At five and a half, he still doesn’t know about sex, or cancer, or calories, or North Korea. Though he has a reasonable knowledge of dinosaurs, earthquakes and volcanoes, and occasionally worries that one or all of them could pose a threat.
He used to want to drive a dustbin lorry. But now, when he grows up he wants to be one of those people who dig for things underground, though he has trouble remembering what one of those is called.*
He still has all his milk teeth and still believes in Father Christmas.
And although I tell him he’ll always be my baby – ‘what, even when I’m 19? Even when I’m 100?’ – he’s unrecognisable from the baby that completely capsized my world just over five years ago, bringing immeasurable meaning, joy and fear.
It was almost midnight when he arrived. He was sucked from my womb, blue and floppy, after a forty hour labour. We were both exhausted. I should have slept, but I spent the night gazing at him with the light of my mobile phone. And for the first few years of his life, I barely took my eyes off him – worried that I’d either miss something, or that something calamitous might happen.
Toddler groups became an exercise in separation anxiety. I’d plonk him in the middle of a train set, willing him to join in with the other kids. But he’d attach himself to my legs, or more frequently my boobs, in his resolute refusal to let go of Mummy, even in the face of biscuits and Thomas the Tank Engine.
I’d watch other kids tear around church halls, tip paint over the floor and shake the life out of soft toys, wondering why he didn’t do the same, worrying there was something wrong.
Then one year ago J started school. He put on the obligatory uniform and we took the obligatory photos. Then we lead him into a classroom daubed in primary colours, and left him with a woman we’d barely met. And off he went.
And before we knew it three terms had passed and it was the summer holidays.
At a craft session the other day, I hovered anxiously, protectively, behind him, ready to defend him from adult interrogation.
‘I’m in reception,’ J announced, when questioned about his schooling.
And I realised I had nothing to worry about.
I watch as he splutters across the swimming pool, swipes at the monkey bars in the park, and orders an Appletiser without even glancing at me for reassurance. J is changing – and not just in the darkening and unspiraling of his curls and the elongating of his limbs. He’s letting go.
And I’m proud. And just a little bit sad. My boy is growing up. Beautifully. He says he doesn’t want to go back to school. But I know if there are any tears, they won’t be his.
*And just in case you’re wondering, it’s an archaeologist.
I posted a version of this before. But seeing as it’s a new term (and I haven’t had a chance to write anything else!) here it is again. Apologies if anyone has read it before…..