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Archive for September, 2016

Sep 12 / Caro

Freewheeling

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I absolutely love this picture. Despite the fact that you cannot clearly see that it is Thomas – that you might not even know it if I hadn’t told you – it sums up so much about him. In fact, to me, it depicts exactly what childhood – if not life itself -should be all about: freedom, fun and absolutely no worries. I can’t help but smile when I look at it.

It came about in the midst of a glorious Sunday cycle ride across the Kent countryside.¬†We’re so fortunate to live in the heart of the so-called ‘Garden of England’, and we try to make the most of it. After a damp and drizzly Saturday, Sunday dawned with such gloriously blue sky that it was calling us to get outside (and preferably to a pub garden if at all possible!) Thomas had plenty of energy to burn, despite a busy first week at school (more on that soon) and so we elected to tackle the Cycle Network Route 12, which runs from Tonbridge to Penshurst and is mostly off road.

The slightly adapted route we planned came in at six miles with a 47m gain. Which doesn’t sound like much for an adult riding an off road bike with 21 gears. It’s a quick Sunday stroll. But when you’re only four, have a 14 inch bike that you’ve only been riding since May, it’s a bigger challenge. Although Thomas has easily tackled three miles before, I honestly expected us to make it half way and then have to hitch him up to the trail-gator (that we’ve never actually used!) and turn around for home.

That didn’t happen.

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We cycled on. We took a detour to avoid a narrow-ish fast-ish road section and got mildly lost in the Leigh flood storage area, turning a blind eye to a few “No cycles” signs and chucking the bikes over at least one gate (sssssh!). We had to give Thomas a push up some of the hills. And we we took it in turns to walk with him up the long, slow climb towards Penshurst – worth it for the views and then for the downhill that brings you in to the back of Penshurst Place stately home and the promise of a good pub and a rest.

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And Thomas did not complain once. He found the grassy section hard going and the hills that were too big for his little legs and lack of gears a nuisance. But he was loving it. We even felt confident enough to try him along the road and he was an absolute star keeping his front wheel right behind Daddy’s and his back wheel just inside my front wheel, and looking and listening for traffic like a pro, tucking himself in without a moments hesitation as cars passed us. I can’t say I ever imagined allowing my four year old to ride a bike on the road (I even prefer to avoid riding on roads myself), but Thomas surprises me in new ways every day.

It may not be the “done” thing to talk about how great your child is, but a combination of Thomas’s effort, enthusiasm and the entire accomplishment of cycling so far so well just made me so proud of him.

We were justly rewarded with a fabulous pub, delicious grub, ice cream and two pints for the grown ups.

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Then, of course, we had to do it all again in reverse.

But watching Thomas free wheel down that long hill that he’d slogged so hard to climb was pure poetry in motion.

And looking at our bikes chucked together in the hedge will never get old. It just says “family” to me.

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Sep 5 / Caro

On the Day you Start School

Dear Thomas,

The time is here, kiddo. Tomorrow is the day that you start big school.

It’s a huge milestone. And a huge one for Mummy too. I stood hanging out your clothes to dry this weekend and I suddenly remembered doing exactly the same thing the weekend before you were born. I was so aware, then, that life was about to change in ways I couldn’t quite truly imagine. This might not be quite such a massive shift, but it’s a significant change nonetheless. No longer a baby, a toddler or even a preschooler. You’ll be a real-deal school boy.

I look at you, in your uniform and you at once look both so tiny – hands disappearing inside a blazer that slightly swamps you – but also so grown up. And I can’t help but wonder how exactly we got here. In some ways that weekend of hanging out tiny baby clothes feels like yesterday, but simultaneously the time that you were not in our lives feels a whole lifetime ago. Perhaps I feel that more acutely because this month marks four years of trying to give you a sibling. And those four years have been interminably long. (I’m sorry we haven’t succeeded on that one, but I know that you are going to be part of such a warm, friendly school and hopefully your friends will continue to be your surrogate siblings.)

I look back, too, at just how much you’ve learned in the last five years. From the scrunched up little boy with a mop of dark hair who knew only how to suck and to scream (oh, how you could scream) you’re now a little boy full of knowledge. And not just facts but ideas, imagination, opinions. Yes, plenty of those and you’re not afraid to share them. You’re a character with a personality to rival the size of your newborn screams.

It’s true that children are like sponges. You’ve proven that. You’ve learned to crawl, to walk and then to talk. You’ve learned shapes, colours and numbers. You’ve learned to read. The list goes on. And now you constantly surprise me by just how much you know about so many different subjects. Trains are still your top obsession, but space – the sun, the planets, asteroids and comets – comes a close second. One of you favourite games this summer has been “Give me a fact about…” where we have to ask you for a fact about a variety of given subjects. And the stuff you come out with when we ask for a fact about the sun, or trees, or insects, so often amazes me, if not for the fact itself, but where you get this stuff from. You just soak up information and bring it out again at will.

And that is why, my most favourite little boy, you are so, so ready for this next step. Life with you is filled with a never ending barrage of questions about what, when, why, how. You’re ready to learn more. And I know you will. Not just more facts and information, but skills too. (And some of those will be more challenging for you that the basics of letters and numbers. Learning to lose gracefully for starters!)

Of course I have my worries about you. It’s true that we send children to school here in the UK when you are all still so tiny and sometimes your anxieties and your behaviour give us a glimpse of the baby boy still inside.

But I have to let you go. It’s time.

You’re excited.

And I’m excited too. To watch you take this next step. I’m ready for there to be someone else to respond to all your many, many questions and to start to teach you the things I have no idea how to teach. I’ll miss you. Of course I will. Those two days a week that I don’t work have always been “Mummy and Thomas time”. And no matter how nice it might be to have a quiet cup of tea or do the shopping in peace, I’m going to really miss your company. The funny things you say and the adventures we have. I’m so glad that schools have holidays and that I get you back.

You know, it’s a real privilege to be your mum.

And that is why, amongst all the things that you learn at big school, I hope that you don’t unlearn the skill you’ve perfected of being the indescribable you.

I love you, always and unconditionally. But I hope you already know that.

Mummy xxx

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