One of my favourite times of the day is picking my daughter up from her nursery school. If I’m lucky, I get a few seconds of watching her, busy at play, before she notices me and comes stumping over. Sometimes she’ll say, “There’s MY mummy”, which always sparks that spangled, warm pride we carry with us in the eternal maternal bumbag of emotions.
She loves them, those young folk in their colour-coded polo shirts, those who are the puppet-masters of her day, whilst I grind out copy and strategy and reports at my desk. She’d drop everything to run across a room to cuddle most of them. And you know what? Unless they are all master illusionists, I think they really care for her, too.
They teach her songs. That’s a serious understatement of their powers though. They taught her to walk, to hold hands, to drink from a cup. “Sit on your bottom”, she says to me, before I slump down to watch her eat. They taught her that, too.
And I really like them.
Today I learned that the woman who took my baby from me and promised me she would look after her is going to become a mother herself. I am genuinely thrilled for her, as I would be for a friend.
But the wrench is that we’re moving a little too far away for it to be possible for them to see her safely into primary school for me. The journey will be too long – I’d be the mum of that last, stoically playing child at the end of the day. We’ll be saying goodbye to nursery.
I don’t know what to do. Do I try to explain to her on her last day that it will be the last day she’ll be mine again at 6pm, smelling of pasta bake and clutching a drawing that somebody helped her do?
Do I keep hopefully reading the carefully sourced books with parables on new schools and new friends, and ask her what she thinks?
Do I let her friends and carers say goodbye to her as if she’ll never return, or ask them to pretend that she’ll be back the next day?
My baby, grown up enough to walk by my side, seems so young to be facing this challenge. I don’t want her to face it alone, without me by her side. But that’s how nursery works. I’m perplexed as to how this wrench feels far, far worse than the original decision to send her to nursery in the first place.