Right now, everything is quiet apart from the taptaptapping at the keyboard. Outside the sun is shining in a blue sky, the trees and the washing are blowing in the breeze and I have coffee. Just discovered a new type of Colombian coffee that is just wonderful and I have a cup right here. It's sitting next to me in my new Olympic London 2012 souvenir mug.
All is well in my world.
Which is quite an achievement really, considering that it's the first day back at school for both my girls; Elizabeth started Junior School yesterday so it's day two for her, but Katy started in Year One today for the first time. I won't go into the 'how fast they grow up' thing; I imagine you know that. It's all a blink of an eye for you, isn't it?
So it's been a strange sort of week. After the long summer holiday where I have, I confess, on occasion longed for the start of school, by the time it comes to pack them up with book bags, snacks, dinner money, water bottles, PE kits and so on, it sort of feels as if I got used to them being at home and I'll miss them.
Sort of feels like that. Felt like it for a brief moment, perhaps. Right now with my coffee and the view from the window and the quiet I think that school's probably a good thing.
Did you see them, Lord? Elizabeth in her new uniform, so proud, standing so straight, having laboured over tying her tie with the tip of her tongue sticking out in concentration, never happy until both ends are level when she pulls it up to her collar (where did she get that streak of perfectionism from? Oh dear.) She organised matching hair bobbles, put on her shiny shoes and did her 'I can't wait' dance before we set off. I was so proud. Proud not only of how beautiful and smart she looked but also of the enthusiasm and optimism and confidence. Thankyou, Father, for that, from the bottom of my heart. New schools can be a source of anxiety and fear and yet my little girl, so often vulnerable and needy and timid was hopping about in eager anticipation.
Long may it last. She's only seven. Another eleven years to go yet.
And Katy. Looking gorgeous in her new dress and not caring in the slightest that it used to be Lizzie's. Spinning round so that the skirt would fly out and keen to get to school and see her new classroom, built on to the extended school over the summer. New class, new teacher, new classmates, new experience of school without Big Sister. At times in the holiday she had a fret about it, a cry now and then, but today she was all excitement.
Proud. We have had many tears about school and I'm sure they're not over, but it's a real blessing to have started this year off, these last two days, without trauma. Thankyou, thankyou, thankyou.
So new school for Liz, new class for Kate - what's my trauma? You knew there'd be one, didn't you? Because you know me. Well, for me it's a double school run in the morning now.
Getting Lizzie to one school for 8.45am and then back to Katy's school (ten minutes walk away) for 8.50am. Of course, with my inbuilt Mummy-Warp-Speed button this is no problem until Elizabeth needs a bit of extra settling as she doesn't yet know where her peg is, or where her water bottle should go, or where we should hand in payment for school trips and so on (yes, were you amazed too? On the first day of the school year, they came home with a request for money for a day out?)
Back to the school run.
So if I could waft past one school, tenderly patting daughter no 1 in the right direction but not breaking stride on my way to the school of daughter no 2, I might be ok. As it is, there is confusion at both ends and so this morning I arrived at Katy's school red in the face and panting heavily. 'Hello, Katy's new teacher, I'm Katy's mum. I'm mostly going to look like this in a morning.'
When we're all used to it, it will get easier. So I'm told.
Getting up half an hour earlier in the mornings has meant for two days so far that I get to spend a few minutes with you before the day descends on me. It makes so much difference.
With a twenty-five minute gallop each morning and again at pick up time, my jeans might get looser as term progresses.
The last two days have been bright and sunny and the walk has been a pleasure (sort of).
I get to chat to Lizzie going to school and Katy on the way to pick up Elizabeth, then both of them on the way home.
When we got in, ice lollies all round seemed a necessity, not a treat.
Both my girls are happy at school (at this point. One day in for Liz and a mere two hours for Kate; I'm hoping so).
[Post script: all well in Katy's world today at school. She got a sticker for listening nicely and there were sausages for lunch. That makes it a Good Day. Thankyou.]
Until we're all used to it, I am Sweaty-Heavy-Breathing-Mum as I arrive at Katy's school in the morning. Not good for greeting the intimidating Headmistress on my way in.
Getting up half an hour earlier in the mornings mean I am getting half an hour less sleep. There is no positive spin on this.
With a twenty-five minute gallop each morning one knee, both hips and my left thumb ache. (I know the thumb isn't directly involved in a school run but I threw it in anyway in case you were in a healing mood).
No idea how this arrangement will pan out in torrential rain or snow and ice. Can't wait.
Still. Good is outweighing the bad. This is good.
One day at a time, sweet Jesus - isn't that how the song goes? Well, I'm a routine girl and as soon as I can establish a routine the better. I feel safer with predictability. I'm setting out uniform at night and I'm going to try and write cheques and deal with school correspondence and so on the night before so that I can manage the mornings with less screechiness. It's all about organisation (she says, confidently).
So, I give you my new mornings. From twenty-five past eight until nine o'clock I am a blur. Before that, from getting up time until departure time, I am efficiency personified. Contradict me at your peril.
Thankyou for my beautiful girls. Thankyou for their enthusiasm and thankyou that we have local schools that can engender such happy anticipation in little ones. I don't remember it that way from my childhood, and so it amazes and delights me. To be back in my old infant and junior schools as a parent is a strange thing indeed, and I want to be careful not to transfer any of my old attitudes or emotions to squash their enjoyment. Bless their teachers with patience and skill and compassion and perception, Father God. I entrust my precious daughters to these women every day for hours and I ask you that they would show my girls how to live well.
Keep my little girls safe, Father. Safe from over-confidence or crushing disappointment. Give them each a Good Friend to do school with. Someone they can trust, who'll help them and who they can help. Someone who will be kind and positive, making them more themselves, not less. Let them not be bullied, or bully. May they feel safe and welcome and know how precious and valued they are, just for being the unique and wonderful creations that they are.
There's something else, Lord. Something struck me as wonderful. When Katy found out who her teacher would be this year, Elizabeth immediately commented, 'Oh, she's lovely. She hasn't got a cross voice.'
What a wonderful thing to say. What a wonderful reputation to have. Katy told a friend of mine this anecdote the other day and my friend said, 'Just like your mummy!' Kate looked confused for a second and looked up at me, and when she saw that I was laughing, she laughed too.
Not really a laughing matter.
What if Mummy could lose her cross voice, maybe just for the mornings, (start small) - before school. Maybe by a feat of organisation and first thing quiet moments I could make those mornings go more smoothly? I'd like to try, because sometimes school morning breakfast times in our house take place under a huge oppressive black cloud of grumpiness that emanates largely from me.
They're growing up; maybe I could grow up too. There's an idea.
Is it possible? All things are possible for you, Lord, but this is a tough one.
What do you reckon?
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