Some time ago, a very sassy and seasoned mummy told me that if there is one thing mums have to accept, it's that their job, from the start, is essentially about preparing their children to exist separately from them.
It's true, isn't it? It happens really slowly of course – so slowly we don't notice ourselves doing it most of the time. But we teach our babies to sleep away from the warmth of our own bodies, we wean them and show them how to feed themselves.
Pretty soon, if they go to a nursery or pre-school, they begin having a little social life all of their own and FAR too quickly (sorry, I'm feeling a little emotional), they start school. With Ava's first day at reception just a few weeks away, I am finding myself scanning the computer for old baby photos. I'm looking at images of her, which feel like they were taken so recently, and looking for clues as to when she began to grow so quickly. When did that 6lb little squidge turn into this tall and talkative girl?'
In between welling up every time I imagine her in school uniform (which I haven't brought myself to go and buy yet), I am wondering, have I prepared her enough?
Will she sit still and listen? Will she know what to do if she is teased? Will she remember that I told her she should always try to be kind, no matter how cross she feels? How will she feel when the child she likes best prefers playing with someone else? Will she embrace the change in routine and the new challenges? And how quickly will she start changing herself once she is there, when she is open to so many more influences?
In theory, going from three days a week at a nursery to five days a week in reception should not be that big a leap for Ava, but it feels like it is to me. The cosiness of her nursery, the safety and familiarity of it, is soon to be replaced by something quite different.
I know she is more than ready for it (in fact, she keeps asking me if she can start going to big school 'now please!').
As Ava goes out to join The World, where things happen a certain way, I will get much less of a say in how things are done. There will be no more binning nursery because we feel like having a long weekend by the sea, and no more duvet days in the winter months, when we just want to cuddle up and enjoy each other's company.
I guess I am going to have to stop lying, too. I'm pretty sure Ava already knows that trees just lose their leaves in the autumn – but we should probably stop talking about the tree giants who come and munch them all away in the night. If she stands up and repeats that in class, who knows what torment will follow...?!
I feel a little sad that the magic we created over the last five years will be replaced by facts. It's silly, I know, but having little people in my life who believe in fairies and snufflemonsters has been immensely fun. How long does Santa survive once children start primary school? I imagine his days are numbered too.
Life will just slowly become more real. In truth, there are a million magical wonders for Ava to discover, every one of them a real thing. For example, they're bound to have a fish tank in the spring, so all the children can watch a bunch of tadpoles turn into frogs. I mean, how cool is that?! I still find it hard to believe that actually happens.
I'm very conscious that I must not pass on my wobbles about big school to Ava, and when we speak about it, it's only in the most positive light imaginable.
Privately, I know what I need to do. I need to 'little chunk' it. I'll try to focus on the first term, rather than the fact that September 5th marks the start of a 12-year school career and all the ups and downs it might bring.
I'll keep in mind that as much as I am going to miss Ava, it's really only two days per week that will be different. And on Thursdays and Fridays, Ava's little sister Ruby and I will get to spend some quality time, just the two of us. That's going to be brilliant.
I'll try hard not to worry about all the things that might happen (kids being mean, crises of confidence) unless they actually do happen. If they do happen, we'll figure them out, just like we have figured out everything else so far.
And on September 5th, I won't be the mother who cries.
At least not while Ava can see me.