I can count on a hand and a half the number of days I have spent without Ava since she was born. We have been near constant companions for almost three years - but the time has come to broaden her horizons.
Somewhere between turning two and now, a change has taken place in my little girl and (sob!) some months ago I began to realise that, on various levels, she was beginning to need more than I could offer her during the week. Of course we chat, we play, we draw, we make Play-Doh monsters. And we all go out to groups for a couple of hours in the morning or afternoon - but there is always still a big chunk of the day in which I must do grown-up things, and Ava must make her own entertainment.
While she's very good at that (when her little sister Ruby is sleeping, she will make up games with her bears and cars and boats), it was the increasing frequency with which Ava started saying: 'Mummy, I am boring' (she was mixing up her words of course, Ava is NEVER boring), that convinced me she would really benefit from some more structured play.
There is also her insatiable desire to make friends. She has all her 'besties', who she sees every now and then; she has fleeting exchanges with strangers' children; she has the worm at the bottom of the garden. But Ava would really, really love to spend time with a whole bunch of other little people, with whom she can make strong bonds.
It is, undoubtedly, high time she went to a preschool nursery.
I have been trying to prepare Ava for it for the last several weeks. When I first brought the subject up and explained how wonderfully exciting it would be, what with all the children and toys and painting and singing, she listened very intently and looked very pleased indeed. And having absorbed all that information, the first thing she said, beaming all over her face, was:
'Can I take my Pink?'
And that was what got me thinking about all the little idiosyncrasies Ava will be taking to nursery with her. It is odd when you suddenly start seeing your toddler as if through a stranger's eyes - and fear they really are (as you suspected) a tiny little bit mad.
I began to wonder, when the staff offer her a drink, if she will stipulate her preference for a 'noice' one similarly to the way she did at home the other day:
'What would a 'nice' drink be then darling?'
She looked very thoughtful and then said: 'It must NOT be old. Or... fishy.'
And I thought, when she is asked to do something she is not very keen to do, will she attempt to talk her way out of it, the way she did last week (with serious-shaped brow and wagging finger) when I asked her to tidy her toys away?:
'Listen me mummy, 'kay? I not tidy toys way 'cause I have not EVEN finished tidying my bottom.'
Yes. She did say bottom, not bedroom.
I'm also slightly worried about what Ava's reaction will be when she actually arrives - when I heard her talking to Ruby yesterday, I started to wonder whether I might have built up the whole nursery thing a bit too much.
'At school Ruuuuby, there is eph-elants and singing and sparkling. And we eat sandwiches and lunch and play... and go into space!'
As much as I want her to be excited about it all, I honestly didn't tell her there would be elephants there, or that she'd be going into space.
Well, I guess I am as apprehensive (unlike Ava, so far) as every other parent sending their little one into the care of others for the first time. I know the people there are professionals; they must have met every type of child imaginable and figured them all out. But also, probably like every other parent in my situation, I am most definitely thinking... 'But you have yet to meet mine!'