Maya starts big school in September and I’m shitting it a bit.
There’s nothing wrong with the place. It’s meant to be amazing and the parents love it.
But nursery. My heart weighs heavy with grief just thinking about losing those amazing people. They’ve nurtured, encouraged and stretched my child since I first left her there with a leaky nose and old man’s hairline at 11 months. And either they’re all RADA-trained or they love that little girl and her mini-crew.
I almost wept as I wrote cards attempting to convey our gratitude yesterday and my chin started wobbling when I dropped in with presents and tried to express our thanks using my actual voice.
I am six months pregnant, so was able to use that fact to mitigate the all-round embarrassment of my emotional display, but I secretly know my hormones were not to blame.
Maya has learnt so much at her exceptional nursery and preschool.
She can write her name, listen nicely and tell stories to her friends. She knows how to be kind and can say when she feels sad (a much better word than ‘greedy’ when you’re trying to procure a third packet of jelly claws).
She can count to a hundred and do number bonds. She can form letters and write notes, albeit phonetically spelt ones where the writing does a u-turn at the end of the line and heads back leftwards on the next one.
She has marvelled at the life-cycle of frogs and butterflies and lain beneath a table, drawing her own interpretation of the Sistine Chapel on some paper attached to its underside. She can climb, she can rhyme, she can tell you how many syllables.
She has built dens, grown fruit, and learnt about the seasons. She has mastered the art of getting younger children to pick strawberries and mint leaves and feed them to her. Oh stop it now. I’m sobbing onto my keyboard with sorrow and pride.
All in all, that place and those people have played a gargantuan role in piquing her curiosity about the world and helping her become who she is.
I can’t take credit for much of what she knows. Good Lord, no. I’ve been too busy getting paid to teach other people to teach my own child. Instinct has frequently poked me in the chest and told me I am neglecting my motherly duties but, luckily for me, the staff at nursery can turn the most tight-gripped and tearful separation into a fun-packed day of learning and warmth.
We’ve been lucky with Maya’s nursery behaviour, so admittedly, awkward situations have been minimal.
Yes, there was the sausage-roll incident, when she side-swiped a pork-filled pastry bundle onto the floor in disgust after I’d forgotten to alert the staff to her new disdain for pigmeat. But other than that, she’s saved her rebellion and tantrums for home.
We always thanked our lucky stars she was the bitten, not the biter. I mean, no-one likes to see tooth-marks on their toddler’s forearm but I think it might beat the alternative. And what two-year-old doesn’t love the drama of a cold compress?
The parents we felt sorry for were the ones who got shuffled to one side at pickup and told ‘It’s not been a great day.’ Especially when they may have had a shit enough one already.
(And no matter how good the nursery staff’s intentions, there comes a point in every toddler’s life at which, when the key worker says, ‘Another child bit Maya. I can’t tell you who it was but their parents have been made aware…’ the child pipes up with, ‘It was Freddy.’)
Maya sometimes tells me I’m not as grown up as the grown-ups at nursery. I think she might be right. I’ve got a lot of love to give and intermittent creative ideas but I’m infinitely flakier and much less inclined to produce meals on time.
Maybe, if I’m honest, I’m mourning the loss of an ordered and caring constant in both of our lives.
So, nursery staff. For your calm discipline, hair-styling skills, infinite patience and mysterious capacity to turn a room full of babies into a daytime dormitory, I salute you. For being the source of cool continuity in our sometimes turbulent lives, I offer you my inadequate thanks.
I don’t feel ready for big school. Waiting in the playground after Maya’s recent trial sessions, I felt lost and forlorn. What was this strange place where we all had to huddle together under a canopy, feeling wooden? Why did everyone else know each other already? Oh why can’t she stay at nursery till she’s 18?
But Maya is a people person. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that her friendliness, resilience and excitement will keep her from getting upset.
And me? Well, I just found this picture in her preschool progress book and am buoyed by her generous description:
So I reckon I can do it. I can let go of nursery’s reassuring hand. I feel a bit scared but I know it’s time. Time to grow up, mum up and trust in my parenting skills. I’ve got plasters and Savlon and I’m damned if I can’t fix the rest.