To my biggest boy


This week you became a schoolboy.

It’s as though who you are shifted fundamentally overnight. But that can’t be true. You’re just navigating your new terrain as best as you can and it’s exciting and nerve wracking and you are vulnerable and tiny all over again.

When we peak into your classroom you look happy, but quiet. A little fish in such a big pond. No one knows you yet. You don’t dance around the classroom. You don’t fall into giggly bear hugs with your teachers. They don’t know all your foibles and cuddle you with every hello and goodbye and grazed knee. You don’t rule the roost with your friends, as thick as thieves. It’s different now. You sit quietly and watch. You need to take it all in.

The house is in flux with all the emotions. We are exceptionally proud and equally bewildered. Your frenzied energy and feistiness and incandescent rage explodes the minute you walk through the door. We’re walking a tightrope with you, and falling frequently.

A few nights ago, after one of many meltdowns, you told me I needed to leave you. The tears in your eyes and trembling bottom lip gave you away. I told you I wouldn’t leave, not ever. I said you’d be the one to leave me, but not until you’re a big man. You cried and told me you wanted to stay little forever.

I wish I could press pause and rewind and relive all the moments of being your mummy. Because even when it’s really tough, and sometimes it is, there aren’t many things crueller than the transience of motherhood. My heart has been fit to burst and break just about every day since you existed.

I hope you settle soon poppet and find a happy place in your new world. However long it takes and however tricky you find it, I’m here.


I read this poem by Cecil Day Lewis and thought of you.


(for Sean)

It is eighteen years ago, almost to the day — 
A sunny day with leaves just turning,
The touch-lines new-ruled — since I watched you play
Your first game of football, then, like a satellite
Wrenched from its orbit, go drifting away

Behind a scatter of boys. I can see
You walking away from me towards the school
With the pathos of a half-fledged thing set free
Into a wilderness, the gait of one
Who finds no path where the path should be.

That hesitant figure, eddying away
Like a winged seed loosened from its parent stem,
Has something I never quite grasp to convey
About nature’s give-and-take — the small, the scorching
Ordeals which fire one’s irresolute clay.

I have had worse partings, but none that so
Gnaws at my mind still. Perhaps it is roughly
Saying what God alone could perfectly show — 
How selfhood begins with a walking away,
And love is proved in the letting go.