From preschool to big school... the ending of another chapter

As her little girl finishes preschool and prepares for big school in September, Kathriona Devereux reflects on memories of the key moments in her daughter's life so far
From preschool to big school... the ending of another chapter

Sentimentality for the past and younger versions of our children peaks at big transition moments - moving to big school, completing the Leaving Cert, big family occasions like Christmas, says Kathriona Devereux. Picture: Stock

MY daughter flaps her wings on her way to school. From her perch on her seat at the rear of my bike she knows when I slow at the hilly part of the school run and assists with gentle fluttering of her arms. Her flapping doesn’t alter the physics of my quad muscles pumping to move 80 kilos uphill but her little whoops of encouragement make me smile and before I know it we’ve crested the hill. She gives me a minute to catch my breath before asking her next question and the rest of the journey is easy cycling and chatting.

We pass the house on Gould Street with a cat (imaginatively christened “Catty”) asleep in the window and give a wave. “Catty” disappears for weeks on end and we wonder if she might have died and then she suddenly reappears and my daughter greets her with great cheers. “Catty is back!”.

Every morning we pass the same people - familiar faces walking their dogs, catching up with friends, getting their daily exercise before they start work and we salute and say ‘good morning’.

One woman who we have passed for years says “hi petal” to my daughter as we whizz past. It’s a lovely, Truman Show-esque start to the day.

But alas it’s coming to an end. The spin to preschool is going to become the school run to “big school” in September and I’m getting butterflies thinking about the ending of this chapter and the start of a new chapter.

The strange parental ambivalence at wanting our children to grow up big, strong and thriving runs parallel to our urge to keep them young, innocent and close.

I’d pay a lot of money for a time machine to return to the summer days five years ago when I delighted in my daughter as a small baby, for a sniff of her newness at the nape of her neck, a squeeze of her chubby ankles and a smooch of her silk cheeks. Or the summer four years ago when she needed to be continually man marked as she mastered walking and was liable to smash herself on a concrete corner or trip on an insurmountable step. I’ve forgotten the exhaustion of minimal sleep and relentlessness of nappy changes, feeding and napping and would pay hard cash for a few hours holding her as a baby asleep in the crook of my arm.

Reminiscing over photos and videos helps but we’re really hoping we can lock away some precious memories of these magic moments when children are small. Parents of older children warn to “enjoy them while they’re small” while making anguished faces at the difficulties of trying to parent teenagers. The problem is when you are busy and often running on little sleep your brain doesn’t encode memories properly.

Sentimentality for the past and younger versions of our children peaks at big transition moments - moving to big school, completing the Leaving Cert, big family occasions like Christmas. Embracing the feelings of nostalgia at these times is helpful to remember and revisit key moments in our childrens’ lives.

Before I had children, whenever I travelled I diligently kept a travel diary of the places I went and people I met. I can now take those diaries down from the shelf, open a random page and I’m immediately transported back to a day in March 2009 when my only concern was getting up on time to go diving off a tropical island - the sheer indulgence of it!

When you’re in the thick of parenting young children it would be lovely to keep a diary and document the highs and lows of the days so you can revisit them at a later time but you’re generally so tired and busy that journaling comes way down the priority list.

I admire the parents who have great records and photos of their sprogs over the months and years but as someone who has yet to print out the photos of my wedding I’m going to have to rely on my brain for memories rather than an album or computer drive of photos, videos and documentary evidence of my children’s development.

To help ease these current feelings of nostalgia I should have started using a wearable camera seven years ago that snapped pictures of everyday life every minute. 

The whole extraordinariness of childhood development would have been captured so if I needed a quick reminder of the cuteness of a small baby I could just open up a folder on my computer and be transported back in time. Unfortunately I’d probably have to wade through hundreds of images of dirty nappies and folding laundry to find the picture of the first smile or first step. Nothing like the image of a poonami nappy explosion to dampen feelings of nostalgia for times past.

One of my earliest childhood memories is eating a banana sitting on a bike seat on the back of my own mother’s bike. While I’m going to miss the precious bike rides to preschool with my daughter, I’m hoping she will remember glimpses of these happy times and, who knows, replicate similar scenes with her own child in the future.

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