then made their way to their tables. I held back briefly as the other mothers went in to read with their children, then stepped into the classroom and wove my way through the chairs until I was close enough to crouch next to him. As he sat at his desk rifling through his book bag, he turned his head to see who was coming towards him. I saw his eyes widen and his hands and feet dance instinctively as he realised that today his mummy was coming to read with him, not just turning up as the unpaid nurse. His warm little arms snuck their way around my neck and gave me the tightest cuddle he could muster, still young enough to believe that the short minutes between my having left the classroom and then returned with the other mothers were more than anyone should be expected to bear.
After I read with him and his table, I found it harder to leave than normal. I wanted to linger and watch a little longer, but in order to return Dominic to this new found independence I had to not be part of it. So I got in my very quiet, very empty car, and drove home to my very quiet, very empty house. Such a very empty house despite the two dogs, and now three cats that endeavour to keep me busy enough to stop me tackling the pile of paper work that has been on permanent hold for longer than I dare admit. It is only amongst the
empty Wham bar wrappers all this silence, as I try to ignore the heinous amount of things I have been putting off until this moment in my life that it occurs to me that it takes such a colossal amount of energy and drive to achieve each step along the path that Dominic is forced to follow that I rarely have the energy left to appreciate just how far we have managed to come. It is thanks to little moments like today that I get to stand back and pause for a second to remind myself why I fight so hard in the first place.
The problem of allowing this indulgence of mummy-pride however is that I see him in all his adorability and want to just sweep him up and keep him all for myself. Dominic is way too cool to have me hanging around at school cramping his style though, as tempting as it is if only to avoid making the frustrating phone calls or tackling the endless trail of things that faceless people in offices send you just to drain you of your very living essence. I should probably just embrace my new found role as a mad cat lady (one trip to the RSPCA and I'm three cats and two more chickens better off) and go and stroke a kitten or two, or perhaps pat a dog (there are two of those shedding fur around the house as well). For now I might just go and stare at my paperwork for a bit to ease some of my filing-guilt before going to collect the brood and appreciating the parenting irony of having missed my children like crazy all day but within half an hour of getting home finding myself looking longingly at the clock and wondering how long it will be until it is reasonable to suggest that they go to bed.
Of course, whilst cultivating a mad cat lady chic has always been very high up on my list of 'must-dos', I have of course considered other career options. But this whole inbetweeny stage of needing to be around for Dominic but not hands on all the time has left me in a bizarre limbo, and I truly have no idea how to make this work with perhaps (gasp) doing something for myself? If I'm honest, at the moment I rather feel like I have just completed a brutal marathon and all that lies ahead of me are several more. As truly moved to my core as I am to see Dominic doing so much better than I could have ever have hoped, when I shut the door to my quiet house and it's just me and those battles ahead of me, I feel like I have no fight left in me right now, and certainly no inclination to try and shoehorn a life of my own into the mix. I feel battered and rather like I need to just shut the door, get five minutes peace from the constant stream of people walking in and out of my house, phone calls, letters, problems and expectations. I would just like 5 minutes’ peace, which seems a rather strange thing to wish for when I’m sat in a silent house doesn't it?
So there you go, I think that is quite enough for now. Now if you wouldn't mind averting your eyes for a second, I need to make a mad dash out of the pool to go and get my towel and then pretend to strut out of here with some semblance of grace, or at the very least, a slightly damp flounce.