This was a big year for our family. My first-born started school and is, happily, thriving. I knew I'd be the blubbering mess at the school gates. But now, a few months in, I don't feel devastated about school. I feel excited!
Not in a terrible way, like I can't wait to have her 'off my hands', you understand. No. She's almost five and a half, and loves school. She's all about learning, desperate to read books herself, tell the time, grow. Her 'best' thing is 'making friends'.
Gone is the shyness she once had around new, 'strange' grown-ups, and her refusal to ever stand at the front of the queue. Somehow, without any pushing, she has managed to master the art of confidence all by herself.
In her wide eyes, I find an innocent hunger for life I'm sure we all had once. She challenges herself every single day with her need to be more independent, to learn something else. I learn a lot from her untainted soul. She never ceases to amaze me.
She has always been a particularly independent child so I had to learn early to allow her the space to figure things out for herself, frustrating as that can be. Watching the breakfast cereal fall from the wonky spoon just before it met her mouth was always particularly difficult. But she was determined.
And those little steps away from me are tough, tougher than going off to school because I know that one day she won't need me for any of the little things. She'll be able to do it all herself. This week it was tying her own shoelaces, next she'll plait her own hair. One day she'll shop for her own clothes, earn her own money, make her own choices...
Do I worry about how she gets on? Absolutely! What if someone's mean to her? What if she falls down in the yard? What if she gets embarrassed and needs reassurance?
But I know that it's life. She needs these challenges to teach her how to face the bigger ones...I hope I have equipped her well.
When I think back a few years I remember her as a tiny baby. I didn't realise it at the time but what she required of me was very little. Feed me. Change me. Cuddle me for hours. Let me know that someone is there. I like to believe that those hours spent holding her, picking her up when she cried, have helped her to feel secure now, when she heads off into the big, wide world, knowing that someone always has her back! And will help her in the future when life gets cruel. 'Someone will always be on your side...'
But if her starting school has done anything it's focused my mind on the future, her future. When I held her as a baby I kidded myself that we would have forever. But In reality, I see now that those times were fleeting, just like bedtime stories' and kissing grazed knees.
All I am doing is preparing her for what is ahead. A world of thrills and wonder, and horror, in different measures. But I will always be there for the cuddles, whenever she needs them.
Do I wish I could stop time, keep her small and innocent?
I have considered this. Every mother must have...and yes, baby cuddles are precious, but so is every stage. And watching them as they shape into little people with their own, special personalities, is just as rewarding. Especially when you consider how much we, as parents, have to do with that!
So I'll deliver her with joy to the next part of her amazing journey, but I can't always promise I won't have the tissues on hand!