20 September 2017

Bye Bye Baby!

It’s amazing how you can get a glimpse of something or someone and immediately realise you are growing old. It happened this morning! I looked at the image of my children all heading out to get the school bus and I realised that time was not even marching on but had pushed through to jogging and was heading swiftly towards the sprinting stage.

You see, it wasn’t just any first morning of September and first morning of school, it was the moment when all of my children were going to be attending “big school” at the same time: upper sixth, lower sixth, Year 10 and Year 8. Their uniforms varied in length and style depending on how long I had decided they had to last or how cool they thought they needed to look! I have to admit there was a huge, great lump in my throat as I closed the front door having waved wildly after them while they crossed the road to the bus stop, an act they obviously deemed very inappropriate and cringe-worthy! I looked at the youngest; blonde hair just above his collar, determined to look nonchalant and unfazed as he moved from a school of 300 to one of approximately 1300 – it was going to take a bit of getting used to!

As I went back inside I deliberately looked at the photograph taken exactly eight years before, the first time they all left to go to Primary School as a foursome. I couldn’t help but wonder where the time had gone! I remembered that morning as if it was only yesterday… September 2005.

My baby, my “wee man” was all grown up and ready to take on the world – well the first few letters of the alphabet anyway! It seemed like only yesterday they were telling me he was a healthy baby boy of 7lbs 6ozs and now, there he stood in his school uniform, in his “big boy” black shiny shoes, carrying an oversized school bag and Batman lunchbox!

He was so excited. Not only was he going to Jack’s school, not only did he feel like one of the gang, but he was chuffed to bits about getting on the bus! The bus… he couldn’t have been more excited about it if it had been a chauffeur driven limousine!

He was actually a bit of a hero that morning. For one day only he wasn’t a “pain of a wee brother”; the one who “always got off with it”; or the one I was always being told needed to ”stop touching our stuff!” He was the centre of attention. All three wanted to stand beside him in the queue, sit beside him on the bus and “mother” him.

“Do you want me to take you in to Mrs Mornin’s class, Josh?”

“I could change your shoes for you Josh – don’t you know you have to take your outdoor shoes off and put them in your gutty bag?”

“What sort of crisps did mum give you Josh? Do you like them okay?”

“At break-time I’ll show you where the playground is Josh.”

As I watched my little family unit wait for the bus that morning, eight years ago, I couldn’t help but feel immense pride, the same pride I felt this morning. It was the end of one era and the beginning of another and today marked the beginning of yet another stage. For the first time ever I would come straight home from work with no children to collect from their nanny’s on the way.

They looked a picture today, just as they had that morning – all jumpers clean, all collars pressed, all shoes shiny, all coats too big! A picture that would be duplicated at many a bus stop all over the land! They were smiling in the photograph then, resolved to getting the annual “first day back at school photograph” over quickly. Today they had to be frogmarched, threatened and promised pizza for tea if they humoured me long enough just to allow me to capture the moment!

Part of me used to hate that first day; I think it was because I always felt I was all done up like a dog’s dinner. The freedom of summer t-shirts and shorts had been taken away only to be replaced by shirts that had rock hard collars; my breathing was restricted by a tie with a huge knot in it because that was fashionable then; and flimsy sandals replaced by big black shoes that weighed a ton! My mummy always sent me out with my socks pulled up. I mean, how uncool is that!!

When I looked at the four little faces from the photograph eight years ago and thought of how they had all grown up so quickly, I was once again overwhelmed by an enormous sense of responsibility. Proverbs 6 v 22 instructs us to “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” I knew in my heart that they would all be educated in all sorts of ways over the next year by teachers and peers alike. They would be challenged educationally and be forced to make decisions and judgments far beyond those we adults had to make when we were their age. What they had learnt so far at home and in their Church life would be critical. I recognised once again that I must never neglect my role, that vital spiritual role I and every parent has to play in training their child in the ways of God so that when faced with the challenges of life their foundation is sure.

I placed the photograph down remembering that as the bus drove off eight years ago, Josh gave me a wave and I blew him a kiss. He blew me a huge kiss right back and the others rolled their eyes in despair! I knew then his education was about to begin! I blew him a kiss again this morning but I can’t tell you how he responded – well, a Year 8 has to have some street cred!

WORDS Ruth Ravey