He's going to school. My baby, my youngest child, my chubby, ever-questioning, dimple-smiled Ben is starting school next week. In his over-large shirt and his shorts almost reaching his ankles, he looks too small to be a schoolboy. He's five, though, and he's ready to fly the coop.
My friend Heather consoled me, "He's going to be fine. He'll love school!"
"I know!", I retorted mock-tetchily. "I'm not worried about him! It's ME who's upset .... don't you realise it's all about ME?!"
Ah, yes, of course," she replied, smiling. "How silly of me. Of course it's all about you."
I pouted dramatically for a moment, then laughed. Because I know it's pure selfishness to be sad about something that will be thrilling and interesting and challenging for my son. School will mean a growing sense of independence for him. He will learn to feel confident with all different types of people. Ben will learn to read and write, and the magical world of books and communication will open up to him. He will hear differing opinions, and begin to evaluate situations himself. It will be the start of his boyhood.
For me, it is a chapter of my life coming to a close. No longer will I be a mother of pre-schoolers; no more will I compare notes with my friends about the drudgery and delights of staying home with small children. I will be working another day as a GP. On my two days at home, I will go about the housework, and grocery shopping without interruption..... and although that probably seemed like bliss when the children were babies, the idea now strikes me as faintly sad.
Others who have gone through this same change of role assure me that within days I will be whooping with joy as I whizz about, unencumbered. They're probably right. I've always enjoyed my own company, and I have plenty of projects - both pleasurable and tedious - to occupy me. It's not that I need the company of a child in my day. It's just that I'll miss it.
So goodbye little Benjamin and hello there, schoolboy Ben! I'm sure your days will be filled with fun, in new and varied ways. I really am excited, and proud, and happy for you to be starting school next week.
I just might need a tissue when I get back to the car.