‘Mummy, I don’t want to go on the big boy swings. Can you lift me into this one instead?’
We were in the local park, on one of last week’s baking hot mornings.
‘No, Austin. You’re nearly five. You’re too big; you’ll get stuck.’
‘I’m not nearly five. I’m four-and-a-half.’[He’s four-and-three-quarters, actually. But I thought it best to abandon this bit of the argument.]
‘These swings are for very little children. Even Gwen’s getting a bit big for them. They’re really meant for girls and boys who are under two.’
‘Pleeease, Mummy? Please can I go on it, for one last time?’
It didn’t feel right to deny Austin a final swing in the baby seat. I hauled him up (he’s no whisp of a boy; I feared for my back). But, as he fannied around, changing direction so he could look out over the green of the park, and ‘see the kites’, I felt a pang of sadness.
This Summer will be Austin’s last as a pre-schooler. In September, he starts reception.
He’s starting to grasp the implications of a longer day spent away from home (‘But why do we need to stay at school for such a long time after lunch?’ and ‘If we can’t have Mummy-and-Austin time in the day any more, when Gwen’s napping, when will we have Mummy-and-Austin time?’).
School will give him the focus and stimulation his questioning brain needs (I can barely keep up with him, these days). But….school is just the beginning. Day after day, he’ll leave the house. He’ll spend the biggest chunk of his waking life in a place where he’ll need to find his own niche in the world. He’ll play, read, listen, make friends; fight, laugh, swot and talk his way into becoming a grown-up.
After that, there will be work. Every single day (bar two), of every single week (give or take a small amount of holiday). And then – hopefully – the responsibility of a family of his own, possibly even kids……
But I’m letting my thoughts run away from me.
The point is: apart from making sure I don’t do my back in, there’s no need to hurry him out of his desire to play on the baby swings. In less than a month, he’ll have to leave behind a lot of his babyhood. Daily afternoon cuddles on the sofa with Mummy, for instance, will be no more. And the bits that don’t fall away through lack of time, will be teased out of him by peers quick to pour scorn on anything which suggests a four-year-old is a ‘baby’.
So, for this Summer, at least, I’m going to try not to grumble when my four-and-a-half year old (or should that be nearly-five-year-old?) son asks me to help him onto the baby swings.
He has his whole life ahead to grow out of them.